There was an unquestionable sense of unity and positive determination as Charlton Athletic and Coventry City supporters lined the street for their pre-match protest march a fortnight ago.
An event far removed from the usual connotations of protesting. This not an intimidating scene that damaged the reputation of those presenting an important message, but a scene that showed the strength of feeling among supporters of both the Addicks and the Sky Blues in a manner that strengthened their cause and weakened further the positions of those damaging their clubs.
Particularly apparent was the unified nature of the protesting Charlton supporters. A togetherness among them, embodying the strength of community that has long existed in this club, and the notion that their actions in protest are an attempt to defend the club from Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire’s strangulation and disillusion-causing behaviour, rather than cause additional harm, reaffirmed.
A sense of togetherness and community made particularly apparent to myself as someone whose life has been rather restricted by crippling anxiety. A real sense that I was a part of a unified group, allowing me to communicate with people I’d never met before in a confident fashion. Something I simply wouldn’t have been able to do in other settings, including inside The Valley.
Such unity knocks back the suggestion occasionally made that the current situation in SE7 has created division between supporters. From what I’ve seen and experienced, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a fan too young to have witnessed the years away from The Valley and subsequent effort to return, rarely have I seen Addicks as committed and united.
A committed and united attempt to protect and maintain the ethos of the club while those in charge at The Valley seek to damage and remove it, with the ultimate goal of protesting to remove this regime, reinstate that ethos and regain ‘our’ Charlton.
These, apparently, the actions of a group of supporters who at war with their club. A quite striking comment made by Meire during an infuriating discussion with TalkSPORT.
Division, of course, that exists as a consequence of alienating supporters and increasing discontent, but to call this a war is yet another misguided comment from a failing CEO.
Charlton supporters aren’t attempting to damage their club, they are attempting to save and protect it. Save and protect it so they can feel a sense of attachment to it once again, and not the horrible sense of detachment they do at present.
There is, instead, an attempt from the other side to damage both club and supporters. An obvious attempt, which they continue to distance themselves from. Meire’s rubbish about learning from mistakes, and attempting to brush previous actions that have driven lifelong supporters from the club under the carpet, fooling no one.
In her view, the drop in season ticket sales, and the record-breaking low attendances, a consequence of relegation, and not the way this regime have insulted and alienated supporters. The ignorance and naivety towards supporter emotions and feeling, let alone how to run a football club, incredible
The idea that trust and connection can be regained with a few results, for supporters are obviously passive viewers who merely need three points every so often to keep quiet, still being spouted out. The club still incapable of achieving results with this regime in charge, but it more the fact she continues to ignore the quite clear message that she is in no position to regain the trust of supporters.
A belief that she is not out of her depth, that Duchatelet is the right man to lead Charlton, and that the club is not for sale. Ignorant and arrogant comments given the weak position the regime is in, and a position they seem only willing to acknowledge in a way that benefits them. So many of her repeated messages becoming tiresome and increasingly insulting.
Even in an interview where she was largely unchallenged, with Jim White, Danny Murphy and Dean Saunders allowing her a platform from which to present a false image of herself and the state of the club, she shot herself in the foot.
Not simply with lies, inaccuracies and meaningless statements, but preventing phone calls from being made to TalkSPORT from Charlton supporters for the duration of the day despite rambling on about the need to improve communication. She’s ignorant, but not ignorant enough to know what she’s saying will be challenged properly by those affected by her damaging running of this club.
The soft interviewing meant lots of questions went unasked, and lots of her lies and inaccuracies went unchallenged, but one question not asked stands out for me.
Quite simply, why? Why are you still here? Why are you enticing this ‘war’? Why won’t you acknowledge the weakness of your position? There seems no benefit, for either her or the club, with her still acting as CEO and this regime still in charge.
The regime’s interests are evidently not focused on the good of the club. The appointment of an English manager and the signing of a handful of players with experience of the Football League nowhere near enough to show a change of direction. Supporters still disconnected, the club still weak and in tatters.
They seem to believe the emotion expressed in protests can be quelled, and the disconnection among supporters addressed, but there is an unwillingness to see the damage has already been done, and is unfixable.
Why does she continue to maintain her position? Arrogance and ignorance? Protected by Duchatelet? A belief she can protect her ego, regardless of what the state the club and its supporters are in?
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she does maintain this untenable position, and there can be no denying that she and the regime hold the power. They can have these pre-determined interviews, they can twist the truth, and they can cling onto the club for no real reason.
They can make our cause appear weak, and undermine us. They can create the notion of a war, and attempt to imply it is us doing the damage.
And yet, Meire has fooled few. We maintain the support of so many, which is a real credit to our efforts, and their position remains so weak.
They’re going to take some shifting, sure, but this regime can’t even leave an interview constructed on their terms with any credit. If there was ever a war, they long lost it.
We’re going to have to keep going, but there’s only one winner.