There are three types of individuals who would see the job of Charlton Athletic manager, and as such working under the one of the most heavily criticised and opposed ownership regimes in English football, as an attractive proposition.
The first being those who are, in one way or another, already part of Roland Duchatelet’s heavily flawed network. Moved from one part of it to another, irrespective of whether they are qualified or suited. Heavily opposed and understandably seen as a direct link to those above; it no wonder Chris O’Loughlin has been looked upon suspiciously.
The second being those who are desperate for a managerial job. The inexperienced, those who have been out of a job for a while, or those whose powers are seemingly fading. Charlton still a relatively large club, and working at The Valley gets a name into the public domain.
And the third is the naïve, optimistic, and arguably arrogant. Who believe they can heal all the damage that has been done under this regime through managerial panache and results. Ignoring what has previously occurred at the club while it has been under Duchatelet’s control, seeing it is an exciting challenge, and not quite understanding the emotions that supporters have been driven to feeling.
Success on the pitch is undoubtedly most likely to come from the appointment of a manager with characteristics that resemble the third description. Especially if you’d prefer to be a little less cynical and refer to that type of manager as a determined one.
In fact, you could probably label Russell Slade as determined. An obvious and proactive attempt made to instil some sort of normality at a club which has none.
He was unquestionably his own man, fighting against the regime over signings, and you never felt like he was one of them or working exclusively for them.
You can question some of his tactical decisions, and some of his post-match comments were a little frustrating, but the way in which he conducted himself overall was in contrast to previous bosses under this regime and deserves respect.
The consequence, of course, was that Slade was sacked just as results began to improve. Sacked after Katrien Meire had shown a long-term commitment to him. The true characteristics of the regime exposed again, and more upheaval required.
Assisted by the efforts of those who travelled to Belgium in order to protest, rarely has the media been so damning in their criticism of Duchatelet’s regime. Rarely has Duchatelet felt the need to speak, and speak with ignorance, arrogance and distain towards Charlton supporters. The inability to address the divide between club and supporters couldn’t be more obvious, and the need to force this regime out couldn’t be more apparent.
The actual number of supporters in attendance for the Port Vale game undoubtedly much less than the reported 8,992 at Port Vale, supporters completely disconnected and disillusioned, and anti-regime chants still being sung during the 5-1 win over Bristol Rovers.
Positive results are wanted, desperately wanted, but they aren’t going to solve three years of damage. Supporters aren’t protesting in the hope of enforcing a persistent upturn in results, but they are protesting in the hope of protecting the future of their club, forcing out of destructive hands, and being able to feel some sort of connection and bond once again.
And so, the suggestion from manager elect Karl Robinson that “we need to stick together, the protests need to stop on Saturdays” to a supporter after Bristol Rovers is not a sign of positive determination, but a naïve and arrogant belief.
It completely disregards the feelings and the mentality of Charlton supporters. They are not passive supporting robots, who can immediately decide all the damage and disconnection is meaningless because sticking together with something they don’t believe in is more important. It’s simply not.
It disregards the fact, despite the opposition and the disconnection, the side maintains support. Protesting has quickly turned to positive energy on numerous occasions, and Addicks deserve plenty of credit for that. Not having their actions questions and told how to think.
It ignores that anxiety and fear over the way the club continues to be controlled by a poisonous regime overwhelms any positive feeling created by a result. The fear of what will come next, and the knowledge that three years on they still haven’t learnt from mistakes, and continue to damage both the club and relations between the club and its supporters.
How can you believe he’ll be allowed to manage, allowed to lead, and given a reasonable amount of time? The protests stop, he’s ultimately sacked, the unchanged ownership remains, and we find ourselves repeating a similar process. The manager almost an irrelevance while this regime is in control; getting them out of the club anything but.
Which isn’t to say I want Robinson to fail. No one does. No one wants the Addicks to actively fail, and everyone hopes that the new boss elect will be able to make what is a useful Charlton side a consistently competitive one.
Robinson, as a character, is someone I don’t particularly appreciate. The sort of managerial personality I’m not a fan of. Arrogant, always looking to deflect criticism, the referee the first person to blame rather than himself or his side.
But his managerial record is handy. MK dons consistently competitive, the 36-year-old assisting in the development of some big talents, and a promotion to his name.
That tainted slightly by MK’s relegation last season, and their struggle at the start of this season. Supporters long frustrated by his decision making, and feeling like it was definitely time for him to move on. His ‘highly-rated’ tag is fading a little.
You hope, therefore, there will be no continuation of a difficult final period in charge at Stadium:MK, and he’ll be able to instil the sort of positive football he got the Dons to play upon this Charlton side. There’s going to be a need for some individual improvement in midfield, but there every chance Robinson’s style of football can help to get the best out of our promising forwards.
Nugent has set that up nicely for him, if only by instilling confidence into them as a consequence of the victories over Port Vale and Bristol Rovers. Whether Nugent stays on, even if only to help with the transition, should be entirely up to Robinson, but it may be wise to keep the current caretaker boss around for the time being.
Then again, it should be up to Robinson not to use O’Loughlin and Thomas Driesen, but it won’t be.
Those sorts of restrictions on Robinson’s ability to manage, in addition to simply having to work under Duchatelet and Meire, reaffirming that he’s not simply walking into a job where results will make everything better. Where he can transform the club.
Results are important, of course, but it’s difficult for many to see the importance of them when there’s no connection to the club. When connection won’t return until this regime have departed.
The importance of forcing this regime out of the club, of instilling connection once again, and as such protesting, will remain high until it brings a different kind of result. The result of feeling like we’ve got our Charlton back.