Singling out individual Charlton Athletic players for abuse has always been frowned upon. Unless, of course, that individual Charlton Athletic player has decided to abuse supporters first.
Roger Johnson, never exactly a fan favourite at any of his clubs, responding to understandable angry reactions to Charlton losing their first game back in League One, a dire 2-0 defeat to Bury, by telling supporters ““don’t fucking come if you don’t like it”. The centre-back booed and abused since, and somehow managing to make a dreadful first day of the season even worse.
For the Addicks, entering the new campaign with the degree of optimism that came from the appointment of Russell Slade and a number of signings who had previously impressed at League One, were pathetic at Gigg Lane. Pathetic when creating a positive impression for still angered and disconnected supporters was paramount.
Charlton, dysfunctional in defence and without any sort of fluent threat going forward, second best for much of the afternoon, but Bury were not incredible. The victory gifted to them.
At the very least, the opening goal for the hosts was certainly gifted to them. Jason Pearce needlessly hauling down Nathan Cameron inside the box, and Neil Danns converting emphatically from the spot. Heads down, and game over with 19 minutes still to play.
Game certainly over three minutes from time, as a poor attempt to defend a corner concluded with Kelvin Etuhu bundling the ball over the line following a knock down from Cameron. The visiting Charlton supporters had put in a superb shift, but their anger now was perfectly reasonable. Anger increased by the scenes at full-time.
In the context, the afternoon offering a reminder that nothing was to change while Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire remained.
Empty seats, and the realisation that connection had been lost for many
This something that has grown throughout the year, but was maybe most apparent in the opening month or so of this season. At the very least, most visually apparent.
For never has The Valley been so empty on such a regular basis. Attendances regularly dropping bellow 10,000, atmosphere lacking, and the physical representation of a loss of connection between club and supporters on show.
An empty Valley little to do with relegation. It, of course, having an impact, but not to the extent where 6,000 supporters have been lost. Attendances not dropping like this after the previous fall to League One.
It a consequence of Duchatelet’s work. Some choosing to boycott, some no longer feeling like this is their club, and some made to feel too disconnected and apathetic to regularly attend. The regime continue to turn a blind eye to it, but they have driven supporters away and, more importantly, left many feeling without attachment to their club.
2016 the year where many, who have been committed supporters for lengthy periods of time, have fallen out of love with Charlton Athletic.
Another window ending with gaps in the squad
At the heart of the summer transfer window, there was evidence to support the idea that the regime were learning from their mistakes, and attempting to change.
A manager with experience of the English game allowed to sign players who had previously impressed in the Football League, and there a relatively competitive side taking shape.
But by the conclusion of the window, it was apparent mistakes had not been learnt from. For the squad, as it had been in every year of Duchatelet’s reign, was left understaffed in several areas. Russell Slade not able to bring in the quantity of bodies he wished to.
This seen most obviously in the centre of midfield, with no creative option recruited, and out wide, with Johnnie Jackson and Kevin Foley having to play on the wings at times this campaign.
A concern about the lack of alternatives in attack, too, with the Addicks woeful on the few occasions they’ve been without Josh Magennis this season, and there no appropriate replacement for Nicky Ajose, whose form has been mixed at best throughout the campaign.
Problems that have extended throughout the season, with a handful of injuries seriously weakening the Addicks. Square pegs in round holes as a result, and serious squad improvement required in January. Something that Robinson has promised, but previous evidence tells you might not happen.
It not just learning that someone unqualified had been directing your club’s signings, and your club’s managers, for several seasons that induced anger, but also the fact that scout Thomas Driesen remains a strong influence.
Despite the constant suggestion that the regime are leaning from their mistakes, the 20-something with no previous football experience is still effectively directing recruitment at Charlton. The man who has sent a bucket load of inadequate players to SE7 during Duchatelet’s regime, who has insisted that they play, and who has overruled managers on signings. As Bob Peeters described him, he is “the boss”.
A Belgian magazine revealing his identity in September, and Louis Mendez securing an interview with him later that month. Driesen’s arrogance and naivety obvious.
Given a prominent role in the network purely by contacting Duchatelet with some tactical analysis, the ‘scout’ uses date and video to make judgement on players. Something that left Phil Chapple effectively forgotten while he remained at The Valley, let alone the view of those in the dugout.
It was all okay to give Powell dire players because lots of information about them was given to him, people’s legitimate concerns about the regime aren’t legitimate, and Charlton is just like any other club.
A man who has also been fed the “bitter ex-employee” line, criticising Powell and Guy Luzon for speaking out against him and the regime. His position made rather weak by the ‘Getting to Know the Network’ podcast. What a shame.
No game under Slade’s leadership emphasised the self-inflicted and unnecessary suffering that the bald-head boss’ cautious mentality brought to his Charlton side than the defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
A defeat that should have been a victory, and a victory that would have had Addicks purring. The home side superb at The Valley for at least the first 45 minutes, and needing only eight of those to take the lead. An excellent goal from Ademola Lookman, finishing from the edge of the area.
In fact, the only complaint come half-time was that Slade’s side hadn’t punished the Dons sufficiently. A dominant performance, featuring fluent attacking moves, with Nicky Ajose and Ricky Holmes failing to take excellent openings.
It meant that Neil Ardley’s side, who should have been dead and buried, were able to grow into the game after the interval. Or, more truthfully, Neil Ardley’s side were allowed to grow into the game by a group of Addicks losing intensity and offering increasing amounts of time and space.
Wimbledon dominating in the centre, Charlton’s midfield and backline dropping deeper and deeper, and those who were almost unplayable further forward becoming tired and isolated.
The drop in intensity and intent, along with the failure to double their lead, punished with a Dons equaliser 12 minutes from time. Dominic Poleon gliding past an uncharacteristically poor Chris Solly, and finishing beyond Declan Rudd. Poor.
A response from Charlton in those remaining 12 minutes required, but heads had dropped and energy had been lost. Wimbledon buoyant, and momentum with them. Five minutes to play when Tyrone Barnett climbed highest to head home the winner from Barry Fuller’s cross.
The turnaround, and an incredible capitulation, completed. The Addicks losing a game that they were winning, and should have won, in its final 12 minutes.
Two pathetic performances for which there were no excuses, an attendance below 9,000 and only 14,000 for the annual ‘Football For a Fiver’ fixture, and a seventh game without victory leaving the Addicks outside of the bottom four on goal difference alone. This a grim, grim week.
It seemed the draw with Oldham Athletic was rock bottom. A late equaliser from Peter Clarke required to deny Slade’s side victory, but even he admitting that a Charlton win would have been an incredible injustice. The hosts absolutely pathetic.
A 21-pass move, resulting in Josh Magennis giving the Addicks a 22nd minute lead, the only moment of quality the hosts mastered throughout the 90 minutes. Horrendous prior to the goal, and even worse thereafter. Oldham, a side in the bottom four and struggling, in complete control, and worthy of a point at the very least.
It not simply the performance, or the result for that matter, that created a sense of despair at full-time, but the impact such a dire night in a ground less than a third full had on the growing sense of disconnection between club and supporters. This felt like a night to a hammer home the sense that the club was dying.
Alas, it was to get worse. In front of the lowest ‘Football For a Fiver’ crowd by some margin, the Addicks performed with similar levels of incompetence against Rochdale four days later. A 1-0 defeat a little flattering on Slade’s pathetic side.
Not even Johnnie Jackson’s missed penalty, well saved by Josh Lills, enough to suggest this was an unfortunate or undeserved loss. Slade, describing the performance as “toothless”, fielding a side without structure or logical tactical shape, and Calvin Andrew’s 25th minute header the absolute minimum punishment warranted.
All made considerably worse by Katrien Meire delivering a pre-match charm offensive, explaining how “the beauty of Charlton is that the fans have played such a massive part in the club’s history. You – the fans – are Charlton”.
She wasn’t wrong, but an increasingly empty Valley, and an increasing detachment between supporters and club, suggested those words were rather empty.
Were it not for Sky Sports, supreme rulers of the Football League, then a weakened Charlton side would have been spared terrible embarrassment. Three players away on international duty, normally enough to postpone a fixture, but it’s showing on live TV meant the Addicks lost their right to avoid playing the game.
But that no excuse for the dire performance – lacking quality, fluency and effort – that led to Slade’s side losing by three goals at the County Ground. Swindon Town taking full advantage of this numerically weakened, and simply weak, group of Addicks.
Any sense of injustice, that might have been there had Charlton competed, lost by the manner of the defeat to their 21st place opponents. Sean Murray’s deflected opener just before the break the punishment that the first half effort of the Addicks warranted.
A response needed after the break, but a Swindon goal effectively sealed the outcome of the game five minutes into the second period. Dire defending from a corner allowing Lloyd Jones to convert at the back post.
The effort among those representing the Addicks merely decreasing as the half continued, while the anti-regime chants in the away end only increasing. The deserved Robins third not coming until four minutes from time, with John Goddard rounding off a move that saw the hosts round stationary Charlton players with ease.
A performance dire enough to, rather irrationally, result in the sacking of Slade. The defeat his final game in charage of the Addicks.
There no question that Slade’s time in charge of the Addicks was underwhelming. There no question that there was need for improvement if his side were to challenge for the top six. There no question that, despite the injustice that existed over being without those on international duty, the defeat to Swindon was unacceptable.
But the sacking of Slade was a hasty, poorly coordinated, and unnecessary piece of decision making by a regime showing that they simply hadn’t changed their ways. Common knowledge to supporters, but here was the evidence for all to see.
Firstly, the reasoning behind the decision itself was hardly enough to justify dismissing a manager that symbolised a change in a club’s philosophy. Results and performances slowly improving, with a cohesion between Slade, though still frustrating with his caution, and his side seemingly growing. The Swindon result a very large blip, rather than a continuation of a theme.
Secondly, the way it was handled was pathetically poor. Not only telling that the news was broken by CARD, meaning that someone within in the club is supportive enough of the group to leak information to them, but the sacking came just two weeks after Meire had offered Slade her full support. Another reminder of the laughable state of Charlton Athletic, and that both words and promises simply mean nothing.
An impressive run of results under caretaker boss Kevin Nugent, assistant to Slade, followed by the appointment of former MK Dons manager Karl Robinson. Supporters relieved it wasn’t Chris O’Loughlin, the former STVV head coach who was oddly appointed to the coaching staff upon Slade’s dismissal.
In words, Robinson had started his Charlton reign in bold and brash style. In actions, Robinson had not. The fourth game of his reign in some contrast to the confident and inspiring image he had attempted to give to the media, with the Addicks dire in defeat to Peterborough United.
Not only was the 2-0 loss a fourth winless game under Robinson, and the third in which a side he was attempting to transform into an attacking one had failed to score, but this a performance lacking as much in quality, intensity and structure as any of the worst efforts under Slade’s leadership.
It not that Charlton supporters, fully aware the issues with their club and their side can be sourced back to the ownership rather than whoever stands in the dugout, were desperate for immediate success under the former MK Dons boss, but they had every right to expect a greater immediate impact than this. Particularly given Robinson’s words of confidence and optimism.
A poor attempt to defend a Paul Taylor free-kick resulting in Ryan Tafazolli heading Posh in front with 21 minutes played. An event taking place either side of constant misplaced passes, half-hearted attempts to close down opponents, and full-backs being beaten regularly with ease. The half-time boos understandable.
And though there was a brief positive response after the break, with Josh Magennis striking the inside of the post and Jordan Botaka’s deflected effort bouncing back off the bar, it was little more than a brief response. A return to the lacklustre effort of the first period following, and Gwion Edwards allowed to waltz through Charlton’s defence to double Peterborough’s lead with 66 minutes played.
Robinson’s side offering no fight in the remaining 24 minutes, effectively accepting defeat, and Robinson himself looking unusually lifeless on the touchline. There more energy in the full-time boos that serenaded the Addicks off The Valley pitch for the final time in 2016 then in the entirety of Charlton’s performance.
Duchatelet being a bit stupid (18/12/2016)
Not much good has come out of Duchatelet’s reign in control of Charlton Athletic, but you can take some solace from the displays of fan power that have maintained pressure on the regime, and from some excellent journalistic efforts that have unearthed information they’d rather keep from supporters.
The ‘Getting to Know the Network’ podcasts the pinnacle of that. An outstanding piece of journalism, going deep into Duchatelet’s leadership, with assistance from those who have worked under it. From Bradley Pritchard to Bob Peeters.
Arguably the most revealing element of the first two podcasts was the outing of emails sent to Chris Powell by Duchatelet, ‘advising’ on tactical set-up and team selection. One explaining to Powell a diamond formation in very crude terms, the other, sent during a game, asking why Yohann Thuram wasn’t starting.
The emails themselves enough to produce extreme anger, but Duchatelet’s response to them being leaked even more so. It all totally acceptable, apparently.
“I find it very stupid that a person is getting help, an important person for the club, does not accept it. I also find that the activists, some activists at the club, who from their reactions think the coach was right, well they are just stupid people too,” Duchatelet told Belgian TV.
So that’s Chris Powell, earning hero status at Charlton both through his time as a player and a manager, who is one of the most respected men in English football, and is currently assistant manager at a Derby County side in unstoppable form. He’s stupid, apparently.
And Charlton supporters, who fought to return their club to The Valley, continue to protest creatively and practically, and devote both time and energy to supporting their club. We’re also stupid, it would seem.
In fact, those that protest are merely activists, not acting for the good of the club. Ignoring all the damage he’s done, how many oppose Duchatelet, and how many participate in protest activity. Why bother to attempt to heal a broken relationship between club and supporters? Simply be ignorant and arrogant, and break it further.
Of course, that all coming from a man who has overseen a relegation, driven supporters away from The Valley, and destroyed the identity of a community club. Who is mocked by almost all throughout English football, who has faced protests at the other clubs he has owned, and evidently has little clue how to successfully run a football club.
At least after that Peterborough defeat came an immediate opportunity for Robinson to calm the concerns of supporters. Legendary status on offer for any manager able to lead a Charlton side to victory at The Den.
No win there, or against Millwall anywhere, since 1996. It not misfortune that has created such a poor run of results in this South East London derby, but a persistent failure to turn up. Character and quality always absent, while the Lions embrace the derby atmosphere and dig deep for victory.
That opportunity, however, was wasted in emphatic fashion. The Addicks, once again, embarrassing themselves in Bermondsey.
Though second best for much of the first half, and always looking uncomfortable in defence, it was a horrendous capitulation in the opening period’s final five minutes that effectively gifted the points to Millwall. Aiden O’Brien allowed to turn in a Shaun Cummings delivery, before atrocious defending meant Steve Morison could volley home a second. Heads dropping, the body language awful, and the effort minimal.
A small revival after the break, which saw Ajose reduce the deficit, merely provided false hope. More grim defending allowed Morison to score his second and Millwall’s third, with Charlton’s response once again weak and pathetic.
Those in red choosing to hid come full-time, with all but Jackson opting not to acknowledge an understandably disgruntled away end. The population of which had their anger increased by Millwall’s decision to pen them in for half an hour. A rather unpleasant night.