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The Belgium Protest

Unfortunately, I won’t be among the Charlton Athletic supporters who are heading to Belgium this weekend to take the protests to the man who has managed to hide from them over the previous two seasons.

There two reasons for that. The first being that travelling to another country was never really a plausible consideration given the state of my health. The second being that I’m on for doing all 46 league games this season and I’m told completing a perfect season will result in me being locked away forever.

There certainly not a third reason that relates to me having any sort of opposition to the planned protests. They have my full support, appreciation and admiration in all the ways manageable.

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The planning behind each and every protest has been incredibly impressive, but particularly so with this Unity Protest. CARD, the Belgian 20 and WAR have done a marvellous job. Structure and organisation that a Karl Robinson Charlton side would look upon with envy.

Actually getting a few coach load of Addicks into another country impressive enough in itself, but formulating an entire schedule, with the reassurance of local police and the support of equally unhappy Sint-Truiden supporters, is a mighty fine effort.

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My complete admiration and respect also for each of those Addicks who are heading out to Belgium this weekend. A total commitment to the cause, dedicating themselves to assisting in the removal a regime that continues to cripple this wonderful football club. A regime that continues to deny the wonderful people who support this club the sort of connection they warrant.

As such, the idea that engaging in protests of this nature somehow correlates to not supporting the team or wanting the club to fail is, quite frankly, utter bollocks. Faces that have followed the Addicks up and down the country for many a year, including this one, will be in Belgium this weekend. The amount of planning and effort gone into making this protest possible a reflection of a group of supporters desperate to have their club restored to its former glories.

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If supporters involved in opposing the regime wanted the club to fail, then they would accept the current regime and allow failure to continue unopposed. Fighting for change is quite the opposite.

Besides, it would be quite this if backing the boys actually resulted in some reward. I’ve been at 85 competitive Charlton games over the course of this season and the last, failing to see a victory at 64 of them, with 35 ending in defeat. And that with a relegation in the middle.

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It’s almost as if on-the-pitch success at this football club isn’t possible while the regime continues to pump poison through the club’s veins. Almost as if there won’t be success until a cure for that – the only cure being getting genuine change – is found.

Which isn’t to say I won’t arrive at Sixfields on Saturday without blind optimism. There no question that Robinson’s fractured and fragmented side must rediscover a degree of competence and record victory against Northampton Town. The thought of a second relegation while this regime is in control is rather terrifying – a position from which recovery would be impossible.

But avoiding relegation would be no success, and not even really papering over any sort of crack. It just preventing those cracks from getting deeper and deeper. This season, and this regime, already resigned to failure.

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And so, it will come as no surprise that I’m as desperate as anyone for these protests to achieve their goal. To convince/appeal/pressure/force/politely request the regime that has crippled this football club, and made supporting it a painful chore, into relinquishing their poisonous control.

If we’re being brutally honest, Duchatelet isn’t going to immediately locate Peter Varney’s number after seeing Saturday’s protests and get the club sold, but there will unquestionably be an impact on his ability to continue to own the club. Or at least his ability to present the idea that he’s firmly in control.

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If nothing else, he’ll lose one of his main defences. The idea that opposition to him is simply born out of a few bitter ex-employees or stupid people that he so often gets the Belgian press to believe. Only a stupid person would continue to show an unwillingness to accept the damage done, and the extent of the opposition to him, when it is presented at his door.

When a group of supporters numbering at least around 250 take a protest from one country to another. Doing so with the support of thousands more behind them. There no ground for Duchatelet to stand on.

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It arrogance and ignorance that has meant a continued disregard for this club and its supporters, and it arrogance and ignorance that has meant his ownership has continued to inflict damage upon a club already crippled to a point where it cannot even begin to recover while Duchatelet is in control and Katrien Meire has power.

Hopefully this weekend is the one where, while Duchatelet loses ground to stand on, a foundation is set for Charlton to recover.

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