Instigating competition between each failure of Roland Duchatelet’s regime is a pointless exercise. No winner, for each one has been as misguided as the last. The combination of countless faults coming together to cause significant damage.
But if there is to be a symbol of this regime’s disastrous impact on the club, then it stands in the shape of Katrien Meire. The CEO that reinforced footballing success or fair treatment of supporters were not high on the regime’s list of prerogatives. The figure who constantly assisted in Duchatelet’s desire to turn what is a club with great history and traditions into an experimental source of financial gain.
That she now departs is worthy of a celebration as great as any victory achieved over the previous four years. In any other circumstance, consistent failure to succeed would have seen the CEO removed from her position much sooner. Duchatelet’s unbroken support for her showing that failure had little consequence as long as his experiment continued.
Meire’s main ‘achievement’ a mighty one. To create division between the club and its supporters. A special bond existing between club and supporters at The Valley, and yet she managed to break it.
An undermining of the value of fans that verged on insult. Repetitive lying, not least when it came to attempts to backtrack on her words and the appointment of head coaches from inside the regime, in order to reinforce the hurtful decisions undertaken by Duchatelet and herself. A dramatic disconnect, felt as keenly as on-the-pitch failings, that left supporters feeling like an unwelcome annoyance to the hierarchy in SE7.
There little to no division between supporters. The belief that this regime, and Meire, were damaging one shared by a vast majority of Addicks. Just between supporters and club.
The disconnect substantial enough for long-standing supporters, whose lifelong commitment to Charlton Athletic Football Club cannot be questioned, to lose love. Difficult to embrace the club, when a CEO and a regime constantly insult the club and fans who follow it. Whether by protest, staying away from The Valley, or simply maintaining a discontent for Meire and the regime she works for, passionate opposition to the regime has been as constant as its failure.
The news that she departs coinciding with Duchatelet firmly admitting he is in talks with parties to sell the club. This nightmare, this disconnect, is coming to an end. Supporters have toiled in their opposition, and they may finally be getting their reward.
A mightily unpleasant experience to have supported this club under their stewardship. And it not just because of on-the-pitch failure instigated by the appointment of network managers and a flawed transfer strategy, seeing dire players arrive and the likes of Yann Kermorgant and Michael Morrison forced out, overseen initially by the laughable Thomas Driesen. It not just because of the undermining of Chris Powell, forced to play the poor players handed to him, investment in the form of a high-interest loan that has increased club debt, or another season occurring at present in which squad depth is minimal.
It the overall atmosphere that this regime has created. At times poisonous, at others one of disillusionment, but always demoralising. Supporting the side a role not passed up, but the rare moments of success or joy heavily tainted by the conditions created.
A notion that has created division among supporters otherwise united. Over what the response to opposition to the regime should be, and what defines a ‘proper’ supporter. That such pettiness will come to an end, along with the need for many to make the following of a football club one of stressful protest and boycott, a joyous relief.
For me personally, it not simply the hope of the club rebuilding and future success that makes Meire’s departure and the sale to follow a moment of celebration, but the hope the club itself will now stop being a reason why following the Addicks hasn’t provided the distraction it used to do. An important distraction for myself, from crippling mental health problems. The atmosphere this regime has created contributing to what was previously a key release slowly fading away.
There are more complex issues as to why following Charlton has stopped being the distraction it should be, relating to moments of anxiety around leaving the house, a growing fear of crowds, and victories becoming tainted by a pressure to feel a release from a low state that I find difficult to contend with. The regime’s departure, therefore, will not address it. But I want to believe the environment will soon be one more conducive to distraction.
I want to believe the suffering that all supporters have suffered over the previous four years, through disconnection and on-the-pitch failure, will now reach its conclusion.