Sunday, 21 January 2018

Time To Fill The Valley Again

Life’s full of little ironies as they say. Was it so long ago that the regime was refusing to treat The Trust as a suitable partner for ‘meaningful dialogue’ with supporters, insisting instead – for duplicitous reasons - that the worthy but compromised Fans Forum was the chosen vehicle? Meire does a runner before finding herself out of a job and suddenly first up it’s The Trust that Richard Murray turns to in order to communicate information on the takeover.

It’s taken a while for the club to shift in the direction of sanity when it comes to dealings with a major stakeholder – and always potential partner. The regime was never interested in dialogue with fans, for Roland would do it his way and we had to ‘live with it’. It’s taken the departure of Meire and the progressive distancing of Big Daddy for change to come, even if the club and its expensive PR team rather missed a trick by waiting until CARD’s threatened protest before agreeing to communicate. No matter, let’s not split hairs.

I think it’s fair to say that the meeting produced all that was realistic in terms of updates on where we stand. It’s been suggested that Murray might have been pushed more on the price that Duchatelet is asking for us. But Murray apparently told The Trust that he is “not party to negotiations at all” and surely such information would be viewed as confidential. Chances are it’s going to be some time after any sale before we have an inkling of the terms and price, if we ever do.

For me the most important point was in the first line of The Trust’s account: “He (Murray) began by emphasising that the most significant point was that Roland has made up his mind to sell the club”. Of course he could change his mind, but that's not likely. The decision not to replace Meire was surely indicative in that respect. So whether a sale happens before the transfer window closes, in February (Murray's "most likely month"), or "at the latest by this summer", it is on. There's just no reason to suspect any double-dealing. 

So what do we, the fans – especially the boycotting fans – do about it. And here comes today’s second little irony. If I were not living in France (at least until end-March) I would resume going to matches. Sure, there’s been no actual change of ownership yet, but that’s only a matter of time. I don’t think there’s anything more that boycotting can achieve in terms of encouraging Duchatelet to sell (whether or not it did anything is a moot point), so now surely it’s just down to what we want: we want new owners (almost achieved) and we want to get promoted.

We are after all in a play-off spot! What’s to be gained by waiting another month or so until an actual sale? We have the opportunity both to give potential new owners a glimpse of what The Valley can look and feel like when there’s a good crowd. And surely a fuller stadium getting even more behind the team will only help Robinson and the team. The season looked like floundering a few weeks ago but the team eeked out a couple of ugly wins and momentum can count for a lot. After all, we’re now within striking distance of fifth. I can’t comment on they way the team is performing on the pitch, but just how we’ve got to where we are is surely less important than taking advantage of it.

So I’d suggest that the time is right for The Trust, in collaboration with CARD, to issue a joint call to all Addicks who have stopped attending to come back, to help in a promotion push. This wouldn’t mean any change in attitude towards Duchatelet (or prevent a resumption of boycotts and protests if there are reasons to do so further down the line). All along protesters have been acting in what they believe to be the best interests of our club. Perhaps now the downside of giving the regime a little gate money (no, not season tickets) are outweighed by the possibility of ending the season under new owners back in The Championship. 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Meeting Means Demo Off; Roland Daft To The End

I’ll bet a pound to a penny that Roland doesn’t believe in ‘rules’ when it comes to investments. They are for ordinary people and he is a visionary, so rules don’t apply to him. Stuff and nonsense of course, so here’s a rule that was drummed into me from an early age: when considering whether or not to continue with a venture you pay no account, absolutely none, to how much you have invested in it to date. Letting emotions (whether they be down to pride, stubbornness or just arrogance) interfere with the decision is a recipe for disaster.

I’ve no idea whether Duchatelet has been trying to engineer some sort of bidding war for us by having more than one interested party, to try to get the price as close as possible to his unrealistic demands. Neither am I sure that the mooted asking price is a reflection of his desire to come out of this with a profit (or at least a washed face). But from what we’ve learnt of the guy they are not outlandish assumptions. Perhaps he still hopes that some Chinese (or Russian) group with more money than sense will come out of the woodwork and afford him a dignified (in his eyes, not ours) exit.

Personally I’m surprised that anyone would pay more than £1 to acquire us, with everything else wrapped up in ‘if and when’ clauses. We are a loss-making company in League One and as such the only way to balance those losses is through player sales, which of course works against the goal of promotion. Barring some exceptional circumstances (which do occur), whereby a team with modest resources comes together under an influential manager and outperforms to the extent of getting promoted, getting back up to the second flight requires investment. And in the Championship you can expect to run materially higher losses just to hold your own. Perhaps the best way to handle this now is the approach adopted by Bournemouth – to get promotion to the Championship and then throw money in quickly to make the promised land in one or two seasons (and to hell with FFP requirements). That contrasts with Ipswich, who have been in the Championship since 2002 – and have as a result racked up substantial losses (I did see a figure quoted recently but can’t find it now).

Roland’s dream that FFP would create a more level playing field and that this, together with a network approach to move players around and contain costs, went out of the window a long time ago. All he is left with is a third-division football club. So just why anyone would consider paying the sort of price that has been suggested is beyond me. I would want to take over a debt-free company (with the debt parked only to be repaid if we get into the Premiership) with the purchase price reflecting an estimate of how much investment would be required to get into the Championship and then to cover say a couple of seasons there.

Of course the other way to value an asset is to use as a benchmark the price for similar recent sales (while accepting that no two football clubs are the same). This isn’t helped by the fact that it seems the norm not to disclose anything these days. The price for Barnsley wasn’t disclosed (nor was that for Northampton) but the talk was of £10-20m. We may consider them to be a ‘smaller’ club than us but they are of course already in a higher division.

I guess the bottom line is that so far at least none of our potential purchasers has budged sufficiently from realism into Duchatelet-pricing for a deal to be struck. That suggests that either he does materially lower his asking price – or we are stuck with him for a while longer, until he finally lowers his asking price.

All this is of course supposition and we now have a planned meeting of Richard Murray and the Trust before Saturday’s game, news of which has quite rightly prompted CARD to call off the planned protest outside the West Stand. I think it’s appreciated that there are issues of confidentiality involved and we are not going to get chapter and verse on who are the interested parties, what prices have been offered etc. But we will I hope get an insight into whether Duchatelet is really now just casting around for the highest price he can get and will indeed sell in the near future, how advanced are the negotiations, with some hint at least of the likely purchaser and their ambitions.

Because even to the last Duchatelet’s actions make no sense. Before we ground out a couple of 1-0 victories against poor sides our season looked like it was slipping away, especially with the transfer window expected to see the sale of another youngster. Now, with Holmes having departed (and I was sad to see some criticism of his actions, you can hardly blame the guy) but us clawing our way back into a play-off spot, I’d be looking to sell the club on the basis of promotion being a real prospect rather than trying to squeeze the last pips. Turning off the taps right now is obviously counter-productive for our promotion chances and this has to feed through to a sale price, as does any player sales. But we gave up on Roland acting rationally a long time ago.

Monday, 8 January 2018

For the love of an apple terrine

A new reason for missing a football match has been added to the list: 
a desire not to ruin an apple terrine. Doesn’t sound compelling, does it ? 
But give me a bit of leeway here. Having landed in Lyon late on New 
Year’s Day for a minimum three-months stay my partner Suzanne and I 
are in the early phases of establishing a pattern of living together (this 
process so far seems to comprise her telling me that some habits which 
have gone unremarked for almost 20 years are apparently not 
acceptable for outright cohabitation and me apparently going out of my 
way to difficult, something I normally manage with ease). So when 
Suzanne informed me about an hour before the 8pm kick-off that her 
lovingly-crafted first attempt at an apple terrine could be endangered by 
us going to the game discretion became the better part of valour. 
If truth be told I was less than totally committed to the game – and a little 
more conviction on my part and Suzanne would have risked an 
extended break between the part where the ever-compressing apple and 
caramel/calvados concoction goes from being stuck in a sort of bain 
marie to being put in the oven. I was feeling lazy (a natural state but 
encouraged by still getting over one of those bloody annoying colds that 
won’t disappear), there was a good Crozes-Hermitage ready and waiting, 
while going to the game would have meant bolting down a very nice 
poultry dish (I still don’t know exactly what it was as Suzanne could only 
describe it as ‘the wife of the duck’) rather than treating it with the respect 
it deserved.  
So we passed on Duchere’s potentially important home game against the 
splendidly named Red Star (France’s second-oldest football club, 
founded by Jules Rimet). Potentially important because going into the 
match La Duch sat in eighth place in France’s National (third division), 
really in need of a win against a better placed rival to get involved in the 
promotion race. It’s been a decent start to the season for a side still 
adjusting to life in a national league and in terms of support base 
punching well above its weight (Saturday’s attractive fixture was played 
out in front of 377 spectators). But unlike last season the division is quite 
stretched out, with what look like some strong sides at the top (including 
Red Star, relegated last season from the second tier). For their part Red 
Star were looking for a win to enhance their promotion prospects, no 
doubt keen to get back up at the first attempt. 
From the highlights of the game it would appear the first half was a very 
dull affair (one shot each deemed worthy of showing, both tame efforts). 
But it perked up in the second, with Duchere seemingly having the best 
of it based on chances. This seemed the case right to the end, when in 
stoppage time Red Star had a player sent off (seems he was given a 
yellow for holding onto the ball to delay a restart then must have called 
the ref a Trump/Duchatelet as another followed), Duchere went up the 
other end and a shot just past the post proved the final kick. 
A 0-0 draw sees Duchere either stay eighth or edge up to seventh, 
depending on which site you look at. Basically with 21 points from 16 
games (and a record of won five, drawn six, lost five) they are joint sixth 
with Pau and Dunkerque. But the top three (there are two automatic 
promotion spots and a play-off for the team ending third) are looking 
solid : Rodez on 31 points (despite having lost their last game, at home 
to Marseilles Consolat), Red Star and Grenoble both on 28 points. This 
division does seem to ebb and flow, but it’s going to take a storming 
second half of the season and a sustained run of good results for 
Duchere to launch a real promotion bid and get into the top three. A 
late winner on Friday could have made all the difference, but wasn’t to be. 
Progress will nevertheless be monitored - and reported on. Next up on 
Friday they travel to Pau, which might be stretching it as far as being 
there is concerned. A week later and it should be at home to relegation-
threatened Les Herbiers. Not quite the glamour of a match against Red 
Star (the town is apparently twinned with Newtown in Wales and it’s 
claim to fame is hosting an annual bicycle time trial), but I’ve pencilled 
that one in. 
In the interim, having seen the back of Pinocchio we wait impatiently 
for concrete takeover news. The signs are encouraging : Meire not 
being replaced, Duchatelet seemingly so self-deluded that he was 
reportedly ‘stunned’ by her jumping ship, plus his evident focus away 
from January window signings, and if the reports are to be believed 
Robinson calling Duchatelet what we have known him to be for some 
time now – and not being shown the door. All of this smacks of a man 
ready to walk away, presumably if his inflated pride can be sufficiently 
assuaged by the price. That what he does is not driven by the best 
interests of the club, something now apparent to Robinson, will be his 
legacy, right to the end. That only underlines how inadequate a 
custodian of our club he has shown himself to be, whether or not he 
sells up in the near future. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Puppet Departs, What Of The Puppet-Master?

Right to the bitter end she couldn’t bring herself to tell the truth. “I believe I need a new challenge”. We believe you Katrien, nothing to do with the prospective sale. The news that Ms Meire “has decided to stand down” and will leave our club at the end of the month is of course going to be welcomed by the vast majority of Addicks. Indeed, assuming that the end of the month means 23.59 on Sunday, the entire country will join us in counting down her final moments of involvement with Charlton, Big Ben may chime, followed by howls of joy and fireworks to mark the moment of her formal departure. Quite a send off.

It is perhaps a pity that her departure is not to be put back by a day, to give a Valley crowd the opportunity to say goodbye, even a formal presentation. I thought that the burnt embers of a sofa would have been appropriate. No matter. No doubt there will be some sentiments expressed in any event, maybe even the opportunity for some tribute photos in the programme to mark her time with us, involving some people wearing masks and a certain bedsheet being moved along the West Stand into position. And perhaps it is better to wait for the real celebration, when there is confirmation that we have new owners, when the puppet-master departs rather than just the puppet.

Let’s get one thing straight though. There is absolutely nothing personal in any of this. I’ve never met her, she may be absolutely charming, kind, considerate etc. She is clearly intelligent and, as long as she cuts the apron strings, will presumably go on to have a rewarding career. It is that she had no experience or understanding of what it would take to succeed as a CEO of a football club (and made no attempt to learn), and that her incompetence would have resulted in any sensible owner replacing her before long such that her stubborn retention only served to strengthen the view that the best interests of our club were not what motivated Duchatelet. A trustworthy sycophant was the requirement of the job and she made that bargain. And any periodic sympathy for her plight went out of the window as she either oversaw another gaffe or insulted fans with her statements.

Meire’s departure is good in itself for the club but obviously the fact she is not being replaced can I think be seen as a fair indication of how advanced the takeover talks have become. If the stumbling block is as indicated elsewhere the asking price, I just hope that for once business sense will win out. The fact that Duchatelet paid well over the odds for us when he did is no-one’s fault but his own. If he is trying to secure a price that enables him to claim he has not lost out, why bother? We will never know the full terms of any deal. Claim you made a small fortune, just please don’t let it get in the way of a sale. Meire’s time is up – and should have been a long time ago. Same applies to you.

For me personally the window of opportunity, to be able to return to The Valley 
in the near future at least, has closed. For reasons that have nothing to do with 
football, on Monday I have a train to Lyon and no return ticket. The plan is for 
three months but what happens after that is unclear: return to London, stay in 
Lyon, or try to split the time. We shall see. So my intention was in any event to 
mark the end of the year with a hearty Bonne Année to all Addicks 
everywhere. That stands. And who knows? Perhaps I won’t be the only one 
claiming a love of Charlton taking the Brussels Eurostar on Monday. Now that 
would be funny. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Celebrations Still On Ice

Into December and no confirmation of a sale. I suspect I’m not the only Addick who was hoping that a deal would be struck, at least in principle (and announced), before the Back to The Valley anniversary. That would have enabled all of us to celebrate a wonderful day in the history of our club (and enable many of us to drone on endlessly about what a day it was) and to look ahead to a bright future under new owners (of course there are one or two assumptions here, given that we can be sure that Duchatelet is not going to be bothered who he sells to if the price is right for him). That is not to be. No matter, it is only a question of time.

That does leave the question of whether to mark the anniversary by attending the Portsmouth game; indeed, whether there is a sufficient case for shelving non-attendance. I did note a recent piece on Doctor Kish attributed to The Godalming Gourmet. I kept a part of it: “Why wouldn’t true, but presently absent, Charlton supporters, want to be part of all that when it could lead to us playing at a higher level next season? Forget for the time being any existing animosity one might have to our owner – he’s still bankrolling the club and does not ... appear to be interfering in Robinson’s plans, more encouraging them I would say. Come back and see and feel again, the atmosphere of a packed Saturday afternoon at The Valley, or a Tuesday night under the floodlights. These are exciting times at Charlton – be part of it!”

I don’t know the source but it’s a reasoned appeal and one that deserves consideration by all of us who are staying away, one that should not be influenced in any way by a subsequent dip in results/performances. Personally I did give it a lot of thought. No question we all want to see us promoted, little doubt the chances of that are improved if The Valley is regularly packed and behind the team. And it would be churlish to suggest that nothing has changed vis-a-vis the regime. Meire is keeping her mouth shut and we have a manager who at least for now seems able to maintain good relations with the regime while keeping it at arm’s length as far as matters on the pitch are concerned. I suspect there are a number of reasons for that, including the line that Duchatelet has sold himself: that he is far too busy to devote the time to making a success of us, time to leave it to others. It’s nonsense of course, self-delusion, but if that means he is prepared to leave things to people who have some idea of what needs doing (a group which does not include Meire), so much the better.

To the mix has to be added the credible rumours of a sale, encouraged by the most recent garbled comments from our owner. There’s no point in repeating them here, but the tone of the remarks can I think be taken as confirmation that the club is up for sale. In my experience once you start to consider seriously a sale you have already crossed the Rubicon and it’s down to the details. I’ve no idea whether anything will be confirmed shortly (and as ever have no inside information), or whether the current interested parties will walk away over price or terms. But I’d be surprised if Duchatelet was still our owner at the end of the season and before year-end – to allow new owners the January window – would be a deadline of a sort. Duchatelet bought us in early January 2014 and three/four years seems to be his maximum tenure when it comes to football, the sort of timespan for him to try his brilliant ideas, see them fail, for animosity towards him to have the draining effect, and for him to come up with a silly line of argument which he can use to justify to himself a sale.

That in turn leads back to: if we’re confident that Duchatelet is about to exit left why not end boycotts now, in light of the above (ie the promotion imperative)? I have to admit the argument is not, for me, that far short of sufficient – and I have no truck with anyone who finds it compelling (or indeed with others who have already returned). After all, stubbornness is not a good reason to continue if the campaign has already been won (and if Duchatelet sells nobody can realistically say that CARD was not instrumental and successful).

Nevertheless, for me it’s still a ‘no’. Some time back (I think at the start of last season) among others I outlined what would persuade me to return: the departure of Meire (basically nobody who has the best interests of our club at heart could retain her) and an apology to the fans for the series of unacceptable and unwarranted insults (never mind the damage to our club’s standing under his tenure), at a time when daddy was unhappy at the naughty behaviour of one of his children. Alternatively, a clear declaration of an intent to sell the club. Arguably we’re close to the latter but there’s no sign of the former.

So I’ll be foregoing the coming anniversary celebrations, or rather keeping them on ice. It might sound a bit French Revolution, but one way for me to square the circle is to consider that the Charlton calendar stopped when Duchatelet bought the club, it is frozen at 3/1/14. When he sells the clock starts ticking again, which means that a little less than four years after that day we can properly celebrate our return to The Valley.

I shall nevertheless raise a glass tomorrow in memory of the day and hopefully on Saturday meet up with other Addicks before the game to talk about that great day. In fact one of them over the weekend circulated a video of us on the march from Woolwich, arriving at the ground, having a glass before the game etc. I was struck by how little I’d changed in the intervening years (although this does not seem to be the consensus view) and kept wondering why I was doing some sort of Harpo Marx impression: I kept appearing but saying and doing nothing (in contrast to my compatriots). I think I spent the entire day – aside from howling inside the ground – in a kind of blissful fug with a daft grin on my face. What a day indeed. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Roland, Be Gone

It is of course much too soon to be breaking out the bubbly – and please don’t look here for any inside information, I have none. No chance of any comment from the regime and there’s been no change of wording on the Australian Football Consortium site. Suffice to say that if the Voice of the Valley scoop proves to be correct and we have new owners in the near future, no-one will be happier than me. And as for many others, there will be a pledge to fulfil as regards attendance at our beloved Valley.

I don’t want to speculate at this stage how it might feel to be back to us all focusing on the team, complaining now and then about the manager and urging a sane owner to pour every penny he or she has into providing us with what we want. Or not having to look at nonsense written about who is and who is not a true Addick (the more the merrier). Just too soon to be contemplating a return to life as normal.

It is perhaps worth reiterating that when Duchatelet bought our club he was welcomed (don’t take my word for it, check the posts at the time). There was initial cause for concern, given reports from Belgium about his character. But he kicked off by making it clear that there were no plans to move away from The Valley and that he considered Sir Chris to be a good coach (he should have said manager but let’s not split hairs). That goodwill went out of the window before too long, for good reason, not because supporters suddenly changed but because of the decisions taken by the regime. Hopefully soon we can think about this period (which if it ends soon will be roughly the same length of time that he owned Standard Liege) in purely historical terms, perhaps with a lengthy debate over whether Duchatelet is the worst owner we have ever had, whether perhaps Mark Hulyer edges him out (at least his heart was in the right place).

Also, if we are indeed bought by the Aussies there are bound to be some concerns, on issues which any sensible owner would quickly provide reassurance. First and foremost would be The Valley, just confirmation that new owners’ plans do not include any new stadium. There is after all no need for a new stadium and we do have a fine pitch (I actually hope they rename it the ‘Roland Turf’, to serve as a permanent reminder for us of the only decent thing he ever did for our club). Also, given the team’s start to the season there surely wouldn’t be anything to gain – and potentially a fair bit to lose - from a change of manager and his staff. Hopefully there won’t be any impact on the team from the uncertainty that potential change inevitably brings. But you’d have to say if a deal happens small price to pay.

Rather than the immediate uncertainty I’d focus on the very real prospect of a boost to crowds and a strengthened drive to get us promoted. And although we can have no confidence in Duchatelet wanting to sell the club to a fit and proper new owner, there has to be comfort taken from the fact that no outfit buying our club can be ignorant of the events of the past few years (and of course the Back to the Valley campaign). Buying Charlton on the basis of taking an underperforming club back up is hardly compatible with moves that would alienate the fans from the off.

I really don’t care if Duchatelet comes out of it all with a profit, or what he might say to try to justify a sale (to himself and those around him). We will know the truth, that he proved himself to be an unfit custodian of our club.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Luzon Is Utterly Deluded

It’s always difficult to post something after a long break. There’s an understandably desire to say something original, insightful, or at least funny. But perhaps it’s best just to dive back in and take things from there. So we have to start with thoughts on the season so far.

There’s no denying that the last result, before the international break, was a setback regarding hopes and expectations for the full season. But it’s still early in the campaign and far too soon to see it as anything more than that. Far too soon to be writing off any thoughts of promotion or to turn against the manager. There’s the opportunity of a home game up next to get things back on track. And for all we know Rodez may end up running away with the league - although the norm for this division seems to be for things to stay tight all the way through.

That certainly seemed the case a few games into the season. As was the case last season, a strong start saw Lyon Duchere top the league (National, France’s third division) as they rattled off wins in the first two rounds. They then stuttered a little with a draw and a defeat in the next two, only to arrest the decline with a 3-2 win away at Concarneau. Two 1-1 draws were to follow, then in round eight Duchere came through 1-0 winners at home to lowly Avranches. Along with other results, that set up a situation of five or six teams tied at the top, two being Duchere and their next opponents Rodez. With their game put back to Saturday (most games take place on a Friday evening) and none of the others at the top managing to win, both teams knew that a victory would send them a couple of points clear at the top. That proved to be Rodez (2-0), with Duchere left in sixth place on 15 points (from nine games), only one less than the teams in second and third (Laval and Beziers).

Now I say that Duchere have a home game coming up next. Strictly speaking that’s true, but it is listed to be against a team called Exempt. Before turning to Wikopedia to try to find which corner of France has a town called Exempt it was worth taking a look at their season so far: played nine, won none, drawn none, lost nine. But a goal difference of zero. So I’m inclined to assume that for some reason this season only 17 of the 18 teams in the division made it to the start line and that rather than promote someone else there is a blank space, with each team scheduled to play the missing one given the points (and lowly Avranches would be in an even worse position had they not been given three of their four points). So unless I’m very much mistaken Duchere will register a ‘win’ on Friday and sit back to see whether that proves sufficient to take them back to the top.

My next Lyon trip will be some time in November, but I’m going to struggle to take in a game. Duchere are at home to Grenoble (something close enough to a local derby) on 4 November, but I can’t be in two places at once and my partner Suzanne is scheduled to be in London then. There’s another blank weekend after that (internationals again I suppose) before on 17 November Duchere nearly come to the UK with an away game at Dunkerque. Might have to give that a miss. So unless my trip happens a good deal later than I expect it will be stocking up at wine fairs for me rather than braving the elements at Stade de Balmont.

And what about Charlton you may ask (if you’ve got this far)? For me, plus ca change. I think CARD has taken a sensible decision to hold off from any protests inside the ground for the time being. Balancing ‘support the team, not the regime’ has to involve a bit of ebb and flow so as not to alienate supporters and we all want to get out of our own third division asap (in the right direction of course). Yes, we’ve been here before but the yardstick is surely that in my lifetime we’ve never spent more than three seasons in the third flight. Roland apparently likes to think that he breaks the mould, but if he sets a record for seasons outside the top two divisions we will find ourselves in a truly desperate state, however many ‘stars of the future’ we have been able to catch a glimpse of in the meantime.

Nothing fundamental has changed, but of course some things have improved. Basically Duchatelet, having persuaded himself that he just doesn’t have the time to divert his genius in our direction, is at least staying out of the way. Meire seems to be gagged, which is to be welcomed. But they are both there. Duchatelet has not apologised for his insulting of the fans and for the failures under his ownership, most apparent in the retention of a CEO who should never have been appointed. Have they really learnt anything material? If they had one would be working somewhere else and the other would be actively finding a buyer at a realistic price.

The most important change, which is to his credit, is that Robinson is so far proving adept at keeping Duchatelet at arm’s length and at least getting in players he wants to have (albeit not enough of them). He may sound daft but these are achievements that have been beyond his predecessors. It remains to be seen whether results will deteriorate and he will end up like the others, whether he himself will run out of patience with our owner’s seemingly endless desire to pursue incompatible goals (breaking even and getting promoted). But for now he seems to have assembled a group of players which with a fair wind could be in the mix for promotion, while the elevation of Jackson has further sidelined the regime and its cohorts and seems to have strengthened team spirit.

Any rational person might, based on the evidence, draw the obvious conclusions regarding the reasons behind the improvement in our situation. But I doubt that Duchatelet is capable. If we go on to win promotion the praise will be rightly go to Robinson and the players, while there might be a grudging acknowledgement that for the first time the regime hasn’t managed to screw things up. If we don’t, the clock really will be ticking as we look ahead to that fateful third season and draw our own conclusions.

And here probably lies the real motivation for the post. Luzon always had a slightly crazed look about him and his suggestion in the News Shopper piece that Addicks will be won over and start to love Duchatelet if we are promoted puts him in the ranks of the absolute barking. Is he angling for another network job? Or did the regime’s PR team use him to test the waters now that protests have been put on ice? Suffice to say that there is more chance of Brexit, if it happens, having some positive results, or me having a drink is a Weatherspoon’s pub.