The first piece of Kyle’s that I read was focused on the current situation at his club Charlton Athletic. Almost a year on, and he writes a similar article, but it’s fair to say a bit has changed…
Up until November last year everything seemed rosy at The Valley, but since then Charlton have not won a game and manager Bob Peeters was sacked last Sunday. The fans feel the worst they have done in a long time, yet they are only 14th in the league, a position most would have taken at the start of the season. So what is making fans so unhappy?
The Addicks began the season well, having the longest unbeaten start in England apart from Chelsea. Newly added Striker Igor Vetokele was banging in the goals, and Charlton had one of the most resolute defences in the league. Victories against the likes of early promotion favourites such as Derby, Watford and Wigan excited fans. However, the unbeaten streak ended at Bournemouth in November and this was followed by a 3-0 defeat at Fulham.
Charlton bounced back though with victories over Bolton and Reading, and the mood around the club was still positive. Charlton headed into the Christmas period in the top six, but little did the club know that the win at Reading would be its final victory of the year.
Charlton missed the chance to beat Millwall, with George Tucudean missing a last minute opportunity which would have sent the Valley faithful into raptures. The hoodoo against their biggest rivals continues, a run that has seen them not win against Millwall since 1995. The Addicks should have beaten Ipswich too with the amount of chances they had, but failed to convert them and lost out to a 94th minute winner from Noel Hunt. Yet another draw followed away at Forest. Fans began to get concerned against Blackpool, where Charlton led twice but were twice pegged back due to goalkeeping mistakes from second choice Nick Pope. Could Charlton end up like Blackpool, with the owner asset stripping the club?
Charlton also lost away at Blackburn and were losing 1-0 at home to Cardiff when the Addicks had striker for the day Callum Harriott sent off. The team’s performance was awful in the first half, barely creating a chance. Not much hope was held for the second half, yet Charlton turned in probably the best 45 minutes of the season. They hit the bar, the post multiple times and the keeper David Marshall was in unbelievable form. Finally, in the 88th minute, impressive midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson smashed in an absolute pearler from 25 yards. The South Londoners pushed for a winner, but it didn’t come and this left the Addicks without a win in six games, and they also lost to Ipswich again in their final game of the year 3-0.
Charlton crashed out to Blackburn in the FA Cup Third Round and in manager Bob Peeters’ final game of his tenure they lost on his birthday at home 1-0 to Brighton. You may be thinking that the fans would be calling for the Belgian’s head, but at the end of the game he walked over to clap the Covered End and was met with applause by pretty much everyone, followed by a round of ‘Bobby Peeters’ red army’.
Despite this, the day after the defeat to the Seagulls, the Belgian ownership decided to sack Peeters, much to the fury of most Addicks fans. The inevitable appointment of yet another manager from the ‘network’ was part of this anger. The network is the group of clubs that owner Roland Duchatelet owns. He trades players and managers around. His manager of choice this time was former Standard Liege manager Guy Luzon. The Israeli was chased out of Liege due to violent riots in the stadium towards both him and the owner Duchatelet. He rocked up at the Valley on Wednesday, despite campaigns to both stop Luzon becoming manager and get Charlton legend Alan Curbishley back. Many doubted that ‘Curbs’ would be the ‘yes man’ that Guy Luzon will inevitably be.
The team, fans and new manager now head to Watford on Saturday with multiple protests planned. This is unlikely to make a difference due to Roland himself rarely being at games. His CEO Katrien Meire handles dealings at The Valley. At first she was well liked, but her relationship with the fans has been left in tatters after this week. First of all, after the sacking Meire said: “We will begin the search for a new manager” when in fact it was obvious the only man they would appoint was Luzon. During the press conference confirming him, Meire even claimed that they had interviewed ’20 other people’. Luzon arrived in London on Monday and stayed in the same hotel that all of Charlton’s new signings and managers stayed in. The big suitcase indicated he was here to stay. This infuriated Charlton fans as she had lied blatantly through her smiling teeth. She even had the cheek to say “Charlton fans will just have to accept how we run the club.” Even Richard Murray, who is Charlton through and through just sat there and joined in the lying party. It was sickeningly obvious.
Many Addicks fans seem to not feel much of an affiliation with the Club any more, with almost all of the signings who arrived since Duchatelet took over in January 2014 not being English. Fans favourites have been sold, with the most important being striker Yann Kermorgant who left just days after Roland had arrived. ‘Big Yann’ had a massively good relationship with the fans and there was outrage when he was forced out of the club. Another is midfielder Diego Poyet, who many believe could be the best youth product Charlton have ever produced. He was linked with clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and even Barcelona, but he finally decided to go to West Ham. Fans no longer enjoy match days, with some pledging not give any more of their money to the network.
It will now be interesting to see what happens at Vicarage Road on Saturday and in the future. Will Charlton fans manage to oust the Belgian ownership, or will they just have to ‘accept the way they run the club’?