DUNLAVY: Charlton comedians are a joke
ADDICKS TREAT FANSWITH CONTEMPT
EVER seen that card in the window of Paperchase? It says ‘I never make the same mistake twice – I make it five or six times just to make sure’. As Charlton’s reviled owner Roland Duchatelet reappoints Jose Riga, someone might want to pop out and get him one.
After all, the Belgian bungler is clearly happy to take the p*** out of Charlton supporters.Why not give him some back?
Or maybe send it to Katrien Meire, the 31-year-old chief executive whose crass comments and embarrassing naivety have exposed a shameful condescension towards supporters.
“The problem with supporters,” she told a tech industry summit in December,“is that they don’t see themselves as customers. I get nice e-mails from them saying ‘Get out of our club’, as if it belongs to them.
“They say they pay, but if they go to the restaurant with their family every week and they’re not satisfied with the product, do they go and scream at the people in charge of it? No they don’t.”
You know why, Katrien? For starters, most of them aren’t rich-kid lawyers.They don’t go to a restaurant ‘every week’ because they’re saving their money to pay your salary.
Mainly though – and I’m talking purely from personal experience here – it’s because no restaurant repeatedly serves them something fit for the bin.
Like the fare on offer at Huddersfield on Tuesday night.Like Karel Fraeye, the Belgian third division boss so out of his depth that he couldn’t even see the shore.
Like Reza Ghoochannejhad, a player foisted on Charlton by Duchatelet and so gutless that he spent Tuesday night hacking his way to an early bath. Set upon by irate Addicks players in the dressing room, he should never play for the club again.
I was at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday and Charlton were more Fray Bentos than fine dining. No fight, no shape, no organisation or quality. The Terriers won 5-0 and didn’t even play that well. At times, the visitors were so inept that laughter broke out on the terraces.
Until this week, I’d been prepared to give Meire and Duchatelet the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Duchatelet had simply underestimated the Championship, resulting in a succession of substandard foreign signings and no-mark managers. Perhaps Meire’s eye-rolling stemmed from some cultural misunderstanding.
But, when Duchatelet sacked Fraeye and attempted to hire Nebojsa Vignjevic – another nobody from his ‘network’ of tinpot European clubs – I had to think again.
Don’t buy this ‘backtrack’ garbage. Duchatelet may have been warned about a fans’ backlash, but the only reason he didn’t appoint Vignjevic is that the Serbian wanted to stay put.
Coupled with the arrival of Riga, we can reach one of two conclusions: the bloke is either wilfully ignorant or deliberately neglectful.
The first is believable. Duchatelet has been to The Valley only once since his takeover and Meire, his eyes and ears, has proved by word and deed that football is beyond her expertise.This is a woman who ludicrously claimed that Charlton had “always improved” under each new manager.
Duchatelet is also an idealist, determined to make his network succeed despite increasing evidence to the contrary.
The second is more worrying. We all know that Duchatelet wants Charlton to exist within its means, using its academy to produce ‘Premier League players of the future’. That would undoubtedly be a lot easier without the burden of a Championship wage bill. Not to say he seeks relegation. Simply that relegation would
not harm the business plan. And you have to ask: why did the pair refuse an offer of investment from former owner Peter Varney, repeatedly cancelling meetings or refusing to answer the phone?
I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. In part, because clubs like Swansea have shown that prudence and success can go hand in hand.
But, primarily, because I saw first-hand the hurt both Duchatelet and Meire are causing. I saw the devastation on the faces of their staff. I was in the tunnel when keeper Stephen Henderson emerged, shaken and close to tears. I heard the jeers of the travelling fans.
Those people don’t care about a business plan.They aren’t statistics. They are real people with real jobs and real feelings for their club. Feelings that a corporate robot like Meire will never understand.
So, on second thoughts, let’s send a different card. One that says ‘You can’t make the same mistake twice because the second time, it’s a choice’. Duchatelet could have
chosen to hire an experienced manager and stop filling
the side with cutrate foreign dross. He could have chosen to speak to the fans.
Instead, he chose to stay in schtum in Belgium. He chose to persist with an experiment that has demonstrably failed. He chose to shaft everybody who cares for the club.
Meire has no right to complain about her ‘customers’. Because, if Charlton were a restaurant, trading standards would close it down and kick this pair of comedians into the street.