DUNLAVY: Charl­ton co­me­di­ans are a joke

AD­DICKS TREAT FAN­SWITH CON­TEMPT

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Dunlavy

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.”

Ex­pe­ri­ence

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.

Bur­den

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.

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