Fleetwood v Charlton 2016: Cod or Haddock?

Article originally written for Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust.

Approaching our final destination of Fleetwood – a town with a population about the size of the Valley capacity – I couldn’t help wondering what on earth we were doing in such a dead-end backwater. This was the first ever meeting between the two clubs, the kind of fixture you associate with the early rounds of the FA Cup, rather than a routine League One Saturday.

Charlton fans view this division as our nadir, never having been lower in our league existence. For Fleetwood, it represents dizzy heights. When we were pitting ourselves against the best teams in the land in the early years of the millennium, Fleetwood were kicking the ball about in the North West Counties League. Although their timeline extends back to 1908, the Lancashire club’s present incarnation is less than twenty years old. They only turned fully professional in 2010/11 and got promoted for the first-time ever to the Football League a year later. Then a trip to Wembley catapulted them into the third tier of the hierarchy, their sixth promotion in ten years: an English football record.

Having initially mistaken a floodlight tower at the docks for a sign of the stadium, we doubled back across the Blackpool-bound tram tracks.

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Charlton v Middlesbrough 2016: Stay or Go?

Article originally written for Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust.

The TV camera zoomed in on the North Upper at the Valley to show supporters straggling their way to the exits just after the 74th minute. It then lingered for a moment on what, for me, has become the abiding image on a day of so many: the Grim Reaper, still sat in his seat, furtively glancing around.

You could clearly sense the dilemma – was it the moment to up and walk out in pre-planned protest with fellow fans or stay put and cheer on the team to an unlikely victory?

From my sofa – no, not that incongruous one by the corner flag – far away in Scotland I felt total empathy with this sinister black and white figure. If I’d managed the trip to London for this game, instead of the Reading humdinger a couple of weeks before, I’d be there now, near the front of the North Upper too. Would I get up and depart?

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The Gaffer: Chris Powell Interview

I had recently joined the board of Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust and we were discussing potential interview subjects for the forthcoming issue of Trust News. I suggested we try approaching Chris Powell, former manager, about to return to The Valley with his new club. Powell agreed so I headed to the Huddersfield training ground to meet him.

Little did I realise, he was in the mood to spill the beans.

First published in CASTrust News 9 in February 2015.

Kids everywhere; little boys in blue and white home shirts or yellow away shirts animatedly waving 2012 play-off final flags, little girls in pretty dresses, smart for the occasion or perhaps on their way to another party. A hubbub of half-term excitement.

This was the scene that greeted me as I entered reception at the Huddersfield training ground.  And there in the midst was the pied piper – scribbling autographs, crouching for photographs, shouting at passing players to join in, laughing and joking, turning this way and that: Chris Powell, resplendent in a bright blue training top, and very much at ease in his new-found Northern home.

I’d requested this interview to mark the occasion of the first fixture between his new team and his old team, expecting to spend an hour or so reminiscing with Powell about his playing days, the famous tunnel jump, his managerial exploits and how he was getting on in his new job.

I started by asking how he felt about returning to the Valley on 28th February.  “It’s the first game I looked out for to be honest.  It’s my wife’s birthday which is a bit bizarre – there’s something about birthdays and me!” It was, of course, his mother’s birthday on the day Charlton secured promotion at Carlisle in 2012, prompting a very emotional post-match interview.  “Both teams are in and around one another and needing the points, but it’s still going to be a great occasion. The crowd will be boosted by Football for a Fiver, and we travel well.  It’s a special day for me, of course – it’s never good the way you leave a football club – very rare that you leave in great circumstances. I know it came as a shock to people, especially on the back of the Sheffield United game, but I had known for a couple of months – since the takeover.”

And before I know it, I am hearing Chris Powell’s first full on the record explanation of the goings on at Charlton under Roland Duchâtelet.

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Roland Duchatelet – Fact or Fiction?

Article researched and written in late December 2013 for Charlton Life. Time has  told a very sorry tale given the state of Charlton Athletic in June 2018. Photo courtesy of Ken Sinyard/ CASTrust.

As Charlton fans wait impatiently to find out whether this latest takeover alert turns out finally to be fact or yet more fiction, I thought it would be useful to summarise what we do know for certain about Mr Duchatelet.

While not quite following BBC principles of two independent sources to corroborate every fact, I have tried to look a bit beyond instant claims, Google Translate and Wikipedia.  Understanding both Dutch and French hopefully qualifies me a little to get under the skin of this Belgian man.

I was once told, by someone from that country, that there is no such thing as a Belgian – you are either Flemish (speaking a dialect of Dutch) or Walloon (speaking French).  And rarely shall the twain meet.  The name Duchatelet sounds more French, whilst Roland is a common first name in both languages.  In articles he is sometimes described as a Flemish businessman, and in a Youtube profile of him as a politician he speaks fluent Dutch.  However, his French sounds just as good in an end of season Standard Liege press conference.  So maybe he is that rare specimen –a genuine Belgian?

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