Usually when I write about football it’s for personal rather than professional reasons. However, to close off this mediocre season I am doing my day job as a university lecturer by analysing Roland’s performance over this highly academic year.
Attendance – Historically this has been an issue, and it has got even worse this year than ever before. Indeed, if he were a foreign student from outside the EU, he would have missed the 90% attendance mark required to maintain his student visa, and would have been sent packing long ago.
Communication Skills - Once again these have been poor, largely because of the unusual habit of presenting ideas through a third party. Failure to enter into debate is also a concern; as is use of language in authentic situations. When offered the chance of a chat in a restaurant with native English speakers, he baulked at the opportunity – same as the likes of his so illustrious strikers Reza Ghoochannejhad, Piotr Parzysek, and Lee Novak. However, on a positive note, it seems third parties at least, if not Roland himself, have finally accepted that communication is an issue, and might engage in more of it in the future.
Intercultural Exchange – This is the first subject on the list that Roland has actually passed because, even in the age of Brexit, he has strengthened links between London and Sint-Truiden. Further to this, he has built up a great relationship with a group of English peers who have been to visit the land of great beer and bad ideas so often that they have been nicknamed The Belgium Twenty. It is expected that these folks will remain in Europe for as long as it takes to trigger the article needed for Roland’s exit. But so far he’s proven to be as stubborn and hard to shift as The Rock of Gibraltar. Expect tough negotiating in the months ahead!
Geography – Despite the improved state of intercultural exchange, Roland has consistently failed to find his way to London. However in his defence (obviously excluding Chris Powell and Michael Morrison) he has shown aptitude for map reading because he can allegedly navigate his own way around the underground system of the capital city that he rarely visits. Added to that he has helped put Charlton on the map in a very unusual way. Once upon a time we were associated with places like Woolwich, Eltham, Greenwich, and even Ramsgate or Swanley. Now we are synonymous with places that have badly run teams such as Blackpool, Blackburn, Coventry, and Torquay Thanks Roly. Great job – total opposite of A star!
History – Sadly this has been a tale of epic failure on a par with stories of somebody at NASA accidentally taping over the only original video footage of the moon landings or the builders who set out to create a perfectly upstanding Tower of Pisa. Roland’s project on ‘The History of Charlton Athletic’ got the lowest score since Iain Dowie’s popularity rating south of the Thames in 2006. To compound his failure on the project, some of his answers in the end of term exam also suggested severe lack of background research. One example stands out above all others in the crossword puzzle in section two of the exam. A three letter synonym for supporter is not customer.
Public Relations – Was never great, but got even worse when Ms Baroni, the module tutor, walked out half way through term. In doing so, she proved why principle is so important in schools!
Economics of football – Though coming to the subject with a great deal of professional expertise and personal wealth, his performance in this area has been nothing short of disaster. Somehow he has conspired to lose massive amounts of money at the same time as failing to invest in the business he bought. He has also managed to decimate a supp – customer base that supported the business through thick and thin, hail or shine, for decades. At least rival businesses such as Bluewater Shopping Centre can delight in this as thousands of men seek out something to pass the redundancy of Saturday afternoons without football. However, there are no marks offered for sending supp – customers away from your business into somebody else’s.
Technology – Another pass, on the basis of some highly innovative practical work. However this has nothing to do with the mysterious Thomas Driesen’s use of computer algorithms to sign such greats as Nabby Sarr and Piotr Parzysek. This is through his tremendous (on a Donald Trump scale) and unique (on a Katrien scale) ability to dine in a restaurant and watch a live stream of Charlton playing football at the same time. Evidence for this can be found on live recordings created by his mates from the intercultural exchange programme; the now infamous Belgium Twenty.
Driving Theory Test – This came as an unexpected choice of elective in the first semester of the academic year, again inspired by his intercultural exchange. Unfortunately he never got around to sitting the exam, much like never getting around to seeing games or chatting to supporters. But he did give birth to the slogan of Taxi for Roland, and managed to bring the Guinness World Record for most black taxis in a field to The Valley’s green grass. But again unfortunately, attendance was an issue as he was not there to see the achievement. BUT – once again thanks to those exchange students – the taxi went to him and captured media headlines across Europe. On that note, it’s a terrible pity there’s no Film & TV course on this year’s curriculum because there’s certainly been plenty of drama attached to Charlton in this academic year.
Fashion – This has improved over time, and recent reports from Belgium suggest a more suave and dapper appearance than in those rare first sightings at Charlton, when from shoelaces up to stubble there was a bit of a demand for a makeover.
Science – Last, but not least, I am sorry to say that his grand experiment has failed miserably both in theory and its practice. He has taken something of life (a proud football club) and turned it and its habitat (The Valley) into a place on the edge of death.
Overall recommendation – All of us reach a point in our lives where we know when we are beaten or when we are in the wrong game. It might be time for Roland to get off this course and go back to doing things he is good at. Football, like academic study, isn’t for everyone. If he stays I can’t see results getting any better next term, and his attendance habits seem to be rubbing off on half the support if recent crowds at The Valley are anything to go by. As they say in Ireland slán abhaile, meaning safe home!
Dr Paul Breen (@CharltonMen) is the author of The Bones of a Season (Charlton-related novel found at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bones-Season-Paul-Breen/dp/0997806230/)