New CAS Trust Board Member Andrew Buckland shares his history with Charlton and his views on the current situation at the club.
As a supporter and season ticket holder in the Covered End for over 25 years I was delighted to accept the CAS Trust Board's invitation to join them as a co-opted member this month. I hope that my experience, skills and passion for the club will be of value to the Trust and the wider Charlton family during the current times of trouble and also when the good times return.
My life as a Charlton “customer” has always had its ups and downs. I’m sure many of you like me will remember the dark days including relegations to the second and third tiers, facing a winding up order, leaving The Valley at short notice, let alone unexpected sales of star players.
However, for me, these are countered by truly memorable moments: the return to The Valley and that first game against Portsmouth with Colin Walsh’s sublime left foot securing the first goal (never off-side) still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Winning the play off final at Wembley, with arguably one of the best hat-tricks to grace the hallowed turf, then Super Clive following up with another, in our 5-0 drubbing of Southampton in our first ever home match in the Premiership. More recently, a packed Valley chanting “We’ve got our Charlton Back” as Chris Powell’s squad celebrated a record-breaking season and a century of League One points.
Success has always been achieved when all the planets align, the owners, the manager, the players and, of course, the fans. Failure is sure to arrive when they do not.
It took seven years to return to The Valley, and considerably longer for the club to recover off the field: testament to the commitment and tenacity of supporters who refused to let the club die, and the arrival of new directors and investors who understood what is so special about CAFC. Many feel we are facing just as bleak a future right now under Duchâtelet and Meire, myself included. Only this time we do not have the saving grace of a Lennie Lawrence to somehow hold things together and more on the pitch. I wish Jose Riga the very best of luck in performing the latest Houdini act, faced with a much more challenging situation than his first time at the helm.
I’ve found developments of the past two years difficult to watch, with Charlton experiencing an extraordinary level of churn and turmoil in the squad: players clearly up to the standard required for the Championship sold or released, only to be replaced with poor or unfit purchases from home, abroad and the network. New managers are simply chosen because they are in the network or close to the owner, rather than based on any capability assessment. Supporters appear to be a secondary consideration; if indeed they are a consideration at all, resulting in a rift between regime and fans not seen since those early days of exile.
The CEO is conspicuous by her absence in this time of crisis. Club Secretary, Chris Parkes, still recovering from illness, has been the sole club official in the directors box at the past two away matches, whilst a clearly distraught player was left to deal with the press after the damning defeat by Huddersfield. For that, at least, Stephen Henderson has my utmost respect and sympathy.
Meanwhile, we are drifting away from safety at the bottom of the Championship, embarrassingly gathering opposition goals by the netful. Attendances are considerably down, mocking any Target 20K initiative as way too little, far too late. Protests against the regime are set to heighten and continue, while both local and national media are turning their spotlight on SE7.
I know the Trust has worked hard over the past 18 months to engage the club management and owner in meaningful dialogue. They have, in fact, spoken with the CEO and Chairman over the past few weeks, and even received occasional emails. However, none of this superficial engagement to date has suggested that the club is really willing to listen to and understand supporters’ legitimate concerns, or accept the urgency of acting upon them.
If you are not already a member of CAS Trust, please join me and commit just £5 for one year to ensure that we have a powerful and legally constituted fans’ body. Our sign up page is here. If you are a member, please encourage others to join. I truly believe we are stronger together.
Additionally, I must express my extreme dismay and discontent with the way in which this regime is running the club. Therefore, I urge all supporters to unite behind CARD (Coalition against Roland Duchâtelet).
I am fortunate to share my love of the club with other supporters who have in the past gone further than almost any other fan group to retrieve situations that looked irretrievable. I have no doubt we can and will do so again to protect the historic past and the future of our great club.
It will not necessarily be quick, nor easy, however that has never deterred us before and nor will it do so now.