There is no doubt that the level of complaint about various matters from Charlton supporters has increased over the last year. There is far more grumbling than when the team was putting in mediocre performances in the first division. And it's not just perennial moaners like the Bloke Behind Me whose main pleasure in the week is to slag off his own team. Nor is it more recent supporters. A lot of the complaints are coming from longer term supporters who put up with much worse in the first division.
So what are the main complaints and do they have any substance? Or is it the case, as has been suggested in the media, that Charlton is becoming a moaners' club?Curbs has taken the club as far as he can
This is a frequent complaint with the proposed solution being that Curbs leave and be replaced by ... er. Gordon Strachan used to be mentioned, but now he has gone to a club big enough for his talents. Never mind that Curbs is a greatly respected manager who is highly regarded by the media and football generally who think he has achieved a great deal on a small budget.
But the real problem here is the 'as far as he can' phrase. Just how far can a club the size of Charlton go? The harsh fact is that modern football is a business and there is a rough and ready relationship between how much income a club is and where it is in the leagues. Good management can help a club to punch above its weight and that is what Charlton is done.
Where the moaners do have a point is when they make the more constructive suggestion that the coaching team might be strengthened, perhaps by bringing in someone with experience of foreign football.The club has become more corporate
Yes, there is a greater distance between the club and the fans, but how do they expect a club in the Premiership to be run? If anything, the club could be criticised for relying too much in the past for people whose main qualification was that they were Charlton fans (this is not a reference to Rick Everitt who did a first rate job as communications manager).
Sometimes the club could improve the style of its communications. Not everything has been handled well, although mistakes can be made in any organisation. I would support the right of the club to defend its integrity against repeated accusations which it regards as ill founded. I did think that at one time in the season Peter Varney started to talk down to the fans which was quite surprising given that I believe him to be a genuinely fan friendly person. But this tendency disappeared.The players are less committed
We have to remember that the players are hired hands. As Andy Hunt, a player for whom I have a great deal of time, once pointed out the average player will play for at least four clubs during his career. Commitment and effort may get you somewhere in the old first division, although even there you need some talent. 'Killer' was never a great one for effort, but he could suddenly appear and bang in a lethal shot. What we need is more talent not more commitment.We play too defensively
We were losing a lot of matches until we switched to 4-5-1. The real problem here is with the structure of the Premiership which encourages defensive play because the financial penalties of relegation (or even losing a place) are so great. The remedies being considered by Premiership bosses are not likely to have much impact without tackling the financial aspect.
Curbs is quite cautious and that is both a strength and a weakness. Sometimes I think that we leave substitutions too late. One point I would agree with the moaners about is that we should someone up the field when we are defending a corner as we have no outlet and as a result the ball is played back in to create renewed danger.The supporters' director doesn't do anything, nor does CASC
The problem that the supporters' director faces is the way in which her role constrains her. She is bound by the requirements of board confidentiality. The one time I contacted her by E mail she responded promptly and helpfully. But she is really a 'Ombudsperson' rather than a decision maker.
CASC does function largely as a travel club. But if people want it to change, they should get involved. Like many voluntary organisations, it relies on a diminishing band of stalwarts.So is there a problem?
Yes, there is a problem, but I think that it is largely one of expectations which (as in so many areas of modern society) are unrealistic. There is still a lot to be proud of at Charlton and every hope that the club can continue to progress, albeit it at a slower pace than most people would like.
But the risk of dwindling support is a real one. I do not have any magic solution. Indeed, I think that Richard Murray, Peter Varney and the board have a very difficult job to do and I would not like to be in their shoes.