Jordan Cousins: An appreciation

This column originally appeared in the 27/02/2015 edition of the South London Press.

The other week I was asked who was my Player of the Year so far.

I was stumped.

Earlier in the season there had been some runaway candidates. Igor Vetokele’s goals put him a cut above the rest while Tal Ben Haim was instrumental to the solidity that saw us go 13 games unbeaten.

Yet both players suffered huge slumps in form mid-season, as did many others. Even Chris Solly hadn’t excelled to the same extent as previous years.

What about Jordan Cousins? I was asked.

For some unknown reason, Cousins hadn’t immediately sprung to mind, but the idea made perfect sense.

Even when the team has been at its worst this year, Cousins has stood tall. While Charlton spent three winless months regressing, Cousins continued his subtle progression into this team’s best player.

Who else has been so consistent, so reliable? Other players may have burned brighter at times, but Cousins is the only member of our squad whose flame has remained flickering even in this season’s darkest moments.

The entire squad and management team deserve plaudits for a recent spike in form that included two back-to-back 3-0 wins (and two more wins since this was written), but it’s no coincidence that the turnaround coincided with Cousins deployed in central midfield, nor came to an end with him coming out of the team.

Such is the nature of his versatility and willing attitude that Cousins has taken up a left-wing berth with aplomb for the majority of the campaign. Yet it’s no secret that his natural domain is in the middle of the park where his athleticism, energy, drive and guile have proved invaluable to recent victories.

Guy Luzon must now make Cousins the heartbeat of his midfield as his side looks to secure safety – something we have taken huge steps towards in recent weeks both on and off the field.

Alou Diarra is an excellent addition to our midfield, and will surely come in for Yoni Buyens whose wretched performances have too often led to Cousins doing the work of two men in recent weeks – something he’s thankfully managed to pull off.

That’s what sticks out about Cousins this season. He’s just 20 years old but has led by example in recent weeks, refusing to be cowed when the more experienced around him have collapsed.

What Charlton have on their hands now is a reliable, professional, ambitious and versatile talent of the rarest kind.

I’d love to believe he’ll stick around for a long glorious career with us, but with staged half-time proposals the closest thing to romanticism remaining in football, I know it’s unlikely.

Let’s make sure we appreciate him while he’s here.

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Roland Duchatelet’s unhappy congregation

Roland Duchatelet

At Roland Duchatelet’s first press conference as Charlton owner, one of the Belgian’s statements stood out and gave me great hope for the future of our club.

Duchatelet described the experience of belonging to a football club as a kind of secular replacement to going to church. A communal experience in which people of shared experience and values can come together.

“A football club is not just the matter of winning games,” said the divisive owner.

“I know it’s important but if you look at football today it’s a huge social event. There’s no other gathering of people which attracts such a diverse kind of people – young, old, girls, boys, all sorts of religions, all kinds of political opinions.

“Football clubs attract a public which formerly maybe went to church or other places to gather so the function of a football club of a communion where people can talk and gather is important, not just for VIPs but for the public in general.”

That sounds remarkably reminiscent to my own belief of what a football club can and should be.

Duchatelet is right when he says a football club is not just a matter of winning games. Any of us who have watched Charlton at levels far below our current standing will testify to that. We don’t support Charlton because we can always be relied on to win lots of games or play beautiful football. There are plenty of other options for that. We support Charlton because they’re Charlton. Because we’re Charlton.

Similarly, a football club is not just about making money. There is little more depressing to me than the jaded mantra of “at the end of the day, football is just a business.”


A football club is so much more than that. It is a collective of people. It is shared goals, dreams and memories. Unlike a business whose function is to make money, a football club’s reason for existence is about something else entirely. It’s about a game played by 11 men and the people that follow them. Of course, a football club must adhere to the principles of business, but it must never be defined by them.

Like church on a Sunday morning, football sees people coming together to worship heroes, remember icons, and share in a – hopefully – uplifting experience that can provide escape from everything else.

Chief executive Katrien Meire also stumbled upon the sentiment at Tuesday night’s VIP meeting when she said Charlton could offer “something different” to other London clubs – a “warm feeling.”

Yet this “something different”, this “warm feeling” is exactly what, for many, Charlton are rapidly losing hold of under Duchatelet.

We’ve been told time and time again to bow down in gratitude for a lovely new pitch, speedy wi-fi and other elements of the “match day experience”. Yet as is the case with dominance on the pitch, none of these things are what keeps us coming to the Valley year after year.

You can fill an old church with shiny new furnishings and comfy pews, but if in turn you sacrifice the fiery passion of its teaching – it’s soul – you will be left with an unhappy congregation.

We don’t want sterile, subdued niceties. We want to be stirred, to be united with a common, identifiable cause by people on the pitch whose commitment demand blind devotion. We want bonds built over time, characters to memorialise. A cause to unite behind.

John Robinson. Johnnie Jackson. Richard Rufus. Scott Parker. Darren Bent. Dean Kiely. In my lifetime, these players have pulled me back when more rational judgement would have kept me away.

Chris Powell could do that. So could Yann Kermorgant. The shattered core of a previous squad that included Dale Stephens, Michael Morrison, Ben Hamer and Lawrie Wilson did too. Their rapid and unceremonious disposal suggests Duchatelet, Katrien Meire and co. have woefully missed the point.

Duchatelet is not Machiavelli. He has a nice vision of what a football club could be. He just has no idea of how to build it.

I can’t make the meeting tonight. I’ve tried and tried to get myself out of work to no avail. I think it’s vitally important it’s happening. However, from reading the forums, Twitter and speaking to people at games I’ve noticed fans getting themselves involved in endless debates about the most specific aspects of Duchatelet’s stewardship. Some of them crucial (the nature of the network, the appointment of Luzon), and some of them pretty irrelevant (Luzon’s no-show at the VIP meeting).

To me, the rap sheet against our owner is long, stark and concerning. Some may see it differently and the debates I’m sure will continue to rage on.

But ahead of tonight’s meeting I’d encourage fans to think bigger picture. What is it you want Charlton to be?

Is it stuck within an experimental “network” of other disparate European clubs that may or may not lead to financial success?

Do you want your clubs philosophy and vision to be tempered by those five other clubs, by a structure that places a business model’s interests above our own?

Do you want an owner who has seen Charlton play less than a handful of times? Do you want four managers in 12 months?

Do you want a heavy turnover of players in and out of the club? Do you want a head coach but no sporting director/director of football?

Do you want Charlton Athletic to be a business experiment or a football club?

Instead of worrying about the particulars, decide on what you want Charlton to be. And don’t accept compromise.

Because after all, what good is a church if it’s got no soul?

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Lessons in leadership for Guy Luzon

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I’d like to think we’re a pretty accepting bunch, us Charlton fans.

For example: It had been less than a week since the adored Chris Powell was sacked when I first heard fans rallying around his replacement. The “Jose Riga baby!” chant got its first (albeit quiet) airing from the travelling contingent at Millwall the Saturday following Powell’s departure. Soon after, it was heard echoing around the Valley.

Relative to the hot-headed reactions you see elsewhere, Charlton fans are – on the whole – measured, considered and patient.

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EXCLUSIVE: The inside story behind Guy Luzon’s appointment as head coach

Roland Duchatelet

Revealed! The inside scoop of how Guy Luzon was appointed*:

The Valley sat deathly still and silent on a cold January night in South London. Darkness enveloped the stadium, save for one small window were a soft glow continued to burn into the black.

Katrien Meire and Roland Duchatelet had been in that boardroom since dawn, yet even though the night was getting old, they had no intention of leaving. There was still work to do.

Scrunched up coffee cups and half-eaten takeaways littered the cluttered tabletop. Documents, printouts, folders – all were strewn across the room after being passed through numerous hands and subjected to intense scrutiny.

The support team had long gone, leaving behind their laptops and notes for their bosses to pour over one final time. But Roland and Katrien carried on. Charlton needed a new head coach, but they still hadn’t found their man.

The football world had been scoured, pros and cons weighed up, available candidates brought to interview, enquiries been made about the availability of possible names.

And still, nothing. The right coach for Charlton Athletic had not been found.

“Have you checked those?”, said Roland pointing to a stack of CVs piled up on the corner of the table.

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Forest 1 – 1 Charlton: Callum Harriott asserts attacking credentials


As questions over a reliance on Igor Vetokele grew louder, as frustrations over a lack of firepower became more pronounced, Bob Peeters’ Charlton unleashed a new weapon at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon.

Callum Harriott thrived in his new no.10 role, driving a stake through the heart of Forest’s grasping midfield.

Fans who witnessed the strange positioning in pre-season commented on in with a raise eyebrow: “Peeters is playing Harriott as a striker”, they would remark with a quizzical expression.

The season’s opener, away to Brentford, saw Harriott thrown as a substitute in that very position. The youngster missed an open goal. And that was that. The project shelved. Harriott largely reduced to throwaway substitute appearances with the clock elapsed in the following months.

He has an unfortunate habit of fluffing golden chances. But Harriott also has a knack for producing match-winning performances, and today he defiantly produced the latter.

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SLP Column: Why December will be crucial in Charlton’s season

For the first four months of the season, Charlton fans have dared to dream.

In public utterances expectations have been mellowed, ambitions have been dulled. But we’ve all glanced at the league table and our proximity to the summit and allowed ourselves to become carried away with the possibilities.

December is a month in which those dreams will either be extinguished or sent into further frenzy.

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SLP Column: Charlton fans shouldn’t write off George Tucudean because of one miss vs Millwall

Two weeks ago we watched Charlton draw another frustrating blank against Millwall. As expected, Bob Peeters’ side were superior in every department apart from finishing – a fact best summed up by George Tucudean’s late fluffed chance.

At approximately 94 minutes and 30 seconds, three sides of the Valley were on their tiptoes as the Romanian bore down on goal, one-on-one with ‘keeper David Forde.

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Ooh Scotty Parker: Why I won’t be booing my former hero at Fulham

Scott Parker

When Charlton fans travel to Craven Cottage tonight, special attention will likely be given to one man in particular.

Despite the fact it’s been over a decade since the two parted ways, our match against Fulham will mark just the third reacquaintance between Charlton and Scott Parker.

The last meeting came back in March 2006, Parker’s only appearance at the Valley in an opposition shirt. It was with some relish that the home crowd created a cacophony of boos and jeers whenever Newcastle’s captain was on the ball that day.

Similar treatment is likely to be handed out from some Charlton fans next week, but I won’t be one of them.

Just like you, I’ve heard that Parker’s behaviour towards the club that gave him his chance that fateful January transfer window resembled a spoilt child. I remember a furious Alan Curbishley saying it left a “bad taste in the mouth”. And believe me, I don’t need reminding of how our strong league position that season slowly slipped away following the move.

In 2006 the wounds were still relatively raw. But enough time has passed and so much worse has been inflicted upon our club since. Surely it’s time to let the bitterness rest? If Curbishley can forgive Parker, why can’t we? He was not the first youngster to be seduced by the bright lights, and he certainly wasn’t the last.

I’ve always found it hard to hold a grudge against Parker. If he was a prima donna, a showboater, someone who had slagged off the club, it might be different. But there’s just too much to admire about the way he conducts himself both on and off the pitch. By all accounts, the lad from Lambeth is one of the game’s good guys.

I can’t have been the only Charlton fan who was secretly pleased when the midfielder was named 2011 player of the year by the Football Writers’ Association, when he was one of the best performers in a high-flying Spurs side or when he was named England captain.

It was a belated vindication of everything Charlton fans knew Parker was capable of much earlier in his career. Despite the accolades and achievements he’s earned since, I’m still not convinced his later days as a stoic defensive midfielder were superior to the swashbuckling performances of his youth.

Watching Parker at the Valley was always a thrilling, blockbuster experience. With his fearless commitment, unstoppable energy and street smarts beating from the heart of our side, you genuinely felt like we could take on anyone.

We shouldn’t dwell on his departure and forget everything that came before it. Parker was the most exciting product for a generation. Even after Jonjo Shelvey and Diego Poyet, I’d argue we’re yet to see another like him.

Think not of him not holding up a Chelsea shirt, but of him destroying Chelsea’s midfield in one of our Charlton’s most cherished victories.

Yes, we went through a messy divorce. But boy, it was beautiful while it lasted.



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Charlton 0 – 0 Middlesbrough: Bob’s boys fire a blank

Bob Peeters Charlton

Charlton 0 – 0 Middlesbrough. You’ll have forgotten it ever happened by Sunday morning.

Bob Peeters’ Charlton side failed to score for the first time in the Championship as Charlton toiled in a stop-start game.

For a club that so desperately struggled to score last season, scoring in eight consecutive games is an achievement in itself – especially when that run has coincided with an unbeaten streak.

Yet even with so much to still feel positive about, today’s game had an anti-climatic feel about it, the Valley ever so slightly deflated upon the final whistle.

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Diego Poyet: I’ll always wish Charlton the best

diego poyet

The break-up was sudden, the fall-out was ugly, but Diego Poyet insists Charlton still hold a special place in his heart.

Poyet’s move to West Ham United this summer was nothing if not controversial. The midfielder moved north of the Thames to the Premier League club just weeks after being voted player of the year by Charlton’s fans.

But Poyet has suggested any Addicks feeling scorned would be better off directing their ire at the club’s previous owners before the Roland Duchatelet takeover.

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