I used to write a blog on the Addicks back in the days following relegation from the Premiership when I was also doing the Internet radio show Charlton Plus with Brian Cole. I stopped because there wasn’t much to say as we trudged along, week in, week out with the same team trying, but failing, to do very much, resulting in another relegation to League One.
Then we had a takeover! They appointed Chris Powell! They gave him funds to improve the team and, well, the rest is record breaking history. We’d got our Charlton back.
Fast forward 18 months and, with no investment in the team and players leaving we were struggling bear the foot of the Championship table. The owners had run out of cash and it showed. New investment was needed. And it arrived. Belgian Roland Duchâtelet bought the club to join his ever increasing network across Europe. His background sounded promising, he wanted to find a new way of working that didn’t mean throwing good money after bad on players in pursuit of success. He wanted to develop yonder players, and it was working at his main club thus far, Standard Liege.
Given our League position, he’d surely strengthen the team before the transfer window closed and sign up our manager and key first team players on new contracts…
3 key players let go.
Only a handful of new contracts for players.
No new contract for Powell.
This doesn’t look good. We’re weaker now.
So what about this network of clubs we’ve been hearing about? Anything there? Yes? Good. Ok, they might not be top notch players, but they at least add something to the squad. I’m sure Chrissy can get the best out of them. So where’s his new contract?
The window closes and Duchâtelet starts making noises about talking to Chris about a new deal. Good, at least. These things take time. The we get formal confirmation that talks are progressing well. This on March 6th. 5 days later Chris is sacked.
So how can Chris go from being the most important person at the club to nothing?
As poor as the performance against Sheffield United was, it highlighted the lack of ability in the squad. None of Duchâtelet’s players were included, but given only Astrit Ajdarević and Reza Ghoochannejhad have shown any real ability, and the latter having just returned from international duty with Iran, it wasn’t over surprising to see them on the bench.
Rumours of a bust-up with Duchâtelet before the game are doing the rounds, related to which players should be in the side. I doubt there’s much in that. More likely is a disagreement about the footballing strategy doing forward. We know that Duchâtelet doesn’t like spending money on players and I have no real problems with that as a concept. Where I do have an issue is if the players that are going to come to Charlton will, in the main, be from those made available from the rest of Duchâtelet’s network, with the implication being better players at Charlton moving on to Standard Liege.
From a financial point of view, it makes little sense to let Charlton drift and become a feeder club for Liege – the money available in the English Premiership far out ways anything that can be earn in Belgium, even with Champions League cash. Maybe Duchâtelet believes has can turn Charlton into a break-even club in the Charmpionship, eliminating his costs and, if by some accident we do get promoted, he gets the windfall.
Clearly Liege are the top team at present. The worry is they always will be and Charlton Athletic as we know it will be dead.
Have we lost our Charlton again?
Maybe. We need the owner to lay out a clear short and long term strategy for the club. As it stands, the feeder club nightmare looks very real. There has been some talk of boycotting season ticket renewals in an attempt to bring the owner to the table. I think we need to send a message to the owner, and this seems a reasonable way forward. Existing season ticket holders have until April 9th to “get the best value” which implies a price rise after this date. I’ve certainly put my renewal on hold pending clarification from the owner on where he’s taking the club. We’ll see if he’s capable of that level of communication.
For the record, I thought Chris Powell was doing a superb job for the club with limited resources and under great pressure. I firmly believe he will go on to be a top manager, and I just hope that one day he can return to Charlton Athletic where he belongs.