Hold up! A new blog post. Something must be wrong at Charlton Athletic again…
Sadly I seem to find myself writing along the same themes as when I briefly restarted this blog last year when Roland Duchâtelet bought the club. That first blog post makes depressing reading a year on for one simple reason – nothing has changed.
Back then I wrote that the players supplied by Duchâtelet in that January transfer window weren’t really up to the job, with only Astrit Ajdarević and Reza Ghoochannejhad showing any kind of ability. Of course, we know that the former couldn’t last more than about 60 mins and the latter was flattering to deceive at that point in time.
But none of that mattered as the mission to stay up was accomplished under Jose Riga. It is still my opinion that we’d have stayed up with Chris Powell and he’d have learnt some valuable lessons, but that’s hardly Riga’s fault.
So what’s gone wrong this time?
As fans, we were looking forward to seeing what Riga would do over the summer, as surely he’d shown enough to be given a chance at building a squad capable of more than mere survival. That wasn’t to be as, having fulfilled his short term contract he was thanks for his efforts and replaced by Bob Peeters, another relatively inexperienced manager but at least some knowledge of the English game having spent a couple of years as player at Millwall. The initial 12 month contract game some cause for concern and appeared to show a lack of commitment from the owner to his new chosen “head coach”.
There was also a shake up on the squad, with some 17 players leaving the club, most notably young midfielder Diego Poyet, goalkeeper Ben Hamer and centre backs Dorian Derive and Richard Wood.
11 players came in, although predictably Standard Liege featured largely in the list of supplying clubs, with Tal Ben Haim going on a permanent contract being joined by Yoni Buyens and Frederic Bulot on loan. Ben Haim was to be joined at the back by Andre Bikey but the most notable signings were from outside of Duchâtelet’s network. The signings of midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson and striker Igor Vetokele provided a real boost to the Addicks fans and so we went into the new season with a feeling of optimism, aided by the new Valley pitch and a splash of paint at the old place.
The start to the season was bright, Vetokele was scoring goals and we were riding high. Then it started to fade. Vetokele picked up and injury, teams started to press us and neither team nor coach had a plan B. Wins turned to draws, draws to defeats and the slide down the table had begun.
Things came to a head at the beginning of January when, after yet another home defeat and 2 months since the last win, Bob Peeters was shown the door. Charlton CEO Katrien Meire told us it had been a difficult decision and they were looking for the right replacement, saying:
“We know how important it is to make sure this next appointment is the right one because I understand that this club needs and deserves a Head Coach who can plan and take charge for the long-term.”.
24 hours later, former Standard Liege head coach Guy Luzon was appointed to lead the Addicks. 24 hours. Ok, let’s be generous and say it was just under 48 hours after Peeters was sacked. Does that sound like a rigorous recruitment process? Not to me it doesn’t, nor to hundreds of other fans who took to social media to express their dissatisfaction. Meire was asked about the process and who else was interviewed and continually said they had over 20 applications and had interviewed other candidates and that it “quickly became clear” that Luzon was the best candidate. Really? That doesn’t sound credible to me. I’ve interviewed candidates over the telephone before and nothing beats a face to face meeting. Of course, the club couldn’t even get this appointment right, with the Israeli having to wait a week for his work permit to come through.
So with a new head coach in place, we entered the last few weeks of the January transfer window. It was clear to The Valley faithful that extensive reinforcements were required, indeed some members of the first team squad were pointing this out as well. So what did we get? A goalkeeper and a striker from the network, a kid on loan from Spurs and a midfielder who appears not to have fully recovered from a very bad car crash.
Well, the goalkeeper may be an improvement on what we already had but the jury is still out. Striker Tony Watt is an improvement on the now departed George Tucudean but needs some game time, the Spurs kid has some ability (as you’d expect) but is more defensive than attacking and Lepoint has only played a few minutes. Nothing to get overly excited about.
The Valley crowd’s chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” and hour into Luzon’s home debut last Saturday should make it clear to the owner that things must change.
In that first blog post here I wrote:
“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.”
We may not be a feeder club for Liege, indeed it seems to be the other way round in that we’re a dumping ground for Liege’s unwanted (including the head coach), I still cannot see what kind of strategy the owner can be following. We’ve seen that the quality of players available to us within the network isn’t up to the task of competing in the English Championship. We’re not seeing the network generate large sums of money in transfer fees yet we, at least, are losing between £6M-£8M each season – and things can only get worse if we are relegated.
Back in March, a group of supporters asked the board of directors of Charlton Athletic for a meeting to discuss concerns over the strategy of the club. That meeting kept being put off as the club management wanted to focus on staying up. It was put off over the summer and instead there was a brief Q&A with Katrien Meire and Richard Murray took place just prior to this season kicking off. CEO Meire keeps stating that she meets regularly with fans, but that appears to be just with the fans forum, a group that the majority of Charlton fans neither know or have any contact with.
Charlton Athletic used to be special. We used to one – fans, players, management and directors. That Charlton appears to be long gone. Have We Lost Our Charlton (again)(again)?