Friday, 22 September 2023

The problem of distance

I find it increasingly difficult to say anything useful about the team, indeed I have had some difficulty in identifying the latest recruits to the first team, let alone evaluating them.

Anyway, I have seen another consultant who has prescribed a new operation, one justification being that my normal life 'involves some travel to London'.  Helpfully, she referred to my role as a part-time commissioning editor for a publisher which in fact just involves two or three meetings in London a year.

I still know what a South-East London accent sounds like though.  I was shocked when the director of a local art gallery referred to 'Gren-wich' in a speech.   To me my birthplace has always been 'Grin-idge' and a Facebook storm I provoked on Plumstead People confirmed that the overwhelming majority agreed.   It's never been the same since Liz Truss moved in.

So what about tomorrow's game?   I put it down as a 2-1 win the Badger prediction league.  The Chairboys are currently 8th in the table and 3rd in the form table.  Charlton are fourth from bottom in the form table.    Away from home, the visitors have lost one and won two.

In the Four Four Two season preview the selected fan refers to how strange it seems to be starting a season without Gareth Ainsworth and forecasts a 15th place finish.

The magazine is more upbeat in its verdict: 'A season of transition?  Perhaps - new boss Bloomfield has a different style to Ainsworth, which will take time to implement.  Nevertheless, the Chairboys will think they can push for the play offs again if they add wisely to a strong core.  They certainly have the know-how.'

The CASC preview does its best to encourage fans to attend:

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Appleton talks the talk

For various reasons it has taken me some time to carefully read Michael Appleton's double page interview in Sunday's Football League Paper.  We all know from Gobby's days as manager that there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

Nevertheless, Appleton talks frankly and what he has to say shows realism and make sense.   He admits that he has made mistakes, but he is tried to learn from them.  There is something to be said for experience even if the record is mixed which is perhaps unavoidable in the lower leagues.

The FLP is rightly critical of our recent troubles:

  • 'The Addicks have churned through owners and managers at a prodigious rate in recent years and appear a club perpetually poised on a brink if crisis'
  • 'A youthful side - that for all its potential - looks desperately raw'
  • 'Charlton have now changed manager mid-season for a fourth successive season;
Appleton says that he wants to take the club back into the Championship 'and then to be competitive there.  But for us to do that, there's a lot of work that needs to be done.  A hell of a lot.   There's stuff that needs to be sorted out and rectified before you can even think of promotion.'

'Yes, the club's got great tradition.  It's a very, very big fanbase, especially when you give them something to shout about.  But, for me, the potential of these players to improve - and fast - that was the big attraction.'

'I want to improve the intensity in the way in which we play.  That's not just out of possession, going round kicking people and getting in people's faces.  It's how we move the ball.  I want to see this team press the ball forward much more than it has done.  If you look at my previous teams, that doesn't mean going gung-ho or playing 50- and 60-yard passes straight to the striker.'

'Be positive.  Try things.  And if you make mistakes, makes sure they're positive mistakes. Don't give the ball away because you've been tentative or unsure.  Give it away because you tried to do something progressive.'

'League One is as open as it's been for a long, long time. In previous seasons there have been three or four really big clubs who've had the budgets and squads to cope with 46 games a lot better than most teams at this level.'

Appleton seems to realise that his tenure may be limited: 'If I can be the person who starts that fightback, it's not a bad legacy is it?'

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Lessons from the south coast

Although we can take some heart from the result at Stevenage, we still had five players aged 20 or under on the pitch, an issue that Michael Appleton recognises.

Charlton have always had a mutually supportive relationship with Brighton fans, especially those of us in the West Sussex CASC which still exists as the Badger prediction league.  They also have a strong rivalry with the Nigels.

Brighton's progress shows that with the right owner, a club can escape from near extinction and become a real success:

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Men against boys at Boro?

Charlton have already sold out their allocation of nearly 1,400 tickets for Saturday's fixture at Stevenage which says something about the loyalty of our core support.

Fifty years ago Stevenage were playing my non-league team Leamington, but The Football League Paper was speculating on Sunday that they might go straight up to the Championship, replicating a feat of two successive promotions achieved by Charlton in the 1930s.

The Football League Show showed a 'street artist' hired by Hertfordshire Council painting a wall in what looked like a tunnel with the achievements of the Borough, including a life sized depiction of the current captain,31-year old defender Carl Pietrgianni, which seems a bit of a hostage to fortune.

Charm merchant manager Steve Evans has certainly transformed their fortunes since he took over eighteen months ago and earned a two page spread in Sunday's Football League Paper, admittedly on a slow football news day.

The modest 60-year old supremo claimed that the objective was simply to stay in League One, they didn't have resources to do more than that.  'We've got a good owner, we know what we're doing on and off the pitch,'

Tbe Fan File contributor in Four Four Two said of Evans: 'A few older fans still have a lingering unease with Evans' previous misdemeanours, while his touchline shenanigans aren't exactly acclaimed.  The bottom line, though, is that he got us promoted against seemingly enormous odds - everything else is a footnote.'

Four Four Two forecast that Boro would get 50 points and finish 19th.  Their fan file contributor only had them at 14th.

Key players include defender Nathan Thompson (29), midfielder Ben Thompson (27)and striker Jamie Reid (29).  They 'know the game inside out' unlike Charlton's youngsters.    On loan keeper Toye Ashby-Hammond was signed on a permanent deal from Fulham.

Stevenage currently top the table, although they have drawn two of their home games.  When I did my Badger League predictions before the season started I had this down as a Charlton defeat and it could be a case of men against boys on Saturday, but Charlton can win the most unlikely contests.

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Why short termism is not the answer

Short termism is a British disease, but it is particularly acute in football.   It is driven by an over active stock market, now reinforced by the activities of hedge funds and private equity companies.  Short termism is not the only reason the UK has a chronic productivity problem. but it is certainly part of the picture.

I was struck by the following comment in the Financial Times yesterday about the success of Aldi and Lidl: 'Being private allows Aldi and Lidl to keep prying eyes at bay and not be held to ransom by shareholders if they do not meet their sales or profit forecasts.;

The chief executive of Aldi for the UK and Ireland said 'this is an absolutely tremendous strength of our business.  It means we can make very long-term decisions even when the road is bumpy.'

It's a different story in football and especially at Charlton these days.   The following edited extract from my book Political Football is relevant:

'Expectations in society generally of private or public services have increased, but this is particularly acute in the case of football where there is an immediate measure of success or failure in terms of results and tables. “It’s a results business” is one of the most familiar clichés used in relation to the game,

There has been an increase in managerial turnover. In the ten years to 31 December 2019, “103 different men have been in charge of Premier League clubs in the last 10 years, holding 153 posts between them” (Ridge 2019). Lower-league clubs are also unforgiving of managers that are perceived to be underperforming. There is often a brief improvement in performance after a manager is replaced. However, “eventually results regress to the mean” (Kuper & Szymanski 2012).

A manager’s success may well be affected by luck, such as refereeing decisions or injuries to key players. This, however, does not excuse what has often been a lack of professionalism in the recruitment process. Simon Kuper notes that in hiring managers, as a rule “research is usually hasty. A club owner rings a man’s mobile and offers him the job, typically days after sacking the previous incumbent” (Kuper 2020).

The process of recruitment is slowly becoming more professional. Jürgen Klopp was the subject of a 60-page report by Fenway Sports Group, and he was then interviewed for several hours at a New York law firm before his appointment at Liverpool. However, the Covid-19 pandemic may change the emphasis on external recruitment. Less well-financed clubs “will tend to give top jobs to internal hires with briefs to sell players and develop cheap youngsters” (Kuper 2020a).

The manager may not be as key a factor as some popular discussions of football assume, but that does not mean that they have no impact at all on performance. Examining data on managers that have been in charge for 30 games or more, which would tend to exclude the worst-performing managers, Szymanski (working with Thomas Peeters) found that about 20 per cent of a population of over 1,000 managers had a positive impact on their club that was statistically significant.

Any fan could produce a list of managers they considered to be outstanding and this is consistent with the finding that “most managers made little difference, while a few have a significant impact” (Szymanski 2015). There are exceptional managers, but there are fewer of them than is generally supposed which helps to explain why there is so much disappointment with the performance of managers. This is magnified by the perception of the manager as “some kind of dream maker, who ‘gives hope’ to fans” (Carter 2006).  [Carter writes extensively about Charlton and Jimmy Seed in particular].

Disposing of a manager can be expensive. Chelsea paid out £96 million in compensation to departing managers and their staffs in the 15 years to 2019. It cost Chelsea £23.1 million to sack the “special one” in 2007/8 and £8.3 million in 2015/16. It cost Manchester United £19.6 million to sack him in 2018/19. That’s a total bill of £51 million.    [Even at Charlton there is compensation to be paid].

Friday, 8 September 2023

Not the apple of my eye

As anticipated by the bookmakers, Michael Appleton has been appointed the new head coach at Charlton.  He took training this morning.

Appleton has been round the lower leagues and, inevitably, has a connection with Oxford United.  He tends to have relatively short tenures in managerial or coaching roles, but that fits with the new Charlton way:

I don't see that he is a great advance on Dean Holden and the materials he will have to work with remain limited.  At least we are doing our bit to reduce unemployment in football as he has been out of work for eight months.

Of course, I wish him well and hope that he proves me wrong.  I am generally a glass half full person, but I have rarely been so ;pessimistic about the state of the club.   Perhaps things can only get better.

BTW, Lee Bowyer is now coaching Montserrat.

Owners stand firm against bids

A pall of gloom has understandably been hanging over SE7 at the parade of underwhelming candidates for manager, including one from Mumbai City who was best mates with one of the ownership group at Oxford.

However, at least the owners stood firm against bids for George Dobson, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Miles Leaburn:

Sunday, 3 September 2023

Curse of Charlton strikes again

Defeat by Charlton has seen Fleetwood coach Scott Brown relieved of his duties:

Of course, once it was Premier League managers who lost their jobs after a poor showing against Charlton/

Tuesday, 29 August 2023

The managerial merry go round

It is now evident that Dean Holden was sacked, apparently by text, without any consideration of a possible replacement.   Darren Ferguson was approached and, not surprisingly, turned the job down.  Chris Powell had no interest in becoming interim manager.

Lee Bowyer has been talked about.  While I would prefer not to have a retread, and some are upset by his departure for Birmingham, he would certainly be better than Lee Johnson.

It;s quite likely that Methven thinks that Bowyer would go down well with the Valley faithful.  He doesn't realise how some fans structure their whole lives around a total negativity and pessimism about Charlton.

Danny Cowley is at the top of one odds list.  The question is, did his ascent from non-league show that he was eventually appointed beyond his level of competence?

As Dave of Drinking During The Game points out in his latest post, the many owners have been offered a cheap punt on the EFL.  Charlie Methven seems to have told them that he could cut costs and increase revenues, whereas the fact the latter requires levels of investment that would attract fans back to The Valley.

A low cost solution could be to give Jason Pearce a few games to see how he does.  At least he knows how to organise a defence.   He could be helped by Curbs as an advisor.

The news that Jack Payne is going out on loan is encouraging:   We also need to unload Charlie Kirk, who has never fulfilled his promise, and get rid of DJ.   This would free up some funds.

Sunday, 27 August 2023

That didn't last long

I said that I wouldn't post again unless there was a major development at the club and I wake up to find that Dean Holden has been sacked with Jason Pearce in interim charge:

Our greatest success as a club has been achieved with long serving managers: Jimmy Seed, Lenny Lawrence, Curbs.  Having said that, it is no good keeping a manager who isn't up to the task otherwise we would still have Karel Fraeye (currently at Lokeren-Terrisse).

Rick Everitt thinks that Dean Holden was out of his depth.  He was a decent man who had a bond with the fans.

The real problem in my view is that there has been insufficient investment in the squad and it will now be difficult to make decisions in the absence of a manager.

I don't think we need retreads like Bowyer or even Curbs, although he could be given an advisory role.  I would like Darren Moore, but doubt whether he would come.

We lurch from crisis to crisis.

What went wrong, part 6, and what future?

The ESI episode was so bizarre but also so worrying that it is difficult to sum it up.   Best just to refer back to the court hearing.  This account gives a sense of the confusion:

The Sandgaard period is very fresh in our memories.  I think that he was well intentioned but naive, a typical example of a businessman successful in another field thinking he can sort out the much more challenging and uncertain world of football.  He under estimated how much getting promoted would cost and, like Roland, involved some unsuitable people in running the club, not least his son.  I am more tolerant than some of his egotistical guitar playing antics.  If you are going to put millions into a loss making business, you are entitled to a bit of fun.

I find it difficult to work out what the strategy of the fragmented present ownership is.  If they want to make money out of Charlton, they should get the club promoted to the Championship and then sell it on as a potential Premier League club.   That requires much more investment than has been forthcoming.

Indeed, apart from Alfie May, it's the old story: use Academy players while they are still developing and see what we can pick up at the end of the transfer window on the cheap or as loan signings.  We were very fortunate with Rak Sakyi last year.

I can only suggest that you follow Drinking During the Game on this topic,  Like Dave, I am sceptical about Charlie Methven whom I think is a slippery customer.  VOTV website editor Rick Everitt has been surprisingly silent on the topic: usually he is first in the queue to denounce a new owner.  However, he may be weighed down by his civic duties.

In my view there were two crucial turning points in our history.   First, and most crucially, the failure to back Jimmy Seed when he wanted to make Charlton the Arsenal of South London by developing The Valley and making marquee signings.  Second, the mess made of the Alan Curbishley succession.  He should have been allowed to stay on for a final year while potential successors were researched.  Instead we got Dowie and his all purpose PowerPoint.

What future for Charlton?

'Charlton till I die' has more meaning for some of us and I am unlikely to see the end of this saga, but it may not be a happy one.  Charlton had the third biggest loss in League One in the last accounting period and has one of the biggest debts (£20m).  The ground and the training ground are owned by Roland who is said to want an excessive £50m for them.

So here are three scenarios with probabilities attached:

1. Charlton get promoted to the Championship and are bought by a seriously rich individual who is prepared to spend to get the club in the Premier League.  20 per cent.

2. Charlton muddle through as a mid-table League One club (perhaps including one season in League Two).  40 per cent.

3. Charlton fall into the National League, the club is no longer viable or sustainable.  Fans form AFC Charlton using a Kent non-ground and entering Step 6 of the non-league pyramid.

That's my last post for a while, unless there is some major development at the club.

Saturday, 26 August 2023

Two nil or not two nil?

Tomorrow I hope to be well enough to see my first live football this season, the 'El Warwicko' clash between Leamington and Stratford Town.

I remember some years ago watching the Bardsmen away at their old ground.   The Brakes went 2-0 up and started a chant of 'two nil or not two nil?'  Bemused American tourists leaving the Royal Shakespeare Theatre were greeted by cars crusing round the town flashing the black and gold colours of Leamington.

Stratford Town Council get revenue from owning properties in the town centre and have built the Bardsmen a neat stadium on the outskirts of town with all weather training pitches.   However, we won't be going to the Anne Hathaway tomorrow as the match is at Your Co-op Community Stadium in Harbury Lane.

It's possible to get in for free at Harbury Lane

All this started me thinking about the contrasts between league and non-league football.   Leamington were relegated from the National League North last season.  Fans were disappointed but phlegmatic.  They are just glad to have a club: after Automotive Products sold the ground for housing there was no club for 13 years until a new ground was created out in the country.

There was also no question of sacking manager Paul Holleran in his 13th year at the club, only the second manager since the club reformed in 2000.   A few bad results from a thin and injury hit squad and some Charlton fans are already calling for Dean Holden's head.

Manager Paul Holleran is not slow to tell referees what he thinks of them

Holleran's skill is identifying players with potential in the non-league system and turning them into Football League players.   Colby Bishop, now at Portsmouth, is the prime example, but there are many more.   Charlton would not pay the modest fee for Bishop so he went to Accrington and invariably scored against us.

Tomorrow I know that I can enjoy some good banter as we exchange views with the linesman and at half time I will get a cup of tea and the biscuit of my choice in the vice-presidents longue (aka portakabin).  And I can read my article in our award winning programme.

Friday, 25 August 2023

What went wrong, part 5

Some Charlton fans think that the Roland era was much better than what followed or went before, although it's not a competitive league.   Steve Sutherland thinks that Charlton fans will rue amtagonising Rolamd and he does still own the stadium and the training ground.

Roland's idea of a network of European clubs was not in principle a bad one and Manchester City have produced a more sophisticated version on a global basis:   Indeed, Chelsea have now said they will follow suit.

However, it all went wrong for Roland when he lost the mother ship, Standard Liege, after fans there got fed up with him.  All the other clubs in the network apart from Charlton were third rate at best.

So let's look at the charge sheet against Roland.  He appointed as chief executive a lawyer with no previous experience of football who made errors in negotiating contracts.  She introduced gimmicks like the fan sofa, eventually destroyed by fans.  Nevertheless, she subsequently commanded an annual salary estimated to be £137,000 in a similar position at Sheffield Wednesday.

The really big puzzle is why she made no use of her knowledge of competition law.  Roland believed that his financial model would work because there was bound to be a levelling of the playing field in English football, certainly in the EFL.  Katrien Meire should have told him that any such move would have been open to challenge in the courts umder both domestic and EU competition law.   The Premier League had already had its fingers burnt in a face off with the European Commission in 2006.

One of Roland's first acts was to sell off Yann Kermorgant.   He then foisted on us a series of incompetent players from the continent, advised by someone with a laptop and no football background.   When Chris Powell got us promoted, he failed to back him with sufficient funds.  We then had a rapid succession of managers largely in the range barely adequate to useless.

One of the most effective critques of Roland's stewardship ws provided by Millwall fan Rod Liddle:

The barmy Belgian had a great opportunity, but he ended up doing us a lot of harm.

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

What went wrong, part 4

Producing this narrative has taken longer than I intended, but I have been afflicted by health challenges.  Indeed, the NHS came to my rescue on Saturday with prompt and decisive action, telling me that I had 'dodged a bullet'.

A persistent belief of some Charlton fans is that prospective purchasers of the club are interested in a property play, although, of course, Roland currently owns The Valley and the training ground.  The Valley is a very awkward site for development and it is in South London not North London.   Watching University Challenge last night, I was struck by how many contestants representing UCL and King's Cambridge were from North London.

Conversion or demolition of The Valley would be expensive.  However, the biggest problem is the constrained access which would make planning permission difficult to secure, plus the steep slope on part of the site.

Nevertheless, one group of owners, sometimes referred to in some quarters as 'the spivs' (shurely visionary entrepreneurs, ed) were backed by sufficient cash to contemplate building a soulless functional replacement stadium near the O2.

Read here about the secret plan to leave The Valley:

There were furher relevations in a court case:

In summary, 'a man called Darius Khakshouri was awarded $4m in damages at the Royal Courts of Justice. In Court 9, Mr Justice Green found in favour of Khakshouri and against Tony Jimenez and Kevin Cash after the property developer claimed he had been deceived by the pair over a loan. That loan was of £1.8m, made in the autumn of 2013, in a last-minute bid to keep Charlton Athletic in business

Cash's  business operations based offshore and split between trusts and holding companies. A similarly nebulous structure was found to lie behind Charlton’s ownership during Jimenez’s and Cash’s involvement at the club. In his ruling, Justice Green found that neither Jimenez nor Cash actually owned Charlton, another reason why their representations to Khakshouri had been deceitful.'

In 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that Jiminez would have to reveal details of his tax affairs:

Charlton does seem to be attractive to entrepreneurs who fall below the highest standards of propriety.

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

That went well

Offers of a copy of my Political Football book in a simple competition attracted no entries, so I gave the copy after my Sky Blues supporting neighbour cut my lawn for me.   I didn't give him two copies, but two bottles of wine instead.

The reason my father took me to a reserve match against Aldershot in September 1953 was to give me a dry run of going to The Valley at six years old.

We didn't make the 8-1 win over Middlesbrough (I remember expressing my disappointment to a friend at school) and the home game against Preston was on a Thursday (early closing day).  So my first home match was the 6-0 win over Liverpool.

Managed by Don Welsh, this was their biggest defeat since 1934.   I remember seeing a Charlton player running along the East Terrace wing skinning the opposition.

When I got to seven the following January, I could no longer go through the turnstiles with my father which I initially found scary.

Sunday, 13 August 2023

New up market merch for the Nigels

Have the Nigels stolen another march over us with their new up market merch?   The Financial Times is sceptical.

Writing in the Pink 'Un Jo Ellison notes:'News that Crystal Palace have become the first football club in the Premier League to appoint a creative director was greeted by most of their fan base with a shrug. “Can he play at right back?” was among the more popular responses. 

Kenny Annan-Jonathan, a “brand architect” who founded the sports marketing agency The Mailroom in 2017, has been enlisted to oversee apparel collections and fashion brand partnerships at the south London club. He has previously worked with former Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, who recently left the club after a nine-season spell, as well as West Ham’s Michail Antonio and the sprinter Daryll Neita.

Annan-Jonathan says he will create “products that go beyond typical sports team merch and grow the team’s fan base”. His first collection will debut in September.  Would you consider wearing Crystal Palace merch if you weren’t an Eagles fan? They finished mid-table last season and are relatively unknown as an international brand. Palace haven’t enjoyed huge fashionability since Ian Wright and Mark Bright were a dazzling goalscoring partnership. But that was in the 1980s.

And notwithstanding that I am a blood relative of a season ticket-holding, diehard member of the Eagles brethren, I imagine the club will struggle to become much more than a niche interest in an arena awash with bigger, more explosive brands.'

One can easily think of merch one could devise for Millwall fans.   Perhaps Charlton could do a line in anoraks or those old fashioned sports jackets favoured by train spotters?

Monday, 7 August 2023

What went wrong, Part 3

This is really a bit of a digression, but I felt that something needed to be said about the club's involvement with New Labour when it was in the Premier League.   I am not saying that it was a right or wrong policy, something I can say with confidence as both the Labour and Conservative Governments were interested in my input.  Indeed, I still recall an event at No.10 after I had chaired a commission on elected mayors when Dave Cameron, Bozza and Hezza had a ding dong.

Charlton and Raith Rovers supporters exchange views.   It was like having an intellectual vacuum cleaner attached to you.   After this encounter I was invited to a series of seminars at No.11 during the Blair/Brown transition, but could only go to one, so I probably had a lucky escape.

The most interesting part of Charlton's engagement with New Labour may not be known until papers are released under the 30 year rule, but for now I thought I would reproduce part of an article I wrote on football for British Politics.

Charlton Athletic is taken here as an example of the politics of cooption and engagement, describing itself as ‘more than just a football club.’   As Banks notes (2002, 192), ‘The pioneers of supporter activism were undoubtedly the supporters of Charlton Athletic.’   Cooption refers to strategies to involve fans in the agenda of the club, while engagement refers to efforts to relate to contemporary government policy agendas. 

Cooption in the case of Charlton is exemplified by the device of a supporters’ director elected by season ticket holders, although after a process of screening candidates.  However, a supporters’ director is only one voice on the board and is subject to the constraints of commercial confidentiality.   At best, they can act as an ombudsperson for fans, and could be seen by management as a way of conveying their perspective on issues to supporters.

Charlton Athletic has followed what amounts to a conscious strategy of engagement with New Labour policies, although the club would no doubt prefer to describe them as government policies.  New Labour pursued ‘a desire to use mass sport as an instrument of social policy, notably as a way of combating social exclusion and promoting public health.’  (Moran, 2003, 89).   It is no accident that the phrase ‘social inclusion’ appears four times in the club’s latest annual report, along with other buzz phrases such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘successful outputs’.  (Charlton Athletic, 2005, 17-19).

 The club has pursued a multi-level governance strategy at local, regional and national political levels.   Activities such as providing football training for children in the school holidays are perceived as ‘an innovative way of meeting the Government’s social objectives and the new Respect Policy.’  (Charlton Athletic, 2005, 14).  

Gordon Brown with Curbs

For its part the government has sent the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the then Health Secretary ‘and a delegation from the Home Office to discuss how football and sport can improve community cohesion and lead to a healthier and safer environment.’  (Charlton Athletic, 2005, 17).

Unfortunately he chose Aston Viilla over Charlton

 Add in a delegation from the Belgian Government and Prince William and the club can claim:

        Such heavyweight and high profile visits have positioned the club and the

        Community Trust as a highly imaginative pathfinder contribution that can be used

        as an excellent model of best corporate social responsibility practice to roll out on a

        much wider scale in the future.   (Charlton Athletic, 2005, 13-14).


Saturday, 5 August 2023

Interview with Holden on Alfie May

 Alfie May was, unsurprisingly, one of the EFL’s most-wanted players this summer.

The Athletic sat down with May and Charlton’s head coach Dean Holden to talk tactics, how May will adapt to Charlton’s style, and how they might achieve Storrie’s target.

“It was just a perfect fit for me and coming home, being a local lad, it’s not really sunk in yet,” May says of his summer move.

His 20 goals were the third-most non-penalty goals by any player in League One last season and accounted for 44 per cent of Cheltenham’s total. That was the highest proportion of any player for their team in the division and joint-top across all 72 EFL sides (with Andy Cook of Bradford City in League Two).

Major tactical teething problems are not anticipated, but Holden accepts that May and Charlton might need a bit of time to stylistically adjust to each other.

“There was a lot of talk before we signed him about counter-attack, that’s a big part of the way he plays,” says Holden. “This team — I came in at Christmas — this time last year were building a possession-based game.”

It is May’s speed that Holden is focused on maximising.  “I think we’re going to have to be that team (high-possession) at times, particularly at The Valley when teams come and sit in,” says the head coach. “But Alfie will probably tell you, one of the biggest things we tell him all the time is get your eyes up the pitch. When we win it, I’m not interested in a sideways or a backward pass, unless it needs to be. Can we get our eyes up and play forward?

“And that might be down the sides, it might be over the top. I think you can see, particularly with Alfie’s movement, I describe him as like a relay runner, where his movement is fantastic to come short and spin, and then he’s on his bike and he’s almost waiting for the baton. He’s waiting for one of our midfielders to get their eyes up and have the quality to play him in.”

Holden likens May’s style to that of Teemu Pukki, the Finland and former Norwich City striker, now in MLS, who built a reputation for scoring goals from through balls. “He’ll make so many runs a game that no one will even notice,” Holden says. “It’s the two or three that he lands on and scores the goal where everybody will say, ‘Look at that’.”

“I love learning, and I’m obviously 30 years old,” says May. “But I’ve come into the game late, so I still feel like I’ve got a few years ahead.”


Friday, 4 August 2023

Thursday, 3 August 2023

What went wrong, Part 2 - the Roland Years

In order to understand the Roland years, it is necessary to think about his mentality and what he was trying to achieve.  It wasn't necessarily bonkers, it was poorly designed and executed.  Steve Sutherland thinks that the biggest mistake made by Charlton fans was antagonizing Roland.   I don't agree, but I see where he is coming from.

We need some context and I have to give some personal background.   When I queued for tickets for the Greatest Game, I had to then go to Waterloo to catch a Eurostar to Brussels.  Between the mid 1990s and the late noughties, I was back and forth on Eurostar endlessly, having attended meetings in windowless rooms in Brussels.   In those days it trundled through Kent and it was always heartening to pass somewhere known for Addicktion such as Swanley or Bromley.

In the mid 1990s I was rung up out of the blue by the Cabinet Office and asked if I would represent the UK on a minor European Commission committee.  In time the EU asked me with a few weeks notice to lead a major research project while I was seconded to a UK government department to advise on EU policy,.

I was also sent to represent the EU at a conference in a remote part of China which had more ethnic minorities than Han Chinese.  I was presented with a plate of fried wasps as a great delicacy: fortunately my driver ate them.

Imagine my surprise when I switched on the television and there was a very informative feature on how Curbs and Keith Peacock worked together!

The local television station asked to interview me.  I had a minder from the EU's Beijing office and was ready with a few platitudes about pandas.  To my surprise, they had done their homework and started questioning me about levels of air pollution in Greenwich.

What has all this got to do with Roland and football?   Before the financial crisis the Commission took a great interest in football.  The key figure here was Viviane Reding from Luxembourg who was a commissioner from 1999 to 2014, initially with responsibility for sport and ultimately as a vice-president.   Like many politicians from Luxembourg, she punched about her country's weight in the EU.  I only heard her speak once (in the Grand Duchy) and she hardly set the room alight.

Reding and the Commission had a run in with the Premier League over breaches of cartel law.   Tony Blair got involved and in the end the concessions the Premier League had to make were not that onerous.  (I have written on this elsewhere).

Above all, the Commission saw football as a potential integrating force that could help to develop a European identity.   I am not suggesting that Roland talked to the Commission, but he was 'dans le vent' and could see the way the wind was blowing.   Remember that at one time he tried to set up his own political party.   More follows in the next instalment.

Sunday, 30 July 2023

Win a book competition

We never went to reserve games at The Valley like most fans, but there was one exception.   On the 5th September 1953 my father and I saw Charlton beat Aldershot 3-0 in the Football Combination Cup.

I remember the occasion vividly because the East Terrace was so empty.   Also, shortly after we arrived, a group of fans came in and asked for the score.   My father noted that they were Aldershot fans.  Not many people go to away reserve games, but I suppose that The Valley was the attraction.

I know why we went, but I would like a funny or ingenious explanation.   The best one will win a prize of my book Political Football.   OK, it has just been remaindered at 50 per cent, but so has the publisher's whole list!   To enhance its value, I will not sign it.

Place any entries in the comments section and I will contact the lucky winner in due course.  They will also receive a surprise bonus book.

No takers yet!   My best selling ever book was on the Common Agricultural Policy (6.000) and was dedicated to Curbs which he rather enjoyed.

Friday, 28 July 2023

The Roland years

This is what I will write about next in my 'What went wrong' series, but I should note that front man Charlie Methven has made it clear that the new owners will talk to Roland at some point about the ownership of the stadium and training ground, but (decoded) not any time soon:

Methven does seem to be saying the right things and saying them often.   My assessment of him from the Sunderland series was that he was a bit glib, the kind of smooth talking Old Etonian who would convince you that you needed a time share in New Cross in February and threw in a season ticket on the Woolwich Free Ferry to seal the deal.

But perhaps Sunderland was a different story:

Monday, 24 July 2023

What went wrong - part 1?

I believe that Charlton could have been far and away the leading South London team.  So what happened?

We were at peak just before and after the Second World War.  We lost some momentum because of the war with Adolf Hitler rumoured to be a secret Millwall supporter as in various online spoofs.

In 1936/7 we finished second behind Manchester City and were the fifth best supported club in the top flight,   We were fourth in 37/8 and third the following year.

After the war we were FA Cup finalists and then winners, a much bigger deal than it is today.   League performances were less impressive, even dangerous, although we made 5th in 52/3.

The small seated stand regularly sold out and produced at least five times as much revenue per fan.  But the owners wouldn't build any more seated accommodation, nor would they fund the marquee signings that Jimmy Seed wanted.

Just before one match my father pointed out Stanley Gliksten surveying the crowd.  'He want to know how much he's taking home today.' commented my father.    In 1954 it was 'proudly' announced that the club was solvent for the first time.  It may not have been a cash cow, but it wasn't a benefactor club.

More like benign neglect and we all know what happened.   Visiting my retired uncle in Belvedere I craned out of the train window for a glimpse of The Valley.   I hoped we would return, but all sorts of forces were against us.

As Curbs has noted, the spell at West Ham was vital in giving us a platform to return to SE7/   It was touch and go whether we survived, but we did and under Curbs we won the Greatest Game.  We came down, but were back again as champions - a joyful day away at Blackburn.

A persistent myth has grown up that fans wanted to get rid of Curbs for a manager to take us to the next level.  The facts are that Richard Murray wanted the manager to sign a three year contract rather than see out the year remaining.

'Too slow to hurry mints' should have realised that even if Curbs had gone after a year it would have given time to properly research replacements.  BTW, I do not know how much the decision was Murray's alone or a collective one of the board.   Either way it was a disaster.

Instead we got Dowie and his famous move north, the board convinced by his PowerPoint.   I first saw him warming up the players on the pitch, fixing them with what he thought was a hypnotic stare.   I thought this isn't rocket science, this is a rocket that blows up on the launch pad.

After the Les Reed interlude, we got Alan Pardew.  I thought at the time that it was a good appointment. How wrong I was.   We did manage to get off the ground, but it was a bumpy ride and ended with a crash landing.   He is now managing in the Greek Super League.   Worse was to come.

Friday, 21 July 2023

A new chapter begins

I welcome the pledge of the new owners to engage in action not words and avoid grand promises:

I am still uncertain about their strategy, but that will no doubt become clearer with time.  Meanwhile, some familiar faces have returned to the club, Steve Sutherland for the third time.

The open letter from Thomas Sandgaard has had a mixed reception from fans:

Once again the words of the newsreels on the replacement of Neville Chamberlain by Winston Churchill are apt: 'Thanks for all you tried to do.'

Hopefully I will regain better health and join you at The Valley before too long.

Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Green light for takeover

I have to break silence to announce this:

After the 'spivs', Roland, ESI and the ego trip Danish pastry, I am naturally cautious.   I'm still not clear about their strategy, but will judge them by deeds not words.

Sunday, 16 July 2023

100 years of supporting Charlton

The first of three special features.

My father (Robert Frank Grant) was born in North Woolwich and lost his mother when he was about twelve years old from the 'Spanish' influenza outbreak at the end of the First World War. His eldest sister looked after the bereaved family of five children. They were allocated a house on the new 'Progress' estate at Eltham built by the Co-op. My father left school at fourteen and obtained an apprenticeship with the Great Eastern Railway as a carriage and wagon fitter. 

I went to Well Hall for the last tram week.

His cousin Ted was already Addickted and introduced him to Charlton around 1923.  My father earned the admission price and tram travel to matches by looking after horses while carters delivered their goods.

My father was a non-league footballer but was typically reticent about it (a characteristic of those descended from north-east of Scotland stock).   Asked who he played for he would always say 'South-East Ham'.   He certainly retained a residual interest in West Ham United, going to the first FA Cup final at Wembley.

With my father

I think he always hoped I would go one better as a footballer and bought me some expensive boots for my 7th birthday, but I had two left feet.

As well as the game itself, a highlight of the weekend was going to my uncle's newsagents shop in Lakedale Road late on Sunday morning.   With the gas lamps hissing away, and no social media, fans would call by to discuss the latest rumours about tensions between manager Seed and trainer Trotter.

The final games I watched with my father were in the holidays at Falmouth Town, then leading the Western League.   And the pasties were great.

Monday, 3 July 2023

All good things come to an end

I have now been a Charlton fan for seventy years.  Addick's Diary has appeared in a variety of formats for over a quarter of a century.   The time has come to close its pages, apart from two special features in the coming weeks. 

Last Friday I had an emergency hospital admission and it is clear that I have a possibly long-term health problem that may prevent my physical return to The Valley.   Not life threatening, but constraining.

Readership figures have fallen and probably rely on a loyal cohort of my post-war generation.   I am more Voice of the Valley than MOTROD.

I can recommend Drinking During the Game for the takeover saga and Chicago Addick for team news.

This early Addick's Diary recalls when I did some reporting for the club webiste:

For the avoidance of doubt, Rick Everitt did not miss a university exam to attend a Charlton game.  

Monday, 26 June 2023

Break in service

Apologies forr the lack of updates, but I had a knee replacement at the end of last week.   It went well, but coverage will not resume until next week.

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Curbs names his key season in charge at Charlton

In a long interview with Richard Cawley Alan Curbishley says his first season as a manager with Charlton at Upton Park was the crucial one for the club's future.   It required a siege mentality:

Curbs knocks on the head the recurrent myth that he was forced out of Charlton by restless fans who wanted European qualification.  It was simply that the chairman wanted him to sign a three year contract and he wanted to see out his remaining year and then make a decision depending on where Charlton were going.

Curbs has only recently dropped out of the top ten of managers who managed Premier League games.

Saturday, 17 June 2023

Living next to The Valley

Residents of Valiant House and other locals tell the Currant Bun what it is like to live next to The Valley:

The responses are mixed with some liking the chance to watch a game for free.  As for the whingers, you don't have to live next to a football ground.

Wiggins recalls good times at Charlton

A long interview by Richard Cawley with Rhoys Wiggins.   Injuries forced him into early retirement, a process he did not find easy, although things are looking up now:

He was a good player for us and part of our League One 2012 title winning side.   He said that squad had a togetherness he has not seen elsewhere.

Friday, 16 June 2023

Inniss opts for Vegan diet

Red card specialist Ryan Inniss has joined Forest Green Rovers, their first signing of the season.   Boss Duncan Ferguson has said that he is the sort of player the Vegans need.

Inniss is full of the delights of moving to a 'lovely' area:

I didn't see this coming, but I think we can live with it.

Thursday, 15 June 2023

Wollacott on his way?

Charlton are open to offers for Garner era keeper Joe Wollacott who has two years on his contract:

Addicks loan player Steven Sessegnon has been released by Fulham:

Richard Cawley thinks that he will be initially looking for a Championship move.

Albie's Tangerine dream

Albie Morgan has signed a three year deal at Blackpool with a one year extension clause:

Good luck to him, but I don't think we should have retained him.

Wednesday, 14 June 2023

Jonny Williams gets club

Former Addick Jonny Williams has joined Bradford after interest from other League Two clubs:

He's not joining Bradford, he's gone to Gillingham!    This has given pessimists a chance to point out they will soon be above us in the EFL.

Williams celebrates his return to his native heath:

On transfer deals, Richard Cawley says that none are expected or in the pipeline for today.  The club is working on its targets.

Sunday, 11 June 2023

Discussions on Alfie May continue

Richard Cawley reports: 'My understanding is that no bid accepted for Alfie May but that discussions still ongoing.   Thomas Sandgaard is in control of transfers until the takeover is completed, but out of courtesy will be talking to SE7 Partners until takeover is completed, but out of courtesy will be speaking to SE7 Partners.'   It is, of course, in Cheltenham's interest to have a bidding war.

Orange One gives verdict on takeover

The Orange One gives his views on the Charlton takeover, seeing the Addicks as no threat to Palace any time soon:

Well, we never thought that either.

Friday, 9 June 2023

Takeover could take eight to nine weeks

Chief executive Peter Storrie thinks that estimates that the completion of the takeover will take three weeks to complete are optimistic and eight to nine weeks are more likely.   With the transfer window opening on Tuesday, Dean Holden is in charge, although Storrie has been involved in two possible signings.   He is not saying anything about Alfie May where there is a lot of competition from other clubs:

Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Why we should be worried about Charlie Methven

I formed a negative view of Charlie Methven watching the television series about Sunderland.  He came across as an arrogant, self-satisfied big ego who was also very shallow if superficially articulate.  A typical Old Etonian in other words.   A blog from Sunderland supporters tell us why we should be very worried about him:

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Storrie to step down

Peter Storrie expects to step down as chief executive once the takeover is completed.  He confirmed that a budget is in place for transfers:

SE7 Partners are now controlled by Global Football Partners Ltd. registered in the Cayman Islands.

Monday, 5 June 2023

Sale confirmed

The signing of an agreement to sell Charlton to the SE7 Partners consortium has been confirmed:

Richard Cawley notes: 'EFL approval likely to take a number of weeks - maybe between six to eight. Joshua Friedman's takeover party also need to get a lease agreement for Valley and training ground sanctioned by Roland Duchatelet.'

VOTV website editor Rick Everitt points out: '“Sanctioned by Roland Duchatelet” - what could possibly go wrong? Last time this was required it led to a 150% rent increase. The lease will have to be amended because Sandgaard’s US firm is explicitly named in it as the guarantor.'

If the deal is finalised, fans will judge the new owners by their actions not their words.

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Sale agreement signed

Richard Cawley reports: 'Have been told tonight that both parties in the Charlton takeover talks have now signed the Sale Purchase Agreement. Expecting more clarity in the morning. Not had confirmation from Thomas Sandgaard on this, but aiming to add more detail tomorrow AM.'

Any sale will require EFL approval which may take some time.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Crunch time on takeover

Richard Cawley reports: 'Sounds as if it is crunch time for the Charlton takeover bid by the consortium involving Joshua Friedman and Gabriel Brener, in terms of a resolution either way by the end of this week.'

Aaron Henry has signed a two year contract extension with the option of another 12 months:

He may go out on loan next season to aid his development.

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Further takeover delays

Richard Cawley reports: 'I know people want a takeover update but as of yesterday there wasn't one. SPA still not signed with Joshua Friedman's group. If it does get over the line then still a number of weeks going through EFL process for OADT (owners' and directors' test).'

The longer the delay, the less chance there is of a good start to the season.