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: https://londonnewsonline.co.uk/charlton-midfielder-jack-payne-to-make-mk-loan-move/   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: https://londonnewsonline.co.uk/dean-holden-dismissed-by-charlton-athletic-with-backroom-departures-too/

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: https://addicksdiary3.blogspot.com/2020/09/our-day-in-court.html

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: https://footballeconomyv2.blogspot.com/2019/11/share-sale-puts-high-value-on.html   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: https://addicksdiary3.blogspot.com/search?q=Liddle+gives+it+large

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: https://www.votvonline.com/home/the-2017-18-blogs/22-12-how-jimenez-schemed-to-leave-the-valley/

There were furher relevations in a court case: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/feb/09/charlton-khakshouri-jimenez-cash-modern-football

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: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47075503

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.