Friday 29 September 2023

Rays of hope as Addicks head for salubrious Salop

Shrewsbury Town may not exactly be 'china in Charlton's hands' (to parody the hit of Shropshire's only famous pop group) tomorrow given that the teams are 16th and 17th in the form table.

However, the Shropshire Star is not exactly optimistic: 'It has been a really tough September for Salop "nd fans are beginning to grow restless.  It is perhaps too early in the season to class the game as a ‘must win" but it certainly feels as though it fits into the "must not lose’ category" – especially with a trip to second-placed Oxford just around the corner.

Town have struggled a little bit with consistency this season, they have been bright at times but then there are other occasions where they simply have not been at the races.

Proof of this is demonstrated by the fact they have not managed a draw yet – and arguably that would not be the worst result this weekend, especially if they can score.

Failure to score for Salop will mean they have gone a whole calendar month without managing to get on the scoresheet.  That is something they haven’t done – barring the odd one-game May – since March 2010 when they failed to score in four League Two matches.

Although Charlton have not had the best start to the season, they do have some good players and they have beaten Shrews comfortably already this year.'

CAS Trust preview here:

The very full minutes of the latest Fan Forum also give some cause for encouragement as the Chicago Addick has pointed out.   Read them here: 

There does seem to be a more professional approach on the part of the club, including the need for proper processes and protocols, something very much absent during the Sandgaard era.  It is also evident that the removal of Dean Holden was not an impulsive decision, to read between the line it seems that he went 'off the boil' over the summer and in early season.

It does seem that the future of Charlton Live is in some doubt, particularly with the ending of live UK streaming next season.  For me, it was Sandgaard's 'aqueducts' moment and I learn a lot from the trio of Curbs, Brownie and Scott Minto.  It is, however, expensive to produce.

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/