Monday, 16 July 2018

Welling United 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

A pleasant couple of hours at Park View Road on a cracking day. Welling have spruced up the Wings Bar during the season with an astro-turf frontage and tables and chairs to allow drinkers to sit outside. It's not the Riviera but a nice touch nonetheless. 

I overheard a couple of Charlton fans moaning about the £15 entrance fee but this is in line with National League South prices and, let's face it, the opposition were better than normal. What's more, if you had a few pints in the Wings Bar at £3 a pint you would have made a few quid back. You also weren't charged extra for not arriving before 10.30am or for having the audacity to print your own ticket at home on your own paper using your own ink.


I said hello to a few old faces and exchanged the usual gloomy view of pre-season preparations and fears for the year. I then had to concentrate to figure out who was playing. Not for Charlton, because even though I haven't been to the Valley for over a year, I could work that out. It was the Welling side I was struggling with. Apart from Wilks in goal and the front pairing of Goldberg and Coombes, I was lost. What was obvious was they all appear to be an couple of inches taller and wider than last year!

The first half was a decent contest. Adam Coombes opened the scoring early on after a hash by Naby Sarr which let Coombes in from the right and with Goldberg on his own in the middle a goal looked very much on. Coombes, though, drove on and buried his shot low into the far corner without given Goldberg a second thought.

Charlton hit back almost immediately. Nicky Ajose saw a shot saved by Wilkes and the rebound was blocked as (Ahearne)-Grant had a go. The ball squirmed out wide to Ajose who finished from close range. Charlton looked very casual and were guilty of being over-elaborate on a number of occasions which allowed Welling's back four to put in the blocks and tackles. At the other end, Bradley Goldberg saw a decent effort stopped at full stretch.

Charlton's second-half team took advantage of a tiring Welling side and had much more possession without causing too many problems. With about ten minutes to go a shot from distance took a big deflection past Wilks into the centre of goal where Lyle Taylor couldn't miss. Two-one and Charlton just about deserved the win without really impressing. 

Bowyer is still looking for a holding midfielder and several other key positions and he needs them if this side are to hold their own in League One again. That's without losing any and several will be gone if Duchatelet can get any fees. Magennis had a quiet first-half and would be my bet to go along with Bauer. In that scenario, Bowyer will have to pull a rabbit of the hat with his replacements.

Meanwhile, the new look Welling side looked robust and will obviously get better with games. I liked the long-haired left winger who was bundled over every time he got the ball. In a proper match he would have drawn three bookings but you get away with those in friendlies.

Late posting given a hectic Sunday and a ten hour drive from 3am this morning to reach my home in Scotland where I have 2-3 weeks to chill out and a few days without the family to get some jobs done. I might take a look at who the local sides are playing pre-season...

Friday, 13 July 2018

Park View Road El Scorchio

The Addicks play their annual pre-match friendly against Welling United tomorrow, kick-off 12.30 at Park View Road. 

It's traditionally a long hot day and tomorrow promises to be no different with temperatures touching 30C. Shorts and sunglasses will be the order of the day.

I am looking forward to seeing Welling's new line-up and how Charlton compete. Fully expecting Lee Bowyer to field a different eleven in each half as he seeks to get players match fit and used to playing together. At least it cuts down on all the substitution time which ruins the flow of the game.

The early kick-off reduces the pre-match drinking time but non-League regulations mean civilised supping on the terraces during the game, so use both bars on both sides of the ground as you burn in the July sunshine.

The World Cup may be finishing on Sunday but at least we still have the longest football club takeover in history to continue arguing over.


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Aussies to pull out

It would appear that Roland Duchatelet's deadline for the Aussie consortium to find the extra investment needed to make his asking price won't be met and that they will shortly call it a day. 

Duchatelet has clearly been trying to get the remaining Directors who are owed money to settle, in order for him to be able to try to cut a deal with the Aussies whereby he could still sell the club at a price they could afford but he would have retained the Valley and Sparrows Lane assets. Bravo to those who held-out and, I believe, to the Aussies who realised that they had to get the club lock, stock and barrel if they were to have any chance of succeeding.

If you follow the line from Duchatelet and Murray, then there is a second 'British' consortium waiting in the wings who may now come into play. Let's hope this is true but I have always assumed it was wishful thinking on Duchatelet's part and an attempt to keep the pressure on the Aussies. If there really is a credible second consortium, then it's hard-to-believe that a name hasn't already emerged and you have to accept that they were clearly second-best to the Aussies.

You also have to ask why Duchatelet hasn't used them as a bigger lever before now? He reacted very strongly to news that there was hitch with the Aussies when here because he promptly sold his biggest saleable playing asset in a matter of few hours and got busy lining up other player sales and cutting club running costs. If he did have a second buyer in the wings, why not engage directly with them then? 

No doubt we will learn more in the next couple of days but it would be the latest in a long, long, line of false dawns which continue the agony and suffering of supporters as the club continues to stagger forward in the worst condition it's ever been in.

You also have to steel yourself for the likelihood that any new takeover is likely to be months away at the earliest and probably into 2019 if the last two years are anything to go by. There also remains the inconvenient truth that Duchatelet is still asking too much and that no-one will pay it and the saga will go on even further.

Next season is looking like a car crash in slow motion. The club desperately needs investment so we have enough appropriate skilled employees to operate it but Duchatelet won't put a penny in and debt will build to £70m which will put his valuation on the club into even sharper focus. Frankly, desperate as I am to see us shot of Duchatelet, I really want to see him take a whacking great loss which will humble him and ram home the undeniable facts of the complete arse he has made since taking over. 

I will content myself with another season at Park View Road where the new manager has been busy making a rash of promising looking signings as Mark Goldberg prepares for a throw of the dice. The contrast couldn't be more apparent.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

What next?

The fixtures for our forthcoming season are due out on Thursday. Never before can there have been less collective interest in or more apprehension about them.

We are still reluctantly-owned by the disinterested and clearly rankled Roland Duchatelet. Seemingly piqued by his failure to get the Aussie Football Consortium to meet his financial demands, he continues to look to slash spending. Following last week's surprise sale of Ezri Konsa and news that Josh Magennis is available for the right price, rumours this week suggested Patrick Bauer was on his way, possibly to Blackburn Rovers and that Harry Lennon, another Academy talent, was also going. These high-handed changes to the squad can't be helping negotiations on a price with assets moving out.

Lennon now looks set for a move to Southend and Charlton appear to have responded by offering Aribo and Fosu improved terms. Reports also suggest that Bauer has had a £2m price tag put on him in an attempt to prevent him leaving. I had to laugh at that one. If you don't want him to leave you make him a proper offer to stay or put a silly fee on him. £2m is simply positioning your bait for a bigger fish. You could also argue that dangling bigger contracts in front of Aribo and Fosu will help your negotiating position on them.

Then we hear this week that Roland won't pay for a pre-season tour, so we look like being the least prepared for a season in our history including the recent years under Duchatelet where it's been patently clear on the opening day that we have had limited and/or unbalanced squads incapable of maintaining a serious push for promotion.

So, with Roland's running costs meter hammering at around £800,000 per month on top of what's approaching a £60m debt mountain you can see why the Aussies might be prepared to wait and see if they can get the club for the right price and not be legged over by the avaricious billionaire. Christmas would be a good time to let Duchatelet sober-up to the realties of end-of-season debts approaching £70m if he doesn't get real and move aside. If we are struggling by then there should also be little chance of him thinking he can squeeze a bit more from the price and he may just have to cut his losses and slunk off.

It does also raise the serious prospect of no deal as we kick the season off. As things stand the mood in the camp must be pretty demoralising finding out who's being sold, who's up for sale and who else is leaving the club. I am sure the players will have had very good holidays with friends and families but news of no tour due to funds and the prospect of little or no spending on new players will hardly leave caretaker manager Lee Bowyer with a full deck of cards. In that scenario, it is entirely plausible that we will struggle once again in this God-forsaken division.

What must all those who renewed their season tickets early be thinking? All that promise of new owners and at this moment the prospect of another chaotic season of more failure. I would be complaining I had been sold my season ticket on false pretences and asking for my money back, although I'm not sure to who you might ask as there are no credible senior managers employed by Duchatelet any longer.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Brinkmanship

It would appear that the sudden and surprising sale of of Ezri Konsa to Brentford  was a consequence of Roland Duchatelet's frustration with the ongoing negotiations for the sale of the club. 

Duchatelet took a week off from swanning around his empire in St. Truiden to be at the Valley this week in order to run the rule over the club's running costs and put a red line through what he could. Konsa was sold, Magennis is up for sale and more staff will be losing their jobs. All this when the club has been operating with a skeleton management structure since Meire did a runner at Christmas.

I actually saw the miserable looking billionaire as he wheeled out of the ground onto Harvey Gardens one evening this week. I was taken by surprise and could only manage a venomous stare as he flounced past talking to a colleague. 

A weirdly worded comms message on the Official Site spoke of the "club's owners" being in town, deliberately failing to mention him by name. It also made the point that the club needs to prepare for the new season and news followed that Bowyer will stay on in temporary charge of the first team. No doubt we do need to get ready for the new season but the actions look more like a statement of intent designed to up the ante rather than any real concern about the impact of not being ready in August. All this from a man who all but abandoned the running of the football club last season.

Richard Murray has also been forced to comment again and has told the Supporters' Trust that negotiations with two parties (Aussie and British) continue. He either knows no more or is not saying beyond that but it looks like frustration may be the driver for Duchatelet's actions this week and the sale of Konsa will be a deliberate show of strength to the Aussies of Duchatelet's ability at this point to press terms. The Aussies will already have invested heavily in their bid and will be very keen not to be left with nothing. 

Rick Everitt has also said that the number of the stakeholders in the Aussie party is hampering negotiations, presumably because there are more opinions, more questions and more approvals to obtain throughout this farcical process. Could that also have been the cause of the EFL's 'fit n proper person' delay?

We have to hope that the deal will get done but there remains the chance that the Aussies will be prepared to draw the line and walk away if Duchatelet tries to push things much further. The sale of Konsa would, presumably, result in a corresponding adjustment to the purchase price but you can be sure that Duchatelet will pocket something from the exchange.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The strange case of Ezri Konsa and Brentford FC

The glacial Aussie takeover of Charlton Athletic FC is apparently "imminent." Well it has been for most of this year and we are still waiting. He wants out and they want in but there's something there that's been clogging up the mechanism  and it isn't the laughable 'fit n proper person' test.

There have been strong views from some who claim to be in the know that the Aussies have struggled with the finances. They certainly did struggle when they first came to the table early last year but the strong hope was that they knew what was needed when they returned and the addition of Andrew Muir gave us all hope. I haven't been in the 'they can't afford do to it properly' camp but the sale of Ezri Konsa to, ahem, Brentford has me reaching for the top shelf.

Konsa has reputedly been lined-up by all the top clubs and it's been a matter of when, not if, he would slide into the Premiership for £5m. The lad himself must have been drifting off at night whether he was more likely to emulate Ademola Lookman or Joe Gomez. It must have come as much of a surprise to Ezri to find out that his promotion is to the Championship and the mighty Bees as it has to the Valley faithful. I should point out at this stage that Brentford are an established Championship side with an ambitious stadium move underway and they gave a great account of themselves last year. Indeed, their move for Konsa must be applauded as bold and well-informed. 

The problem is, what have they paid for him? Their club record fee was apparently £2.5m for Sergi Canos last year and the fee for Konsa was the standard Duchatelet 'undisclosed.' My thinking here is that if it was any way above £2.5m then the Bees would have been very keen to get it out in the open as proof of their ambition to their supporters to help sell season tickets. Logic would also suggest that Duchatelet and the Aussies might support that argument as evidence of a good deal for a good player that justified the sale, irrespective of who is trousering what part of the fee.

My fear is that the reason the fee is once again undisclosed (but not common knowledge like many of the others) is because it's not something Brentford are bothered bragging about (just yet) and that Duchatelet/the Aussies are also keen that we don't know because it raises uncomfortable questions. Questions like, is this Duchatelet's last greedy grab at the till? Do the Aussies hold so little sway even now that they couldn't stop a cheap sale or maybe because they too need the money to smooth their takeover.

The truth will out in a couple of years when the accounts are unwound but it will have become bloody obvious by then if we have, once again, let circumstances sell us short. I really hope the Aussies are prepared to explain just what's gone on over the past two years and we don't get everything swept under the carpet once again, but my money will be on a cast iron Non-Disclosure Agreement which prevents anyone bad-mouthing the contemptible waste of space that is Roland Duchatelet. One crystal clear fact that will go to the grave with him is that for all his business success, his four and a half year ownership of Charlton Athletic was a total failure of epic proportions. The missed opportunity was criminal but the wanton disregard for the club shameful and the way he allowed himself to be duped by a few trusted advisors when the avalanche of evidence to the contrary was all around him, was quite incredible.