Monday, 17 December 2018

The admirable Lyle Taylor calls it out

Lyle Taylor has made a significant impact since arriving at The Valley this season. His intelligent forward play has seen him bag his share of the goals which have fired Charlton into play-off contention and Karlan Grant has also prospered as part of a successful striking combination.

In addition to this, the genial Taylor has also endeared himself to the supporters with his willingness to get involved in issues outside of football, such as throwing his weight behind the Cancer Research campaign and dying his hair pink to draw additional attention. That prompted a local kids team to do the same and Lyle was quick to visit the lads involved and show support for them. 

You can say it's all good PR for pros and that they have some level of obligation to their clubs, but you get the strong impression with Taylor that he is very much his own man and very happy to be doing his bit.

If that weren't enough, he has come out in the press today with a rallying cry for Roland Duchatelet to support his manager in the January transfer window. He explains that our small squad has togetherness but that we are short in one or two places and now would be the time to strengthen the group. Fearful of the current side possibly being denuded during January, he urges Duchatelet to hang on to much-rumoured Joe Aribo and makes a call for Karlan Grant to have his future secured and possibly avoid an early exit or a Summer situation where he could walk on his own terms, like Aribo, with little or no transfer fee.

I don't suspect Lyle will be Top of the Pops with the club's few senior managers and you can bet that Duchatelet won't be adding a thank-you line in his Christmas card. However, you have to credit him for having the courage to speak-up and say it as it is. We all instantly understand it so he could be forgiven for saying nothing but he is clearly focused on a possible promotion and  is putting down a marker. Goes up yet another notch in my estimation.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Charlton Athletic get behind local Foodbanks

The Club have announced plans to support Greenwich residents in most need over Christmas by working alongside Addick volunteers and Greenwich Foodbank to collect food donations at upcoming home games against Wimbledon (Saturday 15th December) and Gillingham a week later.

The idea came from local lad, Samuel Spong, who was inspired by the similar initiative started by football fans in Liverpool and the north-west under the banner of "Fans Supporting Foodbanks." Post-Grad Samuel approached the Club and Greenwich Foodbank who were both very keen to support the initiative.

Foodbanks are not a simple free food handout. They give to people with clear need identified by a variety of local agencies - Citizen's Advice, GP's, Housing Welfare Officers, social services, Children's Centres and some local charities. Food is exchanged for authorised vouchers and is intended to be a short-term emergency stop-gap measure to tide people over until their underlying issues are resolved. The introduction of Universal Credit is driving a peak in demand as people with no resources to fall back on are suffering initial delays in getting benefit payments transitioned onto the new system. It's an oversight that could only be made by people comfortable in their employment, with no comprehension of what living from one-day to the next actually involves, nor any idea how people might not have savings to fall-back on or the ability to borrow from anyone.

If you are planning on attending either of the two pre-Christmas home matches, why not put a couple of tins aside and hand them in to the collection van which will be positioned inside the West Stand gate prior to kick-off? The Foodbank are currently short of tinned peas, carrots, fruit, rice and custard as well as long life fruit juice. 

It would be great to see this really work over Christmas and possibly become a regular feature at home matches. The Club have really embraced the idea and are engaging with Greenwich Foodbank - some of the players have expressed an interest, too, which will help raise the profile of this worthwhile initiative.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Bowyer's F A Cup own-goal will have repercussions

Pretty much a unanimous response from angry Charlton fans to yesterday's F A Cup surrender by Lee Bowyer. Having just had a blank weekend and with no game for another week, Bowyer's decision to put a fully second string out with no back-up from the bench back-fired unsurprisingly when Doncaster Rovers progressed to the third round proper with a comfortable 2-0 victory.

Bowyer's comments after the match were careless and he should know better than to throw out a line like "missed opportunity? What, of winning the F A Cup? We're never going to win it." The 3,000 diehards who turned up yesterday didn't do so expecting to win the Cup Lee, they only wanted to progress to the 3rd Round for a change and perhaps get a crack at a club like the one we used to be. If you weren't up for it, you might have been better saying so and then perhaps only 300 or so might have had their time and money wasted. 

If that's Bowyer's attitude, why did he field a stronger side in the Mansfield replay? We had even less chance of winning the F A Cup at that stage.

At any other club I would expect Bowyer to feel some heat from the owner but Roland Duchatelet probably has heard the result yet and presumably isn't interested in the details given how little he cares about Charlton Athletic, let alone football. There is an argument that we could have collected another £50k in prize money from progressing but given the losses in hosting a fixture where the gate is small and you have to give more than half of it away, I wouldn't be surprised if Duchatelet already made it clear that Cup matches are an expense he isn't interested in (despite their possibility of becoming lucrative money-spinners in later rounds). He really isn't interested in speculating to accumulate. It's a bit like his whole league philosophy where the lower the cost-base, the smaller his annual operating loss and the better his chance to break even or even turn a profit through player sales.

However, the heat from fans on Twitter and the Internet has been voluminous and loud and I wouldn't be surprised if someone at the club feels moved to have to attempt to defuse the situation in some way although I am not expecting one of Duchatelet's classic bracketed rants. Whatever happens, the memory of this will be rekindled next Autumn when our next F A Cup misadventure is upon us - what are the odds we will struggle to get 3,000 for our next home F A Cup match? Another in the wearyingly long list of new club lows under Roland Duchatelet's disastrous regime. 

Lee Bowyer's mistakes here have managed to crash a lot of the goodwill he has created and for many he has now piled the pressure on himself to deliver a promotion that I believe is beyond us at this point in time and which will be impossible after the January transfer window closes. In the meantime, join with me in hoping Donny pull a plum tie in the Third Round draw - they deserve it for putting out a competitive side and going for the victory away from home. 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Welling United 3 v Hungerford Town 1

The Wings scored three at home once again and moved back to the top of National league South with a win over Hungerford Town this afternoon. The heavy morning rain may have put off a couple of hundred from making the match but the 404 present saw another solid home performance.

Hungerford came to make a game of it and, especially in the first-half, they looked potential value for a point. Welling got off to a relatively slow start and aside from a fine header from Audel which was acrobatically tipped over, we had to be content with Welling keeping the visitors in check during the opening twenty minutes. After that the Wings warmed to the occasion and with L'Ghoul finding his feet down the left and Kiernan probing inside right, the chance for the opener wasn't long in coming. As I came through the turnstiles, the Welling side was being announced and as Goldberg was named at number ten the bloke in front of me leant back and said "I see the Chairman's wife has picked the team again." I always find this criticism of Goldberg a cheap shot and unfair, so was pleased to see him turn superbly and make a yard of space for himself which allowed him to beat the Hungerford keeper with a low hard shot to the corner from the edge of the box. Hungerford continued to plug away and they got their reward in the 46th minute when their full back, Matt Jones, was allowed easy access into the box and drove in an equaliser that Wilks could do nothing about.

Kicking down the slope towards the Park View Road, I was confident Welling would boss the second-half and they did. L'Ghoul was seeing much more of the ball and finding he was able to travel across the Hungerford back-line with impunity. Paterson was trying desperately to get on the end of anything in the box but was being very well marshalled by Marvel Ekpiteta. Goldberg was also doing a lot of running but Welling were a bit short of an aerial threat. Cue the removal of Paterson and introduction of the loftier Mills. L'Ghoul drew another foul 25 yards out and from the resulting free-kick a deep cross eventually found Mills high at the back post and as his thumping header back across the goal flew to the back post the only thought was whether or not it would creep in. As it was it didn't matter because flying in feet-first was Player-of-the-Month for November, the horizontal L'Ghoul who forced it home. 

Hungerford were beaten and from then it was only a case of could Welling increase their advantage. Gavin McCullum, on as a sub, managed to make enough of a nuisance of himself at the back-post for another cross that the covering defender was forced to chest it back across goal and Mills reacted quickest to steer in the third from close range. Mills and Kiernan combined superbly at full speed after that and were unfortunate that Kiernan was blocked before he could add to the goal tally.

The three points push Welling back to the top-of-the-table on goal difference from Woking after Billericay lost 3-2 at home to Oxford City. Meanwhile, Charlton's post-1947 F A Cup curse continued with a disappointing 0-2 home defeat to Doncaster Rovers. It probably didn't help that Lee Bowyer's focus is the league and he decided to put out a second string. It really is a struggle going to see Charlton in any cup competition but particularly the the F A Cup - hardly anything to shout about for 70 years - and the club doesn't seem interested in them.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sale of Charlton - Amateur Hour

The Fans Forum, that initial Meire creation of a box-ticking exercise to cover off 'fan engagement' met again this week. It appears to have focused on an update on takeover news.

Lead by Lieven De Turck (LDT), the update was in stark contrast to previous history of virtually zero news (Non-Disclosure Agreements) and yet the updates looked like a poor and obvious attempt to make it appear there is far more going on than there actually is.

I don't expect anyone to give us the nitty-gritty and certainly not to reveal the identities of anyone keen to protect their interests given the chances of failure to conclude a deal. However, you have to question the wisdom of an update that astonishingly wants to lend credibility to five ongoing bids none of which appear to have any compelling intention or drive to acquire the club. For example, the "groups linked to the Australians still have to lodge outstanding documents with the EFL to complete the deal." We knew that from the utterances of a clearly frustrated EFL who felt compelled to be seen to do something once they were partially embroiled over assumed paperwork delays in the heat of Summer. That was months ago and LDT informs us that he thinks the ongoing delay is over "their complexity" - that is of their group, not the paperwork. This despite assurances from the man himself that the price was agreed in February. Sorry but that doesn't wash.

Updates on the other parties named as 'second, third, fourth and fifth' and helpfully labelled British or European in several cases, are equally lame. One British group has "always been active" and the others are undergoing due diligence, have signed an NDA or are awaiting to show proof of funds. We were told previously there was a long-standing British consortium so LDT checks that box but they too have been rumoured to be buying the club for an equally implausibly long time as the Aussies and have been ridiculed by others who believe they understand the make-up of the group (remember the Alex McLeish involvement which he closed down quickly after having had a shufty saying that "they want too much money" or words to that effect). I am pretty sure the Aussies can see through all this other interest - it certainly hasn't forced their hand.

You have to reflect on why it's taken so long for RD to sell Charlton Athletic. Far bigger clubs are bought and sold in a fraction of the time and without a hint of the nonsense we have been subjected to. There is very obviously a big sticking point with the Aussies and I suspect with anyone else with any serious intent who has invested money to investigate purchase. Price is the obvious issue and that's what's been raised in many places. If the supporters can do the maths, and they have, using publicly available data, it's disingenuous for RD to continue to try to sell the club for a premium. Only a fool would agree upon a multi-million pound purchase of a football club with significant ongoing running costs as well as further investment in order to make it successful without completing basic due diligence to qualify the risk and, as importantly, the actual value of the club and it's current financial liabilities. 

Therein lies the rub, of course, because that's what the arrogant Roland Duchaletlet did when he casually acquired us and a host of other football clubs four years ago when he was convinced a multi-club ownership could allow him to exploit Financial Fair Play for his own gain. When FFP failed, he managed to get out of Standard Liege relatively unscathed and his other clubs are much smaller so less of a financial risk but his gross failure at Charlton has seen the club relegated, fans driven away and the accompanying loss of revenue has seen debts escalate to approaching £70m. This is heading towards four times his original stake and he is desperate to save face and reduce his losses so he can step away from the mess. 

He has already admitted defeat and confirmed his glaringly obvious lack-of-interest in Charlton Athletic (once "one of his children"). So why then doesn't he simply get real, cut his losses and take it on the chin? He can afford it after all. The answer, I suspect, is his huge ego and his arrogance that he can get what he wants if he's prepared to last it out. I also noted LDT's comments that interest in acquiring the club is on the increase because of the upcoming transfer window and the club sitting sixth in the table. This, for me, is the give-away line in the whole piece. The notion that our league placing will force someone's hand to increase their price substantially is more arrogance, more ignorance and simply wishful thinking. A few games ago we lost a couple on the bounce and dropped to mid-table. If a deal is truly dependent on promotion, why bother with due diligence when we were clearly languishing in League One a year ago and when the shortage of investment and continuing cashing in on anyone saleable is the evident policy. It will simply never happen on that basis.

As for the transfer window - ha, ha, ha, ha-ha! That suggests Roland won't do what he did last year when the Aussies were first identified and a takeover was 'imminent' (haven't heard from Richard Murray since). If you remember, he sold top scorer Ricky Holmes as quickly as he could in his fit of pique over perceived delays in acquisition. He followed that by actually bothering to come to London and storming around the club having lights bulbs removed and making trivial cost-savings which were all a bit of fiddling-whilst-Charlton-burns. Staff have since seen their anticipated bonuses not paid due to the financial failure of the club - another in a factory-line of PR disasters that have characterised Duchatelet's clumsy ownership.

All the latest LDT waffle tells me is that we are still a long way off from any realistic sale. An unlikely promotion could provoke more serious interest but the fundamental problem of price remains and presumably the bar would simply rise in parallel. Before May though, we have to negotiate January without more chips being cashed-in. That Lyle Taylor is attracting a lot of attention and envious glances. 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Today South London, Tomorrow South London

Wanted to give a shout out for the book of the same title by Andrew Grumbridge and Charlton fan, Vincent Raison. My reading is usually confined to holidays and is either biographical or military. However, a Good Samaritan posted a copy of Today South London, Tomorrow South London through my door last week with a post-it note saying this would be right up my street.

It certainly was and I am now re-reading it (unheard of for me). There's not much football content but it's unashamedly all about a Beer and South London drinking establishments which are the two other points of the Charlton diehard's preoccupation.

The book builds on many previous pieces from The Deserter blog and involves the escapades of four great mates who like nothing more than taking time out to roam South London on the lash with the occasional rest to inhale some herbs to help the day along. Obviously I would like to have read more 'sarf-east' tales but South London is a big canvass and it's good to get a broader perspective sometimes.

I particularly like the writing style and the uninhibited use of language which really helps you get to grips with those involved. The book was funded via donations and printed via 'Unbound' who support this self-start model which allows more creative freedom and the book undoubtedly benefits from that.

It helps if you can avoid the temptation to jump from one chapter to another in search of places you are more familiar with because the book is written chronologically and you risk missing cross-references otherwise. I, of course, jumped to 'Thirsty in Kidbrooke' to roar at the observations of Kidbrooke Village to the former Ferrier Estate where I spent several exciting years in the early 80's. I was much amused by reference to an incident of the smoke bomb in the Wat Tyler one lazy weekday afternoon. When the smoke finally cleared and us shirkers returned to our pints, the Landlord declared (in complete disbelief) that the fruit machine had vanished. It was around the back with it's cover prised off and the coin slots gone. My flat-mate and I were drinking in the pub that day!

As we know, in addition to being on the best side of the river, all the world is here. Makes a decent Christmas pressie for a tenner.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

"Complete and utter tosh."

That was the reaction of former Palace-supremo Simon Jordan to the 'defence' that Roland Duchatelet attempted to put forward on Talk Sport radio this week for the parlous state of Charlton Athletic FC as we approach the fifth anniversary of his reign.

Simon Jordan is a man despised in these parts for all sorts of reasons, not least because of what has come out of his mouth at times in the past. However, it has to be said, he has called this perfectly. He ridiculed the various excuses that Duchatelet offered-up including the line that prospective buyers have been getting cold feet because of results and supporter protests. He went on to say that due diligence was a critical activity and because Duchatelet hadn't done any when he bought the club, he had failed to understand what the club was all about. The fact that Duchatelet has since been largely absent has compounded the issue and his reliance on the woefully inept Katrine Meire meant he only got her sugar-coated version of her latest cock-up which invariably blamed the customers for complaining about the number of chips per portion. He still thinks she did a wonderful job despite all of the evidence and all of the witnesses to the exact opposite.

Not understanding what he was buying or not wanting to understand was clearly not a concern for the arrogant Belgium who very quickly had Meire telling anyone who wanted to know that "the owner does it his way" and that we would have to lump it. Not carrying out due diligence was also borne of the arrogance of a billionaire who probably saw little point wasting half-a-million on the exercise when he was only paying £18m for the club (inc £4m debt). How we could do with a similar laissez-faire attitude as he seeks to get out, you know, agreeing a price based upon what it's worth or maybe a bit less for a quick sale. Instead we have him looking desperately to save face on the whole sorry fiasco by getting an unrealistically high price that might him sell a story back home about how he didn't lose out on yet another of his long list of business successes.

Jordan also made the astute observation that "everyone around it (the club) seems to be disassociated and disenfranchised." Two superbly picked adjectives that really sum it up for me today.

As for his view that prospective buyers might be driven on price and determination based upon results from week-to-week, you can only wonder at how despondent they must be at the moment as yet another false dawn disappears over the horizon.