Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Deluded Duchatelet still arguing black's white

Basking in the reflected glow of Lee Bowyer's two wins against-the-head, Roland Duchatelet has spotted the opportunity for another rant at CARD on the club's website. This time he is responding to the CARD statement a couple of weeks ago which said protests against the owner would resume following his decision to cut Bowyer's budget and continue his policy of cashing in on playing assets.

He starts by questioning why anyone would protest when the team have made the play-offs twice in the last two seasons, having been promoted this year at Wembley and when we 'have a manager and staff all the fans can get behind.' Roland is clearing taking personal credit for this when we all know it's been achieved in spite of him, not because of him. 

He has acknowledged repeatedly this year that the Championships a 'financial graveyard' and made that ambiguous statement that every season ticket in this division costs him £1000. It's very clear that he would have preferred us to remain in League One where his operating costs are lower. Indeed he tried to apply the brakes to Lee Bowyer's promotion campaign in January by moving striker Nicky Ajose on and cashing in on Karlan Ahearne-Grant. 

Similarly he pats himself on the back for extending Bowyer, Gallen and Jackson's contracts, forgetting his embarrassing and pathetic public strop two months ago when he told us he wouldn't meet the going rate for a manager in the Championship following Bowyer winning us promotion via the lucrative play-offs.  He now seeks to take credit for being forced to buckle under intense supporter pressure and change his position later the same day. 

Incredibly, he also boasts of 'an agreed budget' that has enabled Bowyer and Gallen to 'build a squad everyone can get behind.' This is breath-taking opportunism from Duchatelet. He has made it clear the budget was being cut this season irrespective of the challenge of Championship football and he has allowed Aribo and Bauer to leave and sold Dijksteel. I also believe he would have cashed-in on Lyle Taylor if he could have brought in a replacement from Peterborough on deadline day. That move may have to wait but you can be sure it will happen in due course. If Bowyer has managed to build a squad capable of staying up it will again be in spite of the owner not because of him, but it really is far too early be celebrating that. 

He goes on to mis-quote CARD in support of previous laments that match day protests have affected the team. It's been well-documented that results on protest days in the past were better than normal and Lee Bowyer has told us the players aren't affected by them. The CARD line on focusing protests on Duchatelet and away from the Valley reflect the desire to be more supportive of Bowyer and his promotion winners as they battle to stay in the Championship this year and because protests against Duchatelet and in Belgium have irked him most of all. 

His article also includes two pieces of naked propaganda. One an homage to Duchatet's life and overall genius and the other a rose-tint dripping piece on his time as Charlton owner, which tells you how much of a different universe the man lives in from the rest of us. Given his myopia and continued need to tell us things we know are simply wrong relating to the history of the protest, it's increasingly clear just how much he was seriously mis-lead by Katrien Meire for first couple of years when she went to war with the club supporters and was exposed as the gross incompetent and liar she is. 

He can continue to talk about the sale of the club and his decision to move on but the fact is that will never happen all the time he is determined to try recover his mounting losses by looking to find a prospective owner foolish enough to pay him tens of millions of pounds above the real value of the club and it's assets. 

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Elgin City 3 v Cowdenbeath 0

A fine opener to the Scottish League Two campaign by Elgin City. The Blue Brazil started brightly but after Elgin settled in it was pretty much one-way traffic. 

Cowdenbeath struggled to create anything going forward and their play quickly became heated with strong challenges flying in across the pitch. They were fortunate to only see two yellow cards before half-time and also lucky to be still level just before the break after City had missed a close range header and seen a shot cannon back off an upright. However, justice was done on the stroke of half-time as Shane Sutherland opened his account for the season with a thumping header.

Elgin came flying out of the traps in the second-half and Sutherland struck again within minutes to ensure a home victory. A well flighted ball in from left was knocked down by Matthew Cooper at the back post for Sutherland to pounce. Elgin were rampant at this point and a third goal came from a corner which left-back Euan Spark met firmly to head home. Cowdenbeath were in disarray at this point and their day was capped by a straight red for Michael Herd after a cynical challenge. Elgin could have gone on to score more but they seemed content to slow things down and play the percentages to ensure they kept a clean sheet and took all three points. It was sunny afternoon with 612 there to witness it. 

Great to see Lee Bowyer's boys get off to a winning start with a 2-1 win at Ewood Park. Given the loss of key players and our failure to replace like-for-like numbers, let alone quality, I was expecting top see a couple of Academy starters and for us not to be able to fill our bench once more. Pleased to say the side had largely familiar ring to it and we did fill the bench. I am expecting a long hard slog so great to get our first win and ease some of the pressure from the home match against Stoke on Saturday..

Welling also earned a decent away point at newly relegated Havant & Waterloo who are favourites for the National League South title. The old stager Adam Coombes scoring for the Wings.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Charlton Life Somme Trip 2019

Coming up for three years ago, on the way back from a protest trip to St Truiden, a small party of Addicks agreed a minor detour to enable us to visit the World War One war grave of ex-Addick Herbert "Nobby" Nightingale. We also took in the Menin Gate and the experience was enriched by the commentary given to us by Guild of Battlefield Guide and all-round Charlton nut, Clive Harris. I promised myself that day that I wanted to see and learn more about World War One and would get on one of Clive's very popular tours.

It may have taken longer than anticipated but I was delighted to spend this weekend touring the battlefields and cemeteries of The Somme. The trip was enhanced by the fact that friends and I were part of a coach full of Charlton Lifers as well as few fans from other clubs (Millwall and Reading). We set-off from Charlton at 5.15am on Saturday and were in northern France and at our first stop by mid-morning. The coach rolled on from stop-to-stop until tea-time and we were all thoroughly absorbed by Clive's first-class story-telling which told us of the key military engagements, individual heroics and the sporting connections as we went. 

I have learnt far more about World War Two over the years but the significance of World War One has loomed larger more recently as I have read more and it has received more media attention with the passing centenary. It was fantastic to be able to put landscapes and towns to what were previously just awkward French place names. When you are on the ground, it's also incredible just how close all of these iconic names and actions are to one another. Clive has a story to tell on almost every bend in the road and he can recount the war on a day-by-day date basis. The product of a life's obsession covering the reading of more than 3000 books on the subject and 15 years experience teaching and touring. How fortunate we are to count him among our number.

We had the added benefit of the personal family stories from a number of those on board which were retold and remembered as we reached the appropriate places. Brave young men whose lives were cut short so suddenly leaving a painful family legacy which would endure for decades but which has still not been forgotten 100 years later. 

Michael and Matteus, two German Addicks, who like the Millwall-supporting couple, had to enjoy some gentle stereotypical ribbing, such as "waiting to win on penalties" in a particularly well-told Clive tale about football in no-man's land. It may also have encouraged Clive to take us to the largest German WW1 cemetery in France, at Neuville-St Vaast outside Arras, where we walked among the graves and steel crosses of 45,000 fallen Germans. The contrast to the multitude of 'English Garden' Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries we had visited and driven past was stark, and a powerful reminder that there are no real winners and losers in war, just huge changes in society and the world at large. 

In addition to the sites, stories and sacrifices of heroes Donald Bell, Sandy Turnbull and Walter Tull, we also stopped at the resting place of Addick, Fred Chick, probably most poignant life story of the three Charlton men killed during the Great War - Jim McKenzie will have to wait a little longer. 

As if that were not enough, Clive and Steve Hunnisett (sp) are supporting a Charlton Museum-led evening next Tuesday (6th August) at the White Swan in Charlton Village where there will be four short talks on WW1 sporting connections. There will also be a 'Blitz Walk' from the ground to the Village ahead of this at 6.15pm and the Charlton Museum will be open from 4pm. 

Thursday, 11 July 2019

All change for Welling v Charlton curtain raiser

Saturday sees the traditional Welling United v Charlton Athletic friendly that for many signals the start of the more competitive pre-season friendlies. After a week in the heat of Malaga and only a half against the petulant Medan Gas Board or whatever they were called, Lee Bowyer will be glad to know the Wings won't cry-off if a decision goes against them.

Every year there are new players to see for the first time and this time is no different although, maybe for the first time, the Wings will boast pretty much a completely new squad after a wholesale clearout in the last two months. By my calculations we may see as many Academy debutants as new signings playing for the Addicks. Macauley Bonne, Chuks Aneke and Tom Lockyer should all feature but the squad is currently so much smaller now that we will be dependent upon youth to fill the bench. Bowyer must still be looking for at least another three new faces.

Meanwhile, owner Mark Goldberg dispensed with manager Steve King after twelve months and is going to have another go at managing the side himself. His last attempt wasn't a glorious affair and I suspect he will fall a good bit short of Steve King's efforts last season. 

I am far less familiar with how things work in the non-league but following the Wings last year, it was a bit depressing to see so many changes of personnel during the season. No sooner had you taken to a player than you could see a farewell Tweet as he had moved on another incomer was announced. To be fair, it didn't seem to have an obviously negative effect on Welling's fortunes but who knows what a more consistent starting eleven might have delivered? There is a real habit of bringing back old boys and a classic example of this at PVR last year was goal-scorer Adam Coombes. 'Coombesy' has come and gone previously but big-spending Billericay bought him at the start of last season, only to loan him back to Welling after a month or two and then take him back after that. Coombes is back in Welling red once more this season and I really hope he is there for the duration because his goals could be a big factor for the Wings.

Whatever the strength of the new Welling side, it was disappointing to see pretty much the whole squad culled following the play-off game at Woking. Player of the season, Thierry Audel, was let go along with pretty much everyone else except goalkeeper Dan Wilks and owner's son Bradley Goldberg. That included the talented Brendan Kiernan, mercurial Nassim L'Ghoul as well as target man Danny Mills. Perhaps Goldberg will now try and build something but I reserve judgement. 

The Wings have had a 1-1 draw away at Margate and a 3-1 reverse at National League side Bromley in the last week and will be hoping to keep things close against their professional neighbours. Given existing shortcomings in Bowyer's squad, this could be a closer affair than usual. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Season Ticket deadline extended again shocker

The Club's Season Ticket deadline was extended again yesterday for another week in an effort to wring out the last of the waverers before Championship pricing is finally imposed. I have to smile every year when this happens because the majority of our supporters never appear to notice this because the following season there is a mild panic that they might lose their seat or be forced to pay a bit more if they haven't stumped up before the season finishes and secured their golden ticket.

The call to delay purchase until it was clearer who would be managing the side next season and some form of reassurance that the squad wasn't going to be woefully short for the Championship went largely unheeded. Now that unsold season ticket reservations have now been put back on sale it has become clearer that sales have increased from approximately 6,000 last year to somewhere approaching 10,000. The increase following Lee Bowyer's contract signature wasn't hugely significant in terms of sales but the overall increase is impressive given that key members of the Play-Off winning side have since moved on and recruitment so far has been modest. 

It looks like we should have over 10,000 season ticket holders come the first day of the season even if Duchatelet is still the owner - the club will be aiming to be able to announce that as early as next week after the latest deadline extension. A sale of the club before August could see another couple of thousand refuseniks digging deep to return to the fold. Those sorts of numbers should see average gates this season of c 15-17,000 which wouldn't be too shabby given our recent history. 

Like everyone else I was delighted to see Bowyer finally signing a contract extension even if the way it was mis-managed was nothing short of hugely embarrassing for the club. Duchatelet exposed his lack of ambition or interest in the football club once again with that laughable fit-of-pique statement at the eleventh hour exposing the offer to Bowyer and saying it was the best deal he would get. You have to believe that the forcing of his hand to double that offer at 10pm the same day will have consequences for the budget and Bowyer's chances of success this season.

Bowyer performed a minor miracle last year but the chances of him being able to repeat that feat in a much more competitive division where the majority of the sides invest millions every close season just to stand still are slim in my opinion. The players brought in so far are basic positional replacements for gaps in the squad that have emerged with the loss of Bauer, Aribo and Co. I have no issue with any of them in particular but it's a huge ask to expect these players to improve on those they are replacing in a division which is tougher than most are used to. Our squad remains small and we still have gaps to fill. I am sure Bowyer will do that but the quality of the side come August has to be questionable given the budget. 

A takeover could lead to an injection in cash for squad strengthening, even if that were to need to wait until January but there has to remain a huge doubt that anyone will be able to conclude a satisfactory deal with the illogical Duchatelet. Time is running out for prospective buyers and Duchatelet should realise that he will not get as much for a struggling Championship side as one newly promoted from League One. If it doesn't happen soon, we will be back to the January window cycle and by then we could find buyers waiting to see if we will be relegated or not before agreeing a price. It really is Groundhog Day and it hurts. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

8pm same day, Bowyer signs

About four hours after that astonishing piece on the club website about how greedy Bowyer and his Agent were being in their contract negotiations, another club statement that looked like it wasn't written by Duchatelet. This time, informing us that Bowyer has signed a new one year deal!

Whilst it's undoubtedly the right outcome for the club and it's supporters, you have to wonder what's gone on in the background and what permanent damage this has done to the relationship between Manager and Owner? If the club were to get taken over it wouldn't matter but I can't see this, although I couldn't see such an about-turn yesterday either.

What we do know is that Rich Cawley (Bowyer's press channel) tweeted that Bowyer had spoken to0 Duchatelet after the initial statement and that they were due to speak again this morning. One of them has caved in and it would appear it was Bowyer. I don't think Duchatelet would have gone so far so quickly. There wasn't really any time for further negotiation between the original statement and the last one, certainly not if anything was formally signed. I suspect the actual signing will happen later and that it was Bowyer's decision to accept what was on the table. To some extent it doesn't matter but like cheating on your partner, it's going to crop up repeatedly from now and doesn't bode well for happy families.

The wording of the latest statement is in marked contrast to the diatribe that went before it. Ironically, it thanks Lee for "his professionalism" and says that "stability is essential!" How they can say this with a straight face is beyond me although out looks like the staff trying to clear up the mess caused by Duchatelet's earlier outburst. 

If Duchatelet's piece with Jim White on Talkjsport was pre-recorded like his last one, that will need to have been updated or he will need to dial in live this morning. No doubt this will be a much easier discussion and Duchatelet will know not to get into the nitty-gritty of Lee's contract or what has happened since for a deal to be struck. 

Monday, 17 June 2019

Bowyer can't reach agreement with Duchatelet and walks

Yet another, in the long line of embarrassing statements on the club website, this time trying to justify why ambition-less Roland Duchatelet has failed to agree new contract terms with Lee Bowyer and why we have lost him as a result.

So unprofessional to put personal contract negotiation details into a public message but Duchatelet is clearly trying, once again, to lay the blame at someone else's door. Talking about Bowyer refusing a threefold salary increase is interesting but I suspect there is more to this and three times not very much and what may still be short of the going rate is still not enough. We do not know whether this was the reason Bowyer has refused - there could be numerous others. The statement also explains again that the wage bill is being cut, despite promotion, and that this also plays a part in terms of affordability. On that logic it's safe to assume that the question of his transfer budget was also not something Bowyer could agree to as presumably the proposal was to cut that further to support his proposed pay rise. 

Duchatelet also looks to blame Lee's agent and gets another dig in at the over-spending culture in the championship. It really is very clear to me that Duchatelet would rather we had stayed in League One. It's why he sold Grant in January and didn't allow Bowyer an appropriate replacement. He really doesn't care at all about results and another relegation season in the Championship won't bother him in the slightest. 

The biggest laugh I got was the notion that a possible takeover might have been complicated or even halted if Bowyer had been signed on a bigger or longer deal. That suggests the continuity of management hasn't been seriously discussed with any proposed buyer, which tells you all you really need to know about the state of any takeover talks.

It's also very clear to me what happens next. Several key players (bigger earners) will now exercise their right to move on for more money and Duchatelet will be able to cut his wage bill further. Cheaper players will be brought in, as well as more loanees and whoever is appointed manager will have to make do and mend and rely upon more Academy players being thrown into the fray. Using more Academy players was also a term in Bowyer's first draft contract which was based on "incentivisation." I note they aren't even talking about a new manager but a less expensive Caretaker who can be blamed and discarded at a whim when results go tits-up. In other words, we are likely to be heading back to the days of Karol Fraye and Guy Luzon.

Those who renewed their season tickets early may be feeling even more disappointed than the rest of us but they will have to put a brave face on it and support the boys (and Duchatelet) no matter what. Pretty sure they won't sell too many more. 

In the circumstances, I see no realistic chance of a takeover happening and Duchatelet will be left funding the losses for another season, after which he will need to adjust his price to sell as a League One club again. Boy is he thick! He has also just pocketed north of a £1,000,000 in bonus revenues that Bowyer earned by getting us to the play-off final but he's not going to be wasting that on securing Bowyer or strengthening his side to maintain Championship status. If there is no takeover within the next four weeks I will be placing a sizeable wager on relegation and won't be wasting any money this season on watching any of it. So, so sad and short-sighted.