Monday, 26 August 2013

Powell ripe for a move?

After 23 minutes on Saturday I was sitting shell-shocked in my seat. Three down to a newly promoted side with only a quarter of the match played. The action was all down our end, in spite of several threatening Charlton counter attacks. We looked content to defend and hadn't responded properly to any of the three goals. Our players were also blaming each other. It didn't look good and with only a quarter of the match played I feared a 5+ goal humiliation.

The next thought was "this could be Powell's last game." It was so reminiscent of Pardew's 1-5 trouncing by Sheffield United that marked his sacking and also of Parkinson's 2-4 denouement at the hands of mighty Swindon Town. I then thought what rationale could be applied to his sacking four games in after finishing 9th and having had to trim his squad and cut his budget. That allowed me to quickly forget the idea and concentrate once more on unfolding events. 

Since  Saturday, I have been reflecting on the state of our club and what must be going through Chris Powell's mind. He loves the club and he is trying desperately to establish himself as a thrusting new manager. He has a playing pedigree in the domestic game and has represented England. He speaks intelligently to the media and is clearly well respected by his players. He is adored by the Valley faithful and is happy in south-east London. 

However, the behind the scenes is a worsening mess. Whilst Powell has been too diplomatic to come out and be openly critical, the body language hasn't been right for some time and there has very much been an air of "we'll do it in spite of what's going on." After winning League One, Powell has seen the funding levels drop off whilst the running of the football club has gone downhill at an alarming rate as the promised investment dried up. This was after the expected decimations of staff numbers and widespread cost-cutting following successive relegations. Individuals with Charlton hearts and precious experience in running our club through it's rise to the Premiership and establishment there as we developed our stadium and built our reputation have been forced out. Either resigning unexpectedly without comment or being sacked unconvincingly. Those individuals may have largely kept it zipped since out of respect for the club or fear of prosecution but a number have been compelled to take legal action against the club for wrongful dismissal or to recover unpaid earnings. 

The latest unrest amongst supporters is the growing concern that an unusually large number of the established playing staff have contracts that terminate next Summer. There is no word of any extensions and the immediate conclusion to draw from that is that we are in no position financially to negotiate as this would inevitably lead to an unaffordable increase in the wage bill or likely player unrest. However, what it also means is that the value of players remaining contracts is becoming seriously diminished. Who would pay top dollar if you know the player is likely to become a free transfer in the Summer? Players too know that there is a tipping point at which a free transfer becomes lucrative because they can negotiate a slice of what might have been a fee previously, even if it's not to a bigger or better club. In that position we run the risk that players heads get turned. When you have the nucleus of the side in that position, as we do, then it's a recipe for disaster (let's face it, the playing evidence thus far supports this argument).

There is a school of thought that says we have probably been trying to offload one or two of the better players for reasonable fees in order to help finance the club but haven't had any real interest. Financial Fair Play has curtailed the spending of clubs, especially those outside the Premier League. It's hard to see too many of our players walking into any PL side, so interest may genuinely not be there. That argument may favour the "do nothing" rationale but it won't make for a contented playing staff and that directly affects the Manager.

We also have the ongoing rumours of takeover bids and it may be that a lack of contractual commitment to a new bidder (with big pockets) could be attractive. The desperate and, frankly, naive touting of the club in the recent VOTV expose won't have helped either. Chris Powell, too, could be grinning and bearing it and playing the long game but there is no guarantee he would not be a casualty of an ownership change, although he's more likely to survive than most managers in similar positions given his achievements to date and his reputation with the supporters. He may also be coming to the conclusion that the current owners are incapable of selling the club as they are caught in a debt position they can't recover and that we are on a starvation diet to Administration.

So then, back to the point of this post. I am wondering whether Chris Powell has an escape plan and just what would trigger it? He looks to have ready made explanations to justify a decision to walk away or to join another club. He has been around (seven clubs and well over 600 appearances), he has a track record in management and will be confident of getting another management position. I don't buy into the rumours that Palace will sack Ian Holloway any time soon but that is the sort of job offer that Powell couldn't resist. A former club with some money and better prospects than us currently. In fact, any club with some money and better prospects than us. 

Crucially, Powell knows he could walk and even a brief justification for his decision would absolve him from any guilt in the eyes of Charlton fans and without having burnt any bridges from SE7. If he feels the majority of his players heads have been affected by personal contractual uncertainty, there may be a limit to what he can do to change it and at that point he may well be considering when would be the best time to think of his own career and family.

5 comments:

Hungry Ted said...

Good read as always, Dave, if a little sobering. I've been watching football long enough to see the signs on the pitch that all is not well. It's going to be a tough season.

devlinpowell said...

As a fan who goes about 5 to 7 games a season I have not seen charlton win for quite some time now and i am finding it difficult to get some good reasons together to go, let alone getting my son and his mates to go if the best we can expect is a draw or a soul sapping defeat. we must get our home form sorted, i am not expecting promotion but at least some form to hang onto. the first home game this season i took them too was useless, and not a good omen.

Blucher said...

I think that Chris will adopt a "wait and see" approach, although it's very difficult to see him still being in charge next season in the absence of a regime change. Kevin Nolan's article in VOTV said it all - why should our manager, without any support from the board, attempt to shove another large boulder up the hill next year ? He'd be on a hiding to nothing.

Jiminez and the owner(s) won't want to conduct their negotiations in the glare of publicity but it's of their own making. The big risk now is that they may be perceived by prospective buyers as moving into "forced sale" territory, in consequence of which, only low level offers are received. If the owners, in turn, adopt a stubborn and unrealistic approach, we will find ourselves withering on the vine.

Uncertainty is not good for any organisation, especially for a club in our position with rapidly depreciating assets and an under-strength squad. If a deal is to be done, let's hope it happens quickly.

Dave said...

Blucher - Amen to a quick sale. You would think Jiminez and Slater are smart enough to know that "now" has been the best time to sell the club since finishing 9th in May. As you say we will become weaker and more vulnerable the longer we are locked into the current Catch-22 at who knows what eventual cost to our fortunes.

ChicagoAddick said...

Nail. On. Head.

I was thinking pretty much the same at 3.30pm on Saturday Dave.