Sunday, 31 July 2016

Charlton ill prepared for League One struggle

The final pre-season friendly yesterday saw struggling Dutch second division RKC Waalwijk better us on penalties after a 1-1 draw. In front of a paltry 1600 fans, 200 of them visitors, another make-shift Charlton eleven were out-passed for much of the match, and again offered very little going forward by all accounts. The rumour doing the rounds was that Slade hadn't started with his strongest eleven deliberately in order to emphasise the squad short-comings. I don't generally buy conspiracy theories and suspect it's just a simple case of squad short-comings. The other rumour was a club official saying Katrien has told Slade we don't need anymore players. I don't believe she has necessarily said that but am pretty sure she will be questioning Slade very hard on everyone he asks for.

In the post-match press conference, Russell Slade put a brave face on things and again said we are looking for another five players. There was a subtle change in the message from last week's position after the Orient match, in that he now says we hope to bring them in before the end of August, whereas last week it was before the season kicks-off on Saturday. He's maybe reflecting on Meire's reluctance and the need for a few bad results to create some additional leverage for his position.

However you look at it, it's been a very poor pre-season and we look likely to start slowly. The player comings and goings tell us one thing that's undisputable - there is clearly no ambition for promotion. The current squad simply lacks quality and is thin. Injuries will take a toll and results will suffer. Even assuming we sign five new players (my money is five means maybe three) they would need to come from deeper waters than we have been fishing in.

I am still amazed that so many of our supporters are still puzzled by what Roland's Grand Plan is and what is motivating him. The proof of it has been very evident for 12-18 months. His original driver was a gap in the market for a network of clubs to exploit FFP - he told us this at the start. Having seen that crash spectacularly, he is in damage limitation mode because he never got in to football to speculate to accumulate. I really don't believe making even more money motivates him, which is why he has never seen Charlton as a property development strategy. It was the idea of beating the market and looking like a visionary or a public genius that made him acquire two large clubs and three small ones in addition to the small one he already owned.

The facts are that he's sold his biggest club and would have sold the second biggest if he could have recovered anything close to his purchase price. He couldn't do that because of the mess Charlton were in so has decided to fight on until the position might look more favourable.

Whilst he hopes for a more competitive season that might offer some stability and the promise of a relatively afforable promotion push (which would be the ideal time to sell up), the tactical plan is simply to slash the operating costs of the club and recoup as much money as possible so that any player transfer windfalls are proportionately bigger than the ongoing operating loss.

This is why relegation wasn't an unacceptable outcome for him. It's also why it wouldn't be the end of the world for him again this season, although it's not what he would want, obviously. It certainly won't prioritise any further heavy spending to try to avoid it. He has already seen his operating costs cut significantly on all fronts. The wage bill has been slashed as 20 players have been offloaded and together with Meire and Cahones, they are gradually closing the ticket office operation (ongoing reduction in opening hours/days and the clumsy £2.50 handling charge and £3 matchday purchase penalty) and looking to effectively scrap matchday programmes (dramatic decline in sales justifying reduction in pages). We have rented club space to third parties and explored planning options to sell space at the ground for housing eg Club Shop and South Stand. A consequence of declining gates and ongoing poor commercial revenues will see them justify closure of upper tiers and, ideally, a whole stand. The marketing of the cheap season tickets in the North Lower will make this idea very evident from the Northampton game onwards. I can see partial ground closure appealing to Meire in a perverse way of blaming fans for giving up on her pathetically run club.

Meire has recouped £5m in transfer fees pre-season and still has options to sell Teixera and Lookman, although the pressure is off having sold who we have and I suspect they may hold Lookman for another season in the hope of a much larger fee next time around. Tex's wages and personal ambitions may well see him sold before he has to travel to Bury and Russell Slade sounded caught out when answering the question yesterday.

So, I am afraid it's more of the same, poor football, more defeats than wins in front of ever smaller gates and an increasingly cynical Chief Exec whose competency to run a football club improves with every relegation. In the meantime, serious systemic damage is being inflicted on the club's reputation and it's long-term fanbase.

We are now on a real par with Millwall and Gillingham although momentum is against us. A further relegation is a real threat this season and it would see the final denouement. I don't think I can bring myself to witness it - I will certainly see less of it this season than at any other time in 40 years.

I started this blog 9 years ago in the hope of reporting on a return to the Premier League and the good times. One season apart it's been an increasingly downward spiral and the bottom looks closer now than the top. We look more likely now to emulate Luton or Portsmouth than Palace or Burnley. Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire have a lot to answer for.


Spic said...

This is an excellent read. Brilliantly thought out. I watched the post match interview with Russell Slade, yesterday. My instant feeling was one of doom.

Anonymous said...

Well written!
It’s another case of the regime not learning the lessons of previous seasons, that or not caring.
I think Russell Slade had better wake up and smell the coffee! He is going to have to work with an under-strength squad that will again be over reliant on academy players, who despite their best efforts will be short of the quality and strength required in this league.
As demonstrated by Iceland in the European Championships, it takes time for a team the gel together, by the time we get another couple of players in and settled (even if they did give Slade the money, there’s no way are we going to get five new quality players to join a club like ours this late in the season) we will be eight or nine games into the seasons and struggling.
At this rate relegation is a distinct possibility.
Given these circumstances how can certain Charlton supporters even think of calling off or scaling down the protests against these people who bit by bit are destroying our club.
Time to re-man (and woman) the barricades me thinks!

Wyn Grant said...

An excellent post that sums up our desperate situation very well.

Blucher said...

Spot on - the squad is anaemic and desperately short on numbers. I am completely unconvinced about the regime's commitment to bringing in the quality we need and if Lookman goes in this window, we could well be drawn into a relegation fight. The focus of Duchatelet and Meire is to try and tread water on the field and drastically reduce the cost base; as ever, there is zero football ambition.

Geoff said...


That must have hurt a bit, speaking as one of those who originally thought in what now proves to be his naivety, "Give this lot a chance". The thinking was why would they want to run down a club and lower its sale value. Maybe RD did not want to do that and it's simply a case of believing that the Nightmeire could not come true. It has. My only dissent from your analysis would be that of the named clubs we are actually in a worse state, eg David Forde, a competent international has just gone to Pompey. We are the Blackpool of the South.

And I take no joy at all from saying that like you, I shall see less Charlton football than in previous years, except in my case it's 64 years.

Chicago Addick said...

Well my thoughts are the same as yours (as you know) but that is superbly and comprehensively put. Sad and depressing times mate.

Dave said...

Whoops! Monday morning and Ceballos gone to mighty St. Truiden. Even in our pitiful circumstances he's no great loss. To think, he once earned the number 39 shirt at Spurs.

David Walker said...

I've got to admit I was willing to give him a chance and see if he has changed strategy but unless something miraculous happens between now and Saturday it would appear that no changes are occurring.
I should have known nothing was going to change when he didn't take the opportunity to move Katrien Meire on but I was fooled as many football fans are into thinking this year might be a good 'un.

It's not too late of course and Duchatelet might pull off an amazing U-turn but I can't see it happening and my patience has run out.

He obviously hasn't any interest in trying to make our club succeed so why doesn't he just sell up?

I will not be going to The Valley until substantial changes have been made.

Duchatelet, I hate you and your bitch!

Dave said...

Tuesday 2nd August - they have finally managed to get Keeper Declan Rudd in from Norwich on a season's loan. Jason Pearce may be next, which would allow Meire to flog Texeira. Still keeping a pitifully small squad. Injuries could determine our season.