Tuesday 25 September 2018

Roland Duchatelet scores yet another own-goal - he's lethal in front of his own net.

Roland Duchatelet is at it again, firing from the hip in another deranged fit of pique. Via the club's website he has today tried to deflect the national media criticism he has rightly received for failing to honour bonuses to low paid staff who he increasingly relies on to keep the club functioning in the absence of a proper supporting management structure and no recognisable day-to-day leadership. His comments are worthy of even more critique so I include them here verbatim:

"In June 2017 Charlton Athletic decided to give staff discretionary bonuses because the club covered operational losses with high income from player sales resulting in a profit of £1.4m ((EBITDA + £6m) during the 2016/17 season. In 2017/18 the operational losses grew and the player sales were much lower. This was mainly because of the ongoing sale of the club which caused our CEO to leave resulting in delayed player sales and delay in actions being taken to make the club more cost efficient. Last season the club lost £10m (EBITDA loss £5.5m) and as a consequence the decision was taken not to grant discretionary bonuses, all contractual bonuses are being paid. The ownership can confirm that to date no legal action has been taken against the club on the issue of discretionary staff bonuses.
In the meantime the club investigated how this issue became national news in the UK and beyond, a significant blow to the reputation of the club and owner and to the ability of the owner to sell the club.
On August 20th, before the decision not to pay a discretionary bonus was communicated to the employees, the article on the Daily Mail website appeared.
After the club confirmed on August 22nd that no bonuses will be granted for last season but contractual bonuses would be paid, the owner received an unsigned letter from “the administrative staff at The Valley” – there was no mention of the employees at the training ground. This letter was received at 4.35pm and was Tweeted out by CARD at 5.53pm. Their communication made it appear as if all employees were involved, that the bonuses were an obligation and that consequently the club was failing to fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees. An employee or small group tried to use the external pressure from the media to get their discretionary bonus despite the huge reputational damage to the club. It is unclear if a majority of the employees at The Valley supported the external communication of this letter, although it was written in their name, since nobody signed this letter to the owner. Although CARD has been very keen that the club’s management should always be accurate, the requirement does not seem to apply to their own communication.
The ownership believes the fans and the EFL deserve to know what really happened as the truth has been misrepresented.
Another recent example of the relativity of “truth” for CARD is when they recently wrote they “were disgusted to hear that Roland Duchatelet, our billionaire owner, is no longer willing to pay for academy players to drink water or eat breakfast at the club’s training ground".
The academy players still have access to water at all times, now they have refillable bottles rather than plastic water bottles. The ownership continues to invest £2.2m per year in the Academy, which is considerably more than the majority of League One clubs invest."

Wow! There's a lot that drops out that, so I'll start at the top....

- discretionary bonuses (which staff maintain weren't communicated as such) weren't paid because the club made a loss due to the fact that the club was up for sale (Roland's decision) which caused his CEO to leave which caused a delay in player sales and efficiency measures. 
- she left at the end of 2017 and has still not been replaced to my knowledge (Roland's decision). He has belatedly appointed Leuven De Turck to oversee the sale of the club he does not appear to be an acting Chief Exec (Roland's decision) and has done nothing that I can see to hasten any player sales. Those who left in the Summer wouldn't have affected last year's financial performance.
Is he really saying bonuses might have been paid if the business in the January window was done days earlier, or is he implying more players may have been sold? The latter would make more sense.
- Roland seems miffed that his decision to renege on bonuses (discretionary or otherwise) was leaked to the press before he could tell staff whereas the facts are that the payments were due to have been in staff pay packets July and there had been zero communication to the effect that they would be getting diddly-squat (Roland's responsibility) and it looks suspiciously like it was the leak that forced him into having to justify his actions.
- How does Roland know that the anonymous letter claiming to come from "the administrative staff at the Valley" came from"an employee or small group" and not all the staff or the majority who weren't paid bonuses?
- Roland doesn't appear to understand why anyone would send an anonymous letter or the implied suggestion that those involved don't trust him not to be vindictive and take punitive action against them. He also seems to think that because the anonymous letter didn't mention the staff at Sparrows Lane who weren't paid bonuses either that they were somehow happier with the situation.
- The lesson Roland hasn't learnt from this is that deciding not to pay lowly paid staff relatively small bonuses and not communicating it properly is likely to have unintended and potentially disproportionate consequences. He acknowledges as much but will, presumably, make the same mistake again at the next opportunity.
- Like Joe Public and the national press, the EFL will indeed take a view - the truth may indeed have been misrepresented.
- CARD's highlighting of the penny-pinching around stopping of young players breakfasts and bottled water was simply to highlight the lunacy of the recent round of penny-wise-pound-foolish efficiencies that Duchatelet started off blaming the loss of Katrien Meire for not having started early enough (Roland's decision). He missed an opportunity to continue the line about the club's green policy and the part it played in doing away with those evil disposable plastic bottles.
- CARD have highlighted the false economies partly because they are laughable and continue to show Duchatelet up for the ass he is but, more importantly, because it demonstrates perfectly why the club cannot succeed under him and why he is failing even to be able to sell the club to a very interested buyer.
- The final point about the on going cost of the Academy is a hollow boast that, like his trumpet-blowing undersoil heating and his much-vaunted development of Sparrows Lane won't stand much scrutiny. He also fails to acknowledge once again that when he acquired the club we were a competitive Championship establishment but he is honest enough to be comparing us now to "the majority" of League One clubs.
- Roland has hardly been involved in the running of the club since he acquired us, so it's perhaps easy to see why he feel everything is always someone else's fault but he really ought to take some personal responsibility once in awhile for the absolute mess this football club is inland why he's going to take a massive financial loss when he is eventually forced to sell it.

I expect absolutely nothing from his upcoming meeting with the EFL because I suspect it's a box-ticking exercise and they have no real power over him and will be circumspect regardless of what he says or how he behaves. We might get a few sentences clarifying the line that takeover was being delayed by the EFL but even that will be worded by a lawyer.

Roland Duchatelet - who could have known what he had in store for us in January 2014? All ammunition, I guess,  for the almost unbelievable tale that the book of his disastrous ownership will tell. It will serve as the bible for mis-management in football on almost every front for generations to come and who knows what chapters remain to be written?

Sunday 23 September 2018

Welling United 2 v Chesham United 1

A good old fashioned F A Cup tie this. Chesham, struggling at the foot of the division below the Wings came to battle and they made a game of it.

Welling looked a division higher for much of the match and if anyone did percentage possession stats at this level, it would have been strongly in their favour. This despite resting a few players who might have got the job done earlier and more emphatically. However, the visitors fought hard and the defence played well with a resilient midfield that didn't give up despite having to watch Welling taking the game to them for long periods.

After about twenty-five minutes the match was stopped for no apparent reason. The lino on the Erith & Belvedere side of the pitch had spotted something no-one else in the ground had seen and alerted the referee who after a short exchange raced back across the pitch to inform the Welling management. Moments later a tracksuit hombre armed with a bucket walked around the pitch to the amusement of the supporters. By now, Alex Tokarcyzk in the visitors goal had jogged across to converse with the lino and with the pair of them laughing, it was clear the interruption was for something out-of-the-ordinary. The sight of of the bucket being used to carry scooped fox poo from the playing surface drew the obvious chant from the Wings fans - "you're shit and you know you are!"

The laughter ended shortly after as Chesham scored first against the run of play after half-an-hour. David Ijaha was caught in possession trying to play the ball out and Chesham's centre forward found the corner of the Welling net with a low shot. The pre-match team sheet which is posted inside the ground was unusually incorrect with a number of late changes, including the Chesham goal-scorer. Up until then it had been Welling doing all the pressing. Gavin McCallum was lively as was Jack Jebb, who once again got the man-of-the-match award. Big Danny Mills looked a threat but Welling were struggling to find him.

The Wings redoubled their efforts and responded strongly to going a goal down. A good passing move down the left let McCallum into the visitors box on the overlap and he ran into the near post before pulling the ball back for the arriving Jebb who couldn't miss. One-one and Welling nearly took the lead before the break, A surging run by Thierry Audel into the box from the left-hand side saw a fierce angled shot spooned away brilliantly by Tokarcyzk and it somehow cleared the rest of the goal frame. 

In the second-half and with Welling attacking the Danson Park end there were more chances as they went for the win and we saw very little of Chesham as an attacking force and they were restricted to potshots from distance. A stream of crosses, most from Nassim L'Ghoul threatened to undo Chesham and it was one of these, a curling driven ball to the back post that looked to have done it. Danny Mills climbed unchallenged and had time to plant a thumping downward header on target. It looked a goal all the way but Tokarcyzk threw a panicked shape on his line and somehow got enough behind it to keep it out. Congratulated by his team-mates, the relief was short-lived. 

With the clock running down a repeat back post delivery was met this time by the much smaller McCallum streaking into the box and his arriving pace meant there was nothing Tokarcyzk could do this time to stop the header. 

It was good to hear that Grant had found the net equally late at the Valley for a copycat scoreline. I remember writing awhile back that Grant simply wasn't prolific enough a finisher to make it at Charlton, so it's a pleasant surprise to see him tucking the goals away this season. Lee Bowyer has four wins from four as permanent manager and the Addicts are up to an unlikely-looking sixth in the table. 

Pete from Worthing messaged me last night to say he was missing the Valley and the winning football and is thinking about renewing his season ticket. Those still attending are certainly enjoying the football for a change and for that we owe Bowyer and Steve Gallen a debt of gratitude. Given the history under Duchatelet you have to wonder if our hopes will again be shortened at New Year if, riding-high, we find our side deprived of one or two of the better performing players as he continues to look to fund his losses. In the unlikely event we managed to win promotion, I wonder what price Duchatelet would place on us a Championship club?

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Wake up and smell the coffee Lee

Following his elevation to 'permanent' manager status on a 9 month contract, Lee Bowyer was quick to sing his employer's praises telling the South London Press that Roland has "backed' him whenever he has asked for a player. I think you will find Lee that Duchatelet has only given you less-expensive replacements for better players he has cashed-in on and that you started the season with only 16 professionals and have struggled to field a full bench.

Bowyer acknowledged that "because of the budget it's been tough" but Roland has been supportive and even went the extra mile after the recent harrowing protests at the Fleetwood game to call him on the Sunday and ask "are you okay?" I note Lee that he did this by phone, not in person having come over to provide you and his other staff with visible and moral support. That's the same caring boss who reneged on a rare 10% bonus payment to poorly paid staff and who has turned off lights at Valley and Sparrows Lane as well as having stopped bottled water for non first-team players. 

I am sure Bowyer is speaking as he finds and I respect him for that but I would have hoped he might have reflected more upon the treatment of his predecessor whom he worked with and perhaps done a little bit of light research to better understand the modus operandi of Roland Duchatelet with the multitude of other managers who have not been supported or been visibly out-of-their-depth. Karl Robinson always struck me as being too worried about his own position to openly criticise Duchatelet but he was royally embarrassed when he went to see Duchatelet pre-Christmas two years ago to beg for money to spend in the January sales and was sent home with his tail between his legs. For Robinson, it was always 'the next window.' 

Let's see how Bowyer fares because my money is very heavily on Roland continuing to sell whoever he can as he tries to cut his enormous losses and Bowyer having to make do and mend. He has done that admirably but the point will come where he will realise he is not going to get any help beyond that of an average League One side in his attempts to exit this division. I honestly believe Duchatelet doesn't give a toss about promotion and is perfectly happy running a League One loss instead of a Championship one.

Bowyer was also fooled into telling us that Roland has assured him he "won't sell to just anybody" because he cares so much about the club. Catch yourself on Lee, he will sell to so-called ISIS if the price is right. I think what he actually said was he "won't sell to anybody, because no-one's yet been stupid enough to offer him twice what the club's worth." 

Lee could also learn something if he reads  Duchatelet's latest rant on the club website. It's directed at the EFL who want to speak to him about the state of things at CAFC but it's a barely coherent request that the EFL look into the supporters protests and reflect on those before he is called to account. No doubt this was another of his famous tantrums when he ordered the media team to put his dictat up unedited. The last one caused his then new Comms Manager, the honourable Mel Baroni, to resign but Tom Rubbashaw is made of thicker skin and less integrity and will no doubt put it down to the experience of working with the billionaire Belgian miser-genius.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Finally, some good use - Lee Bowyer permanent

On the back of what seems like a never-ending catalogue of backward steps, penny-pinching and general lack of any ambition, Roland Duchatelet was finally forced into appointing Lee Bowyer on a 'permanent' basis today. In practice that means 9 months but it's still good news, especially when recent experience suggested the Belgian miser might have decided not to make any further commitment to Bowyer.

I am pleased for Bowyer. He has kept out of the politics and been remarkably circumspect with what he's said publicly, both towards Duchatelet and with supporters. He is the only chance we have this season of over-performing. If he had only been offered an extension on a temporary basis I suspect he would have pulled stumps and that would almost certainly seen the wheels fall off.

The news also adds a little more weight to the growing suspicion that the Aussies have either given-up or are prepared to wait it out and see if Duchatelet gets more desperate to sell. Given where we are in the season, it looks highly unlikely there will be any further realistic hope of a takeover deal concluding before January and given the impasse, that may realistically mean next Summer.

Duchatelet will commiserate five years of ownership in January and will reflect on a club halved in all measurable senses since he took over and now firmly established in League 2, a division below where he acquired us. The damage is obvious but the long-termism of it cannot yet be adequately measured and revenues can only realistically fall so much further, certainly less than they have thus far because there's not that far left to fall. The breakage of supporter bonds, family commitments and even the habit of attending is largely invisible at the moment but it may represent a significant hurdle in the future for whoever picks up the pieces. 

I find myself not only boycotting Charlton but actually increasingly enjoying watching non-league football much more than I ever imagined possible  Ironically, I continue to enjoy the match-day experience far better than EFL football. Even more Duchatelet-laden irony given that the match-day experience was his initial game-plan, given he was always clear he wasn't interested in buying his way to success. Welling United manage this very simply without naff marketing gimmicks or Eurotrash music and dancing. They know their supporters wouldn't fall for it. A good sports bar with beer at £3 a pint, plastic glasses available to take into the ground and staff and stewards who behave like grown-ups and who treat the fans with respect. I don't really know how much ambition Mark Goldberg has for the club - he doesn't over-promise, but he has made significant changes this season to management and playing personnel and the Wings are sitting in fourth place with a feel-good factor around the first-team. That's all I really need - someone who appears to be trying and who is always there to watch his team, home and away and to grin or bear it with the club's supporters.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Welling United 3 v Oxford City 2

Whilst Charlton needed a late winner at Southend today, Welling did the same here in a great game which was a fine advertisement for the competitiveness of the National League South.

After a 5-0 demolition of Concorde last week over on Canvey Island, I was hoping to see the Wings rack up a convincing home win here. However, Oxford came to make a game of it and they were in it until the death when Anthony Acheampong latched onto a clever knockdown to thump the winner past Craig King.

The match had started brightly for Welling with them attacking the Park View Road end and they might have taken the lead after man-of-the-match Brendan Kiernan saw a header deflected off a defender and onto the post. Two minutes later Oxford took the lead through Kabongo Tshimanga who nipped in to capitalise on a lack of concentration in the Welling defence. 

Welling were undeterred and came looking for the equaliser. Kieran was sparking everything down the left with close support from Jack Jebb and there was some really good football at times as Goldberg and Mills sought to get a goal-scoring opportunity. Gavin McCallum, another heavily left-footed winger, playing on the right, was also busy re-supplying the front two but it was Kieran who levelled five minutes before half-time. Jebb played his way down the left hand side of the Oxford box and with players blocking his progress, we suddenly heard a cry of "jebby' from Kieran who arrived at the edge of the box. Jebb picked him out and Kieran struck first time. His shot was low and slow but it advanced through a host of players momentarily stationary in the box and it crept into the far corner before King could get across to it. Kieran has managed to replace Joe Healy who was last season's stand-out player and he's done it within a month of the season starting. 

After the break, Oxford responded best and for twenty minutes they took the game to Welling drawing two smart blocking saves from Dan Wilks. Welling came back after that and had a sustained spell of pressure before David Ijaha finally made the breakthrough with a glancing header from short range after a dash across the box to meet what I think was a McCallum cross.

I thought that might be it but Oxford were then awarded a penalty for a challenge that was clearly two yards outside the box. The referee ran immediately towards the tackle with his arm pointed and then, inexplicably, turned and awarded a pen. Justice was done as Patterson skied his effort off the bar and out into the road. Oxford weren't done though and on 82 minutes they equalised after a quick counter attack found Patterson with space to divert a cross in at Wilks' near post. 

With the clock counting down, it was Welling's turn for the last laugh as Acheampong gleefully smacked in the winner.

Welling up to fourth and there looks like a lot more to come from this new side.