Wednesday 27 March 2019

Bowyer, Jackson and key players still waiting on new contracts

Despite 'news' from Charlton three weeks ago that Roland Duchatelet was now ready to open talks with Bowyer and Jackson on extending their contracts that expire in 12 weeks time, there has been no contact. We have also seen a few players deals renewed but the bulk remain out-of-contract and the message I would get from this if I were one of them is that I need to be securing my future elsewhere.

The Bowyer and Jackson situation is a disgrace and it's hard to fathom why it hasn't been addressed long ago. It's yet another potential own-goal by Duchatelet and Bowyer isn't someone I would risk messing about. He knows more about the game, agents and contract negotiations than Duchatelet and his minuscule management team put together. The Standard raised the issue yesterday with the risk that former-club Leeds United might see Bowyer as a replacement for Bielsa. Perhaps Duchatelet is waiting on a play-off outcome and hoping we either don't make it or lose out in order to strengthen his negotiation hand? Again, that would be a foolish strategy with Bowyer having done brilliantly to even get this far with the unbalanced squad he was given the long injury list and losing his joint top scorer in January with no replacement.

The club should also be about to announce season ticket pricing for 2019-2020 and it would be a perfect opportunity to announce that Bowyer and Jackson's services have been secured. Still time for that but I have long since given up on linking 'sensible' or 'logic with Roland Duchatelet. In the meantime I hope season ticket holders are preparing to delay purchasing until this situation has been sorted out and we have an idea who or what we will be supporting next season.

Still no news on the latest takeover rumours but it looks like Duchatelet is dragging his feet again NDA and price. It's beginning to look a lot like news of him wanting to sell the club was a ruse to get protestors off his back and that the effort being put into selling the club is, er, as light as that looking to re-contract key personnel. When will it ever end

Finally, sorry to see good-guy Chris Powell sacked at Southend. He's had no luck with injuries and the club have suddenly found themselves in hot relegation water which has forced the owner's hand. Not looking good for Chris as he desperately needs another bit of success to boost his flagging managerial career. His next job needs to less riskier than Southend manager.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Charlton Athletic 2 v Portsmouth 1

A rare 90 minutes of viewing for me yesterday and I have to say I was impressed. I was fully expecting a live-TV loss to a play-off contender but it never came close. Portsmouth looked second-best all afternoon and didn't strike me as a fourth placed side. 

I was surprised just how comfortable we looked on the ball across the side and how confident we looked going forward in spite of our striking shortcomings. Joe Aribo's excellent finish to open the scoring was deserved and we might have had a second when Josh Cullen prodded home a loose ball only for Igor Vetokele to block it a yard out with his back with keeper stranded. Vetokele was the only real disappointment for me. He looked well off the pace and his touch and positioning were poor. Taylor said post-match that Igor was a good player and was coming back to full fitness but you have to ask why Josh Parker didn't get a run in the circumstances.

The back four were outstanding, especially Purrington, Bauer and Sarr. Given the control our diamond midfield had, Pompey were limited to raiding and they were fortunate to get an equaliser before half-time when the angry Curtis got up highest at the back post to power home a corner. Curtis was the only real Pompey player to show until Brett Pitman's late cameo. He was all snarls and fists for some reason - perhaps trying too hard to endear himself to the visiting fans. I did laugh at the images of him beating the turf with his fist at the end - it wasn't as if he had missed a golden opportunity or anything to square the match.

Charlton's second goal was a bit scrappy but Cullen (I think) did well to tee Taylor up five yards out for finish when he might have gone for goal himself. A third wouldn't have flattered us but we were left whistling for the finish after Pitman came on and stirred Pompey with his urgency and drive. If he had started the game they may have looked completely different. 

With this around us all squandering chances again, we sit eight points clear in fifth and it's beginning to look like we will hang on for a play-off finish despite our striking shortcomings. Portsmouth and Sunderland look like our likely play-off opposition, although Portsmouth won't fancy us after our double over them. the significance of another Sunderland Wembley showdown won't be lost on anyone, especially them.

I am also left feeling a renewed sense of positivity about Lee Bowyer and the belief in this team. I have said all along that Roland has left us short of the play-offs and his deliberate choice not to allow Bowyer another loan striker in the January window would come back to haunt us. However, there is clearly a strong backs-to-the-wall mentality at play here and confirmation from Roland that the Championship is a "financial graveyard' given the higher operating costs and the investment needed to compete suddenly gives promotion an added incentive. 

Duchatelet doesn't want promotion. He's hardly likely to get much more money for the club given the increased running costs that go with it but it might give him the kick-uo-the-arse that he badly needs to get real and get a deal done so he can escape increasing his monthly losses in the Championship. There's a form of revenge here for Bowyer and it would be great if he could take it and be pivotal in finally getting shot of Duchatelet. 

Thursday 7 March 2019

Duchatelet - time to put up or shut up

News today from the London Standard that Roland Duchatelet has been made a new offer of £30m for the club, lock, stock and barrel. The Standard describes the offer as coming from a former banker who has experience of top level football. 

Whilst we await to find out who is behind this (Keith Harris fronting again?), the good news is that this is out in the open and Duchatelet and De Turck will find it harder not to be more transparent on this bid. It also puts a price out there which will begin to determine just how serious Duchatelet is about moving on.

It was widely rumoured that a £35m bid was made in the last couple of months but that prior to a key meeting to progress discussions, De Turck suddenly announced that Roland wanted £72m for the club! Just how that figure came up when presumably £35m was in the ballpark is hard to comprehend but who knows with Duchatelet. It could be that the offer was conditional on leasing the ground and Sparrows Lane which didn't suit Duchatelet but it's not been explained to date and De Turck has actually denied there was any bid. I understand that the party involved simply walked away and are now engaged in buying another club. Duchatelet has said he will sell the loss-making football club for a pound but that he wants a tidy sum for the land and assets. On that basis, £30m begins to look like a serious offer, so we need to see where this gets to. There is also the question of the repayable £7m of Directors loans and it's unclear at this time whether they are in or out - I assume out and that this would be Duchatelet's debt to cover. 

I can't help feeling Duchatelet will have another hissy fit in the coming days when he again realises that selling the club at a market price will crystallise his operating losses on the club and he will be reminded what a whopping debt he will be left to settle after he moves on. 

I'm not expecting this deal to go through as is, but finally we have a public offer which Duchatelet is going to struggle not to explain and account for in more detail when the time comes. This begins to feel like the beginning of the end, although we have said that many times before.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

No investment, no season ticket money

Good to see a CARD statement urging Charlton Athletic supporters to consider delaying any decision to renew season tickets until we get some form of commitment from Roland Duchatelet to the future of the club.

Duchatelet must be having a laugh if he thinks he can cut all investment and commitment to the playing side of the club and still expect supporters to pay in advance for season tickets. As things stand we still have the majority of the squad out-of-contract at the end of the season as well as Bowyer and Jackson. The uncertainty that this causes will inevitably lead to us losing a number of our better players who will not be prepared to simply wait until the last minute in the hope of a new offer. What sort of a message does it send to the players? The owner doesn't care and isn't prepared to extend their employment? 

The problem is probably exacerbated by the fact that the club is being run by a skeleton staff and without a Chief Executive or Finance Director, you have to ask who is taking responsibility for getting these done or acknowledging the risk being taken? 

The most likely scenario is that it's a deliberate ploy by Duchatelet to cut his close season running costs and allow him to once again trim his wage bill even if that is at the expense of the current side and the future competitiveness of the team. After all, he doesn't care a jot about the football and he made it clear in his recent rant that he has zero ambition for promotion given the cost of competing in the Championship. 

There is also an argument that if he sells the club in the close season it could suit new owners to be free of a large number of contractual responsibilities but let's face it, there looks like no sign of any imminent sale given the ridiculously inflated sale price being bandied around and any ambitious purchaser would need to fund a competitive squad, the basis of which we currently have. 

My take on the current situation is that we look very likely to start next season with a much weaker squad of players under Duchatelet than we have now and potentially new management. That would be a huge risk and we could very easily find ourselves once again battling to avoid a disastrous historically-low relegation to League 2. Who would want to have committed in advance to a whole season of that?