Friday 30 December 2022

Oxford United 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

"Not gonna bother summarising beyond this: We are shite. Pathetic first half. Baffling changes to the starting eleven by the new manager, whatshisname, who praised the depth and quality of his squad in his pre-match interview. Hoof ball is in. Organised defending is not on the menu. Second half was a bit better, after a few changes, including Leaburn replacing Stockley. Wasn’t enough." - Lookout's post-match summary on Charlton Life.

Personally I am not blaming whatisname. Holden is only two matches in and we all already know that this squad of players isn't good enough. Individually, there is enough talent to hack it in this division but what we are seeing week-in, week-out, whatever eleven gets picked is repeated basic mistakes, a lack of collective effort, zero leadership on the field and there are several per game who are simply unprofessional (will we see Ryan Inniss called up to explain some of his reckless behaviour once again towards the end of the match?). When you get paid to play football, the margins are small and our margins are far too large. Two points from the last 24 and our trajectory is bottom four.

Holden tried to go with youth last night, partly foisted on him by circumstances but he went all guns misfiring with Ness, Henry, Chin and Kanu thrown in alongside Tyrrell Thomas who was selected for a guest appearance. Within 25 minutes we were two-down and all over the shop. Lesson learnt but the permutations from here are familiar and haven't been working.

What we need is a clearout, some much better players and a few leaders to grab this team by the scruff of their necks and put in some battling performances to grind out some results. The trouble is, we are mid-season, most players are contracted and our options will be limited. Some will accept loan moves and others will be happy to leave the sinking ship if they get offers elsewhere. There will be very little money, if any, unless we raise it via player sales. Selling Miles Leaburn (currently the only asset that might bring in a £1m+) would leave us even further depleted. As I have said, it looks very much like Forster-Caskey is on his way and if we can offload anyone else, I expect us to do it to free up wages for changes. 

As recently as 24th December I wrote about the "hope at Christmas." It was clear that Sandgaard had finally thrown the towel in. The appointments of Scott, Rodwell, Warrick and Holden were clearly not his. The linkage supporters quickly discovered between Warrick and Methven rubber-stamped that and explained, if anyone was in any doubt, the rationale for his recent appearances at home games. Methven was there again last night - he is an Oxford fan but I am sure he was revelling in his soon to be announced new position. 

Yesterday's revelations from Rick Everitt that Methven has signed an exclusivity deal on behalf of his would-be backers for due diligence and that there was evidence to support a business plan by the American backers that was limited, under-funded and therefore likely to be very short-term was a distress signal.

Fans will believe what they want to, but I am certain that Charlie Methven has accepted the role of would-be CEO and the face of what will be largely an anonymous America investment house, who will leave the running of the club to him and his appointed cronies. He has already registered a shell company, 'SE7 Partners,' with Ed Warrick, the 'Finance Director' supposedly appointed by Sandgaard.

That 'due diligence' will involve seeking EFL approval - unlikely to be withheld from an overseas investment company with no previous footballing history and appointees who all have bona fide football experience in the UK, however, unconvincing much of that may be. It will also give them time to put their remaining funding in place to pay Sandgaard off and be able to demonstrate to the EFL that they have the minimum operating cashflow.

The figures being bandied about in the US say they are seeking to raise £11m (which would include operating cashflow needed to convince the EFL, in addition to Sandgaard's pay-off).

If this proves to be the case and they manage to close the deal out, it is really hard to see that this will be anything other than a short-term investment designed to slash the club's cost-base and sell any assets to radically improve the numbers, even at the cost of the size of the club or what happens on the football pitch. Investment houses have zero interest in football, communities or people. They are driven by one thing - the bottom line. There is no emotion, no empathy, just numbers driven decisions. 

It has to be short term because they simply won't have the money to run the club for more than a year and even then that will require selling whoever they can to increase their ability to manoeuvre. The cost-cutting would also need to be on a scale we haven't yet seen. It would involve radical changes to the way the club runs and what happens on matchdays. Supporters will react badly to the scale of changes they would need to implement but it will be sold to us as medicine we need to take to turn the club around. And then they will be gone if they can find another buying willing to pay them a premium for reducing the clubs losses and turning us into a League One minnow. Assuming of course they steady the ship and avoid the relegation we are currently heading for. Be clear too, that won't phase them unduly either. They aren't Charlton fans. None of them. Relegation would only allow them to reduce costs even further, more quickly. They would be able to blame Sandgaard (not unfairly) and it would help them justify their other actions. 

It may not come to pass, of course, but the evidence is all there that it will - Sandgaard has sanctioned the short-term contracts of the new management team he has never wanted and Methven is poised. My cynical guess is that they can also wait most of January out before declaring their hand and blaming timescales for a lack of any incremental (let alone ambitious) January expenditure. So, expect a shuffling of the cards once again and more players without the demonstrable track record of offering any significant footballing improvement.

I will be the first to rejoice if Methven reveals a big backer who fronts up publicly with ambition, or indeed, if his group are trumped at the end, but I can't see it. If someone with deep pockets was ready, they might baulk at the pay-off to the loser Sandgaard but it wouldn't be a deal breaker if they had grander plans to bring the Valley and Sparrows Lane back into the fold and really invest in the football club on a mid to long term basis.

Just how fucking depressing is it being a Charlton Athletic fan?

Thursday 29 December 2022

Oxford away - a home game for our would-be new Board

At home games at the moment there is much interest in who is in the Directors Box. Charlton fans are people-spotting and putting two and two together with regard to the impending takeover of the club.

Well, it should be equally, if not more interesting this evening at Oxford United. Some of those representing Charlton won't know which scarve to wear. Charlie Methven will be looking forward to seeing his team play his soon-to-be new club. 

New Technical Director, and chum of Methven, Andy Scott, played for Oxford for three years, so he will be another with divided loyalties I would imagine. 

Ed Warrick, Property Negotiator, our new Finance Director will presumably be there with his partner Methven in their new SE7 Properties venture as well.

And finally, Mystic Meg brings a new name, that of Simon Lenagan. She tells me he is also floating around the would-be new Charlton Athletic board. Lenagan is an interesting character who has fingers in many pies. His Twitter bio says "Actor, Writer, Producer, Sport, Software & Education." His father, Ian, is a former owner of Oxford United, a role he only gave up to become EFL Chairman. Simon has served as a Director of Oxford United previously.

I checked his Twitter feed (@SimonLenagan) and he has two recent additions who have yet to follow him back - Charlton Athletic Football Club and Dean Holden.

Monday 26 December 2022

Charlton Athletic 1 v Peterborough United 1

A thoroughly frustrating Boxing Day. We should have take three points but were equally fortunate at the finish not to lose. Latest manager, Dean Holden, will have learnt a lot.

He started with the bold selection of Kanu and Leaburn upfront and retained Ness in a five man defence with Clare and Sessegnon running the wings. Fraser, Dobson and Payne were in central midfield.

It was an inauspicious start as Posh ran the first-half. With the ball spending so much time in our half, Woolwich Pigeon and the Flock took up residence in the Peterborough half, feeding on an abundance of grass seed. They were so at home, that a rare Charlton foray resulted in one of their number being trodden on and I had to watch him flapping and falling about into the second-half as he appeared to be unable to fly. All we had to talk about in the opening forty-five was an early Scott Fraser free-kick which he put narrowly wide. The visitors should have opened the scoring on 35 minutes when they were in clear on goal but Ashley Maynard-Brewer made himself big and blocked the shot. The follow-up fell kindly for them, central to goal, but we managed to get bodies in the way of that effort too. 

We were really struggling to hold the ball up front. Kanu and Leaburn looked like the boys they are up against the seasoned pros they were. Their first touches were too heavy or their passes wayward as we faltered. At the break I would have advocated a change but with only Stockley to choose from, I was content to let them continue on their learning curve.

In yet another, game of two-halves, we came out fired-up and moved twenty yards up the pitch. Each attack was being supported by runners and the game turned. On 48 minutes a ball up to Kanu was superbly controlled as he turned and charged onto his own touch down our left-hand side. As he ran on, he crossed first time. The ball looked too high for Miles Leaburn as he raced in with his marker and his leap looked like it would be just too short but he stretched and his glancing touch was just enough to send the ball whistling past Blackmore and into the net. A real chip off the old block. It was a thing of beauty to witness and the resounding hope of Christmas 2022.

After that we really should have killed the game. Four minutes later we broke from a Peterborough corner and the ball out freed Clare and Payne as they raced clear of the Posh back-markers. Clare ran forty yards straight at goal and had only Blackmore to beat. His low shot skidded past the keeper but agonisingly rebounded off the inside of the far post. 

Leaburn then rode three challenges to emerge in the box with ball still at his feet but his shot was smothered by Blackmore. At this point my five team Acca was on but before I could look at cashing out, Peterborough equalised. A corner to the back post wasn't dealt with and top scorer Clarke-Harris got the touch to beat Maynard-Brewer from close range. After that the substitutions began and the game slowed although the visitors might have snatched it when the impressive Poku rounded our back line and cut in to drive a shot off the bear with Maynard-Brewer beaten. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi missed another sitter, screwing the ball wide when he just had to push it past the keeper. When the final whistle blew the crowd filed out in silence.

We have to hope that our January transfer business is significantly better than we would have got with Sandgaard funding it. We simply have to get at least one goalscorer in. We are down to bare bones and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Leaburn left a la Mason Burstow last January. Andy Scott has said there will be no fire-sale but that only implies we will look for reasonable prices for our players. It's too much to expect Leaburn and Kanu to carry the scoring burden for the rest of the season. Stockley looked knackered ten minutes after coming on and made no contribution to the game once again. 

I also think we need a midfield general. Dobson is great mopping up and driving us on but he is poorly supported by anyone else. Payne was kept on a short lease today and Fraser, whilst tidy on the ball, lacks pace and is closed down quickly. Sessegnon had another decent game to add to his tally but he isn't left-sided and is more of a full-back than wing-back. Clare was better today and more attacking than of late but he has to learn to be more direct and to beat the keeper. 

Innis and Lavell look better with three at the back but Inniss continues to make huge mistakes and got away with another two today.

I also think it's time to say goodbye to Rak-Sakyi. I think he has lost a bit of confidence and is far from the prospect we saw earlier this season. Not sure the Championship is a good move for him but I won't be unhappy to see him go to Millwall as rumoured. 

Oxford on Thursday evening looks like mission impossible and I don't fancy our chances at Portsmouth either. Dean Holden is going to earn his money in the next fortnight. 

Saturday 24 December 2022

Hope at Christmas

Hope is the eternal message of Christmas and for once there may be some for desperate Charlton fans.

Just a week ago we gift-wrapped three league points for a very ordinary looking Bristol Rovers side and readied ourselves for a potentially humiliating 4th Round League match again Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion. But before we took to the field against the Albion, we had a rash of club announcements and supporter discoveries which gave us an inkling of hope. The appointment of a permanent manager, a Technical Director to oversee January transfer business, a would-be Finance Director and a Chief Operating Officer spelt a big change. Though announced by Sandgaard as his work, it quickly became clear that it was anything but.

'Break-Even' Sandgaard was not splashing the cash, but someone else had taken the risk of doing so ahead of an announcement that they have successfully completed a takeover from Sandgaard. News that the initial contract of Andy Scott, the respected Technical Director, was only for six weeks was explained by Scott as a window in which he could complete the transfer business that is being planned. He also alluded to an extension of that deal, which suggests the six week contract is merely an expedient to ensure the takeover goes ahead and we are not left with stranded resources Sandgaard can't afford in the event something goes wrong.

The logical assumption at this point, is that whomever is behind the takeover, they envisage it being completed early in January. They won't want to be spending money on bringing in players if they don't have effective control of the club. They could be waiting on EFL approval but my guess is that they are still thrashing out the finer details with Sandgaard and will be confident that they and their deal will pass muster with the dullards at the EFL. In short, we should know fairly quickly and maybe before thousands of Charlton supporters head north to Manchester in hope of causing a quarter-final League Cup upset.

If you want any further reassurance, Thomas Sandgaard flew in on Monday for business but didn't even stay for the biggest game of his tenure at home to Brighton on Tuesday. He has given up and is effectively gone! Hip-hip hooray!

I won't dwell on who might be in the frame to replace Tommy-Boy because I suspect there is as much chance of it being someone we haven't yet heard of as it being one of the rumoured buyers. It will only matter when we know who it is, what we hear what they have to tell us and just how ambitious they are in January.

In the meantime, unexpected Cup Fever is gripping the fan-base after the brilliant victory over Brighton. People are planning their travel, booking hotels and hoping against all hope that we could spring another upset.

I have booked a hotel for a couple of nights (pretty sure the game will go ahead on Tuesday 10th January) and plan on being there for the biggest game in ages. The fact that Sky TV have somehow decided on not showing the game tells you an awful lot about just how poorly our club is thought of at the moment and just how pathetic Sky TV are. They obviously think the game will be over in ten minutes as a contest so have plumped for Newcastle v Leicester and Southampton v Man City. Our initial task at Old Trafford is clear. I also hope City go two-up at Southampton in record time.

In between times, we face a Peterborough side that has lost five in-a-row on Monday in Dean Holden's first game - we are going to win that aren't we?

We then go to Oxford on Friday in a fixture I am far less confident about but who knows what a win over Peterborough and an upcoming Old Trafford visit might do for morale? In any event, I am much more hopeful now than the past year or so - I have even bought a ticket for Peterborough.

Merry Christmas to everyone who still visits this site to share their troubles with me! Here's hoping we are smiling heading into New Year and that our collective fortunes may finally be turning.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Charlton Athletic 0 v Brighton & Hove Albion 0 (CAFC win on pens)

Peter Varney called for Charlton supporters to make the effort tonight, in spite of the recent lousy performances because he felt we needed to show what this club was capable of to prospective buyers. The last couple of days may not have panned out the way Varney had hoped but tonight both the team and it's supporters did the club proud in knocking Premier League Brighton out of the League Cup. 

It was a battling performance from start to finish with Antony Hayes' side playing a deep 5-4-1 formation and throwing everything in the way of Brighton's 77% possession. We defended like demons personified by the lung-busting efforts of George Dobson. In the first-half we even managed a couple of decent attacks of own which reminded the visitors that they couldn't throw everyone forward. 

Lavelle and Inniss atoned for Saturday's humiliation at the heart of the defence where they were joined by Lucas Ness. The additional man narrowed the gaps and with Sessegnon and Chin working overtime in the full-back berths we held firm.

After the break and with Brighton kicking towards their own fans, we absorbed even more pressure and struggled to break out. Leaburn, who started as the lone striker was subbed after 63 minutes for Chuks Aneke but poor old Chuks broke down after only five minutes with what looked like another hamstring injury. I suspect we won't see much more of him in a Charlton shirt after this. That forced Jayden Stockley on but he couldn't make much headway up front on his own either.

Maynard-Brewer was excellent in goal and made several fine saves to keep us in it but we were never exposed badly at the back and we made it fairly comfortably through seven minutes of added time to earn penalties. 

The penalties were all over the place with the first three all hitting the woodwork and the lead swinging about four times. Solly March could have won it for Brighton with their fifth but he skied it. Caicedo missed their seventh which left Lavelle to apply the coup de grace. 

It was a match that will live long in the memory and it gives us something to look forward to after a dire couple of months. We are now through to the last eight where we join Leicester, Newcastle, Southampton, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Man United and either Man City or Liverpool, who face each other tomorrow night. The quarter-final draw will follow the City v Liverpool match tomorrow evening.

As the last EFL side left in the competition, we will face Premier League opposition in the next round. I hope it's at home again because it would be good to see the Valley rocking again. We should also be live on TV as the prospective giant-killers. 

Sandgaard exit underway

Glad I am a man of leisure or I wouldn't have been able to keep abreast of yesterday's drama. There was so much to take in and a hell of a lot of noise and conjecture around it. It looks like there is some way to go yet before we can really take a view on what's happening but it seems fairly clear that the Thomas Sandgaard era is coming to a long expected conclusion - two and bit years of failure.

For what it's worth, here's how I see it;

1) Sandgaard's announcement of four high level appointees through the club's website was in direct contrast to everything we have seen from him since the outset. He has run the senior team on a skeleton staff including his partner and son in addition to short-lived appointees like Roddy, Mumford and Jokat. He even told the FF last week that he had been scouring the planet for a year looking for a couple of senior positions with two recruitment agencies and couldn't find a CEO. A week later and four appointees are named. Unbelievable. So much so that it's only realistic to see this as appointments being announced on behalf of someone else. It doesn't fit 'break-even' either.

2) The appointees - Dean Holden a rumoured permanent manager was announced - so much for this "taking weeks rather than days" - Hayes got two games. Holden's club interview yesterday gave away that he has been negotiating this position for some time, suggesting longer than when Garner was sacked. 

Andy Scott has been appointed Technical Director - a role that sits uncomfortably alongside Steve Gallen and that of Martin Sandgaard, given Scott's previous roles at Notts Forest. Rick Everitt reporting that Scott's contract may be only for six weeks - so perhaps he is advising on January transfer activity at least initially?

Jim Rodwell in as COO. This was Tony Keohane's title, so we can live in hope although Rodwell's previous career is chequered to say the least and Sunderland fans don't speak well of him. Still much better than we do of Keohane.

Finally Ed Warwick nominally as FD to replace Emma Parker who has a bigger job at Palace to go to.

3) Next up was the news I suspect Sandgaard and all the other involved would rather we didn't know just yet. That a shell company was set-up on Friday with Companies House in the name of SE7 Partners. It has two Directors named currently - Ed Warrick, the nominal FD, and Charlie Methven, the controversial and unpopular ex-public Tory schoolboy and former Sunderland CEO who did a fine imitation of of the clueless David Brent in Netflix's brilliant Sunderland til I Die series. 

Perhaps the naming of the shell company wasn't intended to be a secret for long, given the highly anonymous name, but whatever, the cat would appear to be out of the bag and that long vacant CEO role would appear to have a name pencilled in.

4) So what about the Valley and Sparrows Lane? This depends on two factors - Duchatelet's willingness to sell at a fair price and someone with the money to acquire it. I don't see any compelling reason for RD to sell - it's just an investment for him and one that he can sit out and wait as land prices rise or for someone willing to pay over the odds. However, there has been talk for awhile that it was back on the table so I guess much will depend on whether new owners have the funds and see it as a necessary purchase to reunite the club and have full control. 

5)  So who will the owners be? That's the 64m dollar question. Mohamed Mansour has spoken via the press in the last week (Telegraph and Guardian) about his continuing interest in acquiring a UK football club - the Eqyptian business lives in London "and loves it.". He was formerly a bidder for Chelsea and currently owns a Danish side riding high in their top league. He certainly has the funds - worth £2bn. To give Mansour more credit, Sandgaard has been adamant there is no deal with Mansour, in just the same way he told us that Charlie Methven wasn't involved in any way with what's happening at the Valley despite attending the last few home games.

It begins to look like Peter Varney's interest has been out-manouevred, although Sandgaard has always been able to sell to whomever he wants to, so there was no particular drive to do it before this evening's Brighton cup-tie but no doubt Sandgaard will be enjoying Peter's embarrassment if his interest now comes to nothing as per last time. Perhaps there was never anything more concrete about Varney's interest than trying to convince a prospective buyer to weigh in?

A Daily Mail online article late yesterday suggested Methven was being backed by a consortium of American and Qatari businessmen. Not sure what to make of that but it is the Daily Mail, so hardly a ringing endorsement and I wonder why it would take both American and Qataris? Mixed ownership is never ideal and might suggest a lack of funds if it needs two of them. Maybe one to run the club and another focusing on the assets? Probably a step too far - Mansour looks a clearer bet and Charlie Methven has been name-dropping him on recent visits to the Valley.

6) So what next? First we have to get this game out of the way tonight. I expect a far larger Charlton crowd to make their feelings known about Sandgaard. Hopefully that will echo around the stands and end any lingering doubt that he might cling on for a minor face-saving stake and potential interference.

I suspect things will move fairly quickly from here given the apparent rush to make appointments yesterday and the fact that SE7 Partners is going to need explaining sooner rather than later.

Given that this is us, it's worth restating that SE7 Partners is nothing more than a registration with Companies House at the moment. It could simply be a vehicle to pay Warrick and possibly Methven if announced in a role or perhaps even as a consultant aiding a purchase. However, it does look like more than that and both will be under pressure to explain.

I expect Methven to be appointed as CEO on announcement of new ownership before Christmas with all the hope and reassurances that they can give us about their long term plans acquire the assets, to get to the Premier League within five years and possibly Europe. Hopefully they won't tell us 'football is easy.'

Sunday 18 December 2022

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bristol Rovers 2

First, credit to all those who got this game on against the odds. The decision to have another pitch inspection at 12.30pm following the 10am one was diabolical. I don't know the F A process here but there is zero consideration for supporters when they can't make a call at 10am. If the referee had postponed the match at 12.30, the best part of a thousand visiting fans would have had their day ruined at some expense to themselves and that should be unacceptable. As it was, the match went ahead and they had a cracking day out.

Not so for the Sufferers. Loyal Pete and I were together in person for the first time this season. The driver was his 60th and a return visit to south-east London from his south coast idyll to celebrate with friends. He was adamant he wanted to be there but we got precisely what we expected and left on 75 minutes to cheer ourselves up.

Not a lot to say really. Rovers looked second-rate for the opening twenty minutes when thy failed to make an attack. Instead we buzzed around them with Rak-Sakyi and Payne in particular moving them about and creating chances. Ryan Inniss finally opened the scoring with a trademark dunk from a corner and you thought, for a few minutes that this might be a routine home win.

Once again we failed to capitalise and we took our foot off the gas, quite literally, and the game slowed. This encouraged the visitors and they mustered a few attacks before the break.

After half-time we came out even notably slower than we went in. Rovers responded by increasingly taking the game to us as they attacked the Jimmy Seed where their supporters were huddled together. I said to Peter after ten minutes that Hayes should make a couple of early subs because we had to change the tempo. I didn't expect him too and on the hour we witnessed another Inniss blunder that let John Marquis in for an easy finish. After that we went to pieces and ten minutes later another Inniss mistake gave Marquis his second. There was no response after that so we fled the scene trying to expunge another pitiful display from our memories.

We need a permanent manager and cannot dilly-dally as points are pissed away. Sandgaard is now directly liable. 

I join the chorus, too, calling for an end to Ryan Inniss' Charlton career. He has had too many chances already and we cannot afford to hand him more. His arrogance on the pitch is painful to watch. Either striding away from a howler as if it has nothing to do with him or was just one of those things is not something we can tolerate. If you add his frequent red carding for late and dangerous tackles, then there remains no argument. He is a liability and we can't afford it any longer.

I will also take aim at Jayden Stockley. Back in the side after a break and he did nothing. Failed to get the ball in space once and won nothing decisively. He appears to feel happier shoulder-to-shoulder with a centre-half and wrestling to get to balls than finding space and being able to take a touch or create a chance. His performances this season have been two steps down on previous seasons. Our style of football when we do get forward hasn't helped him but we are persevering with it so need to make changes up front. 

That goes for Chuks Aneke too who also appears to be firing on only two cylinders. We did see Miles Leaburn back in the shop window yesterday although he looked limited in the ten minutes we saw of him. 

Things need to change quickly. We have to get an experienced manager in before New Year and we need to change a number of personnel to try to reinvigorate this squad. As I keep saying, we lack leaders in any department. No-one is barking and urging their team-mates on. We can't sustain any tempo other than too slow and too many players are League 2 standard. This is all Sandgaard's fault for adopting a break-even club priority and under-resourcing the side this Summer. 

We also need some honesty about the operation of the club's fabled undersoil heating. There are strong rumours that the boiler is oil-fired and had insufficient oil and that we managed to cover the wrong parts of the pitch in the days leading up to the match. There may be no truth here but it's becoming typical of the malaise across the club, so you can see why rumours like this are being seized upon.

We are also steaming towards League Two and footballing oblivion. Pete and I have had enough after nearly 50 years of non-stop support. It's been painful for most of the last ten years and we agreed last night that life is too short to continue doing things you don't enjoy or that make you unhappy. Neither of us can be there on Wednesday, or we would have bought tickets (largely to support Varney's request). Following yesterday's performance, I am glad we aren't forced back on Wednesday because it promises to be another 90 minutes of pain and dejection.

I am currently catching up on the Netflix 'Welcome to Wrexham' series and have been struck once again about how many clubs are vulnerable to owners who run the clubs down in the hope that they can separate the club from the stadium and cash in on their assets. We are already asset-less but League Two at the Valley would simply be too big and too costly for us and another move could be foisted on us. This time it would be terminal. We cannot go down. 

It's high time Thomas Sandgaard feels the heat and noise of what he has orchestrated - Wednesday evening will be irresistible. The white lies on so many issues have gone on for too long and are coming into the open one-by-one. Nothing will change now whilst he remains. He needs to abandon ship and quickly. Time for Charlton supporters everywhere to encourage him.

Friday 16 December 2022

Sandgaard pressed but still telling loads of porkies

The highlight notes from last night's Fans Forum meeting are out and they are spicier than usual. They reflect both the current mood of supporters and, I believe, a Thomas Sandgaard increasingly desperate to keep spinning his responses.

It is clear from the notes that Sandgaard was pressed repeatedly on key points and told, in spite of some of his answers, that supporters wouldn't be satisfied. 

Sandgaard denied that he is actively trying to sell the club. He conceded that he had sought investment but that had not got anywhere. I believe there is sufficient evidence to support that claim (US investor) but I don't believe he isn't actively trying to get out to cut his financial exposure. He also said that Matt Southall had enquired about buying the club but that I find very difficult to believe. Deluded as he is, even Southall must know that his appearance anywhere in south-east London risks his health and safety, ignoring the fact that the fan base would self-combust if he turned up in any capacity at the club, let alone as owner. He simply doesn't have the funds (and neither do his co-conspirators) and could only hope to steal from the club as he did previously.

Questioned about Garner's sacking TS got on his high horse about Garner having crossed a line when speaking out about being let down by a lack of investment, contrary to promises made to him in August. He is entitled to make that decision but I don't believe for a second that Garner would make that up and it's pretty evident he didn't get the backing he needed, let alone what might have been promised. Sandgaard repeated the line that he has increased the first team budget this year "by several hundred thousand pounds." I will repeat that this is very hard to believe when he told us early on it was his intention to trim the budget in line with his break-even strategy. Add to that the fact that we released far more players than we recruited and that many of those were top earners who were replaced by League 2 players and you get a budget cut not an increase. In time I expect the Report & Accounts to bear this out (when Sandgaard assumes he will be gone).

Sandgaard then tried to dish a bit of dirt on Garner as promised by his Fans Adviser on Monday. He said that Garner had never made a striker a priority and that he had focused on elsewhere in the side until the last minute and then asked for a striker that was going to cost "a lot of money" and that despite trying they ran out of time. How are we supposed to believe this? Garner was new into the role and was aware of the playing budget. So he focused on other areas and then demanded a striker we couldn't afford? Bullshit! Sandgaard is also making it look like Garner was in control of the recruitment process when he has always told us it was four person team and that he had the ultimate say. The pathetic last gasp bid to loan Bonne was always consistent with his 'last minute bargain loans' policy. Nothing more and nothing less. Not content with that, he also told us that Garner hadn't prioritised a striker because he wanted to avoid some sort of psychological competition for Stockley and Aneke! We failed last season because we didn't score enough and Sandgaard had sold Washington in a fit of pique. How could Garner not want a to increase our striking options? Presumably he wasn't bothered about the psychological competition for other areas eg midfield? Utter horseshit.

To smear Garner a tad further, he said he had shown immaturity by being booked and red-carded in a couple of games and that he had a feeling (from his son presumably) that things weren't going well on the training ground with his players. Immaturity could be because he has only been a manager for a season and half but that didn't stop him being recruited. It could also show some passion or frustration of course, but I suspect Sandgaard wouldn't get that. As for discontent amongst the playing staff, you could hardly be surprised given the performances on the pitch. Sorry but this was a low blow from Sandgaard and shows he will say whatever he needs to and blame others if it eases the pressure on himself.

I thought he was beginning to tell some whoppers at this point but when challenged about a lack of CEO, he actually said he had been trying for ages via two recruitment companies but had been unable to find anyone who could manage budgets and run the club the way he wanted. Well, he kept that secret. In fact, he has told us on numerous occasions that he felt happier doing it himself (at least initially) because he needed to control what was going on. The mention of using two recruiters was because he was questioned why we hadn't seen any job ads! Peter Varney will have a chuckle this evening. 

He also again made reference to the running of the clubs "20 or 30 years" ago, claiming this was the way fans wanted it to be done but that he was somehow far more advanced in his thinking. I think it was another weird dig at Varney & Co and their rampant success over ten years at the turn of the century, focusing on the supporters ongoing demand for a CEO. A bit confused and contradictory if he is seriously looking for a CEO don't you think?

He did at least acknowledge that his plans to double revenues weren't going particularly well. Ticketing and hospitality haven't taken off but apparently, all it needs is a CEO and couple of experienced sales hospitality and ticketing people! Dream on sunshine. I was disappointed no-one brought up the elephant in the room - the fact that our matchday ticket prices and the cost of hospitality are both a rip-off (perhaps that will be clearer in the full notes). Highest prices in the division and higher than many clubs in the Championship. No mention of the other inadequate and weak club marketing. Who seriously comes up with "buy multiples and pay for them all" ideas? Expensive matchday tickets that still have the unpopular £3 Meire Tax to punish you for not buying more than two days in advance and a £1.50 online handling fee that is fully automated! When really pushed, he offers a £4 discount until New Year - hopeless. It really isn't difficult. Welling do deals and offers all they time and fans are motivated to buy tickets or eat and drink more. 

Questioning about his original ambition to acquire the Valley and Sparrows Lane was a bit harsh I felt, given TS's new financial imperative of break-even, but he felt emboldened to tell us that talks with Old Yellow Teeth were continuing. Having heard himself, he then reminded us he had a 15 year lease, so 13 years left in which to do it!

Having got the playing style right early on - who are we kidding with this - he said that Garner got other things wrong and blamed him for the resignation of the Kit Team. This was news - we knew they resigned within a day or two of each other, but it assumed it was to do with the break-even policy which now forbade overnight stays for the plebs and that they were expected to pay for accommodation themselves or have a horrendously long matchday getting there and back. I suspect we will learn more about this now. Perhaps it was Garner's fault because he had to tell them - Sandgaard doesn't like dirty work. 

The subject of the January transfer window came up and Sandgaard made all the usual noises, including that we always try to get our business done early and not leave it too late, when the reverse is actually the truth. He was asked specifically if any transfer fees incoming (eg Leaburn) would be spent strengthening the side. His answer was peak-Sandgaard - he said it would be spent strengthening the side or elsewhere with the club. I think we are all clear on where the money will go if he can flog anyone.

Finally, he was told about the Addicks Charter - he made some comforting noises and said he would read it. 

It really is time that the Fans Advisors realised they are being played and resigned. CAST and the Fans Forum should also say that they don't wish to continuing the charade...

Wednesday 14 December 2022

CAFC - What happens next?

On Monday night, the Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust (CAST) held a well-attended Zoom call with over 500 of the club's supporters to discuss what should be done to help move the club forward in light of the unpopular sacking of Ben Garner, the appointment of an inexperienced caretaker manager, the club sliding into 18th in the table and a much-rumoured takeover in the offing. 

The call was useful in terms of supporters airing and sharing their concerns but ultimately it was an exercise in gaining an on-call sign-off to an 'Addicks Charter' which CAST hopes to use at some point in the future to help reset relations with the next and subsequent owners of the football club. In the meantime, it won't help us in any significant way. You could also argue that CAST and the supporters are limited in what we can do to influence things in SE7. That may well be the case but sometimes you have to do whatever you can, however small or ineffectual it may seem.

I think we would all like to think that Peter Varney's rallying call for Tuesday's League Cup match against Brighton was carefully planned to coincide with a huge reveal of new owners who have acquired the Valley and Sparrows Lane, taking on the running of the club and the month-to-month debts, whilst launching an ambitious plan to transform the club's fortunes and finally get us back in the Championship.

Realistically, that is very unlikely to be the case. These deals are invariably tortuous and information leaks well before conclusion - they have long lead times. So far, what we have heard from the usual sources suggests that Sandgaard's death throes (Help! Break-Even!) have been picked up by a few interested parties and there is conjecture in line with previous failures to acquire the club but nothing that suggests any advancement in terms of a deal. It's been suggested that Duchatelet (or his son) may be ready to do a deal on the Valley, but unless they are willing to get realistic on prices, they won't get anywhere, and I don't see why they need to sell now - he and his family are worth far more money than he can ever spend and his main business continues to generate a cash mountain - they can wait in the hope of a one-day bonanza.

Timing is key here. It's no surprise that once again a deal is rumoured to be kicking off ahead of the January transfer window. Sandgaard is bleeding £500,000+ per month and will be dreading another poor window and the mountain of abuse that will accompany it. It has been suggested that he is ready to strengthen the squad but he simply has to say that given the state of the squad and the growing threat of a relegation battle. In practice, of course, he isn't going to burn more cash he won't get back from any new owner, so it will be more shuffling of deckchairs on the Titantic. If his recruitment team dare revisit Macauley Bonne, then I am done with them forever. He will need to move players on to fund wages of any incomers so it's hard to see any obvious 'strengthening.'

In the meantime he has said that recruitment of a permanent manager will take "weeks not days." This is expectation management and confirmation that he really doesn't want to be judged on what I suspect would be another least-cost manager with less-than-obvious credentials to get us promoted. It won't help that the word is out following Garner's sacking that you won't get proper backing under Sandgaard, so are on a hiding-to-nothing. Delaying appointment of a permanent manager when the team is sliding down the table is negligent but it will save Sandgaard more money, and that's his stated priority. 

Sandgaard is due to face the Fans Forum tomorrow in what should be more direct and aggressive than we have seen previously. Let's hope we don't have to wait the usually lengthy delay in getting the minutes - someone just needs to spill the beans - no-one cares any longer if Sandgaard doesn't like it. CAST have already voiced no confidence in him and a desire for him to sell-up should dominate proceedings. If he doesn't cry-off, he will come armed with weasel words and some diversionary tactics (eg dishing some dirt on Garner in a bid for revenge and to curry favour) but telling supporters not to worry about the running of the club and to concentrate on supporting the team isn't going to wash this time. It's also high time that the Fans Advisors resigned and directed all future communication with the Great One through the Club's Supporter Trust which is the largest and most representative grouping of fans. Clinging to their roles now only allows Sandgaard to control the messages and avoid direct CAST scrutiny. 

Then next week our cup runs for this season will end and we should hear if there is anything worthy of note happening a la Peter Varney. My strong suspicion is that we won't hear anything and that Christmas and New Year will be upon us. The transfer window will open with no significant Charlton activity and we may hear about Leaburn returning to the team (if there is no interested buyer). Daniel Kanu may even get a game if Anthony Hayes still can't find goals or points. Chuks is due an injury and Stockley needs to re-find his mojo. Sandgaard will say we are trying to get something done but that it depends on other moves and that it might need to wait until the end of the window (it's too late again). Personally, I think he will bring in a couple of loans and move a couple out to justify some activity but spend nothing and change little. Anthony Hayes will make some supportive noises....

Come February, we are likely to be in League Two trouble if talk about new ownership is still rumour or conjecture, or indeed, if someone breaks cover and throws the towel in because of Sandgaard or Duchatelet. At that point, Tommy-Boy may well have to give the club away if he can find someone willing to carry the losses. If not, Administration becomes a sad possibility and that's unattractive given the priority of the £7m former Directors loans. 

So, what can us ordinary supporters do? I am not sure there is the appetite for anymore of the traditional protests. There is likely to be individual or spontaneous efforts and I expect the Covered End to make it clear and uncomfortable for him. Beyond that, gates will continue to drift along well below the season-ticket numbers and the walk-up gate won't improve. A boycott is all that is left but it is happening in effect already and I can't see any material leverage beyond the continuing embarrassment of empty stands and little atmosphere - the loss of revenue will be negligible on his standing order. I suspect we will see even less of him too as he avoids the unpleasantness. As I said, however, we will have to do whatever we can to make our point and force Sandgaard out. It may come down to us individually or in small groups to make a collective difference. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Stockport County 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

Make no mistake, we were going to be beaten this evening by League Two Stockport irrespective of who the manager was or what team they put out. They were always going to be too good for us at their place. Having said that, what painful viewing for Charlton fans and once again the alarm bells are ringing.

Caretaker boss, Antony Hayes, has been at the club for a few years and knows the players so how he picked his starting eleven is a mystery to me. Seven changes, Chin and Lavelle back in defence, no Dobson or Fraser in midfield and Aneke starting. We did at least finish with a better looking side but Aneke had gone off at half-time so there was zero upfront once again. This has been a long-running joke but it's now becoming serious. Why isn't Daniel Kanu being given a chance? He is at least a goal-scorer.

There really is a glaring problem with this team. There is no game plan and no leadership. We are playing lightweight wingers in striking roles and failing to push men forward when we attack. This evening we started with a compressed defence and midfield which Stockport pushed onto and we continued to try and play our way out. It was taking five or six short passes before we could eventually hit a longer ball and hope it found one of the two red shirts ahead. 

The fact we took the lead was a surprise but it was an own goal from a corner and County were level within twenty minutes. Aneke looked knackered from the off and after his one charge through on goal which ended with his scuffing a shot across the goal, he was done for and subbed at half-time for the much needed Dobson.

It was pretty obvious after that we were going to concede again and that the game was lost. A 73rd minute winner and a penalty in the 81st, both from Collar, ended the tie and we were lucky to finish with eleven men after taking five bookings for niggly or late fouls. We were fortunate to escape a first-half penalty too and County hit the woodwork twice. 

Too many of our players are small and lightweight. Easily knocked off the ball and quick to dive or otherwise act-up looking for a decision. It shrieks lack of confidence and it's hard to see how this ends. In the last five games we have exited the EFL Cup and the F A Cup, lost at home to Cheltenham Town, lost at Port Vale and drawn at the Valley with Burton Albion. We have bottom-of-the-table Morecambe on Saturday and I see another banana skin and another step towards the relegation places. God help us i Brighton play a strong team - it could be embarrassing.

At least those supporters who made the trip know who is responsible and he is really going to feel the heat when and if he appears at the Valley again. Like Garner, Sandgaard has run out of excuses and all he can do now is get out of the club. Unless we get a change of owner and a capable manager in, we are at serious risk of a catastrophic relegation to League 2. 

Monday 5 December 2022

Sandgaard looking for manager Number 5

After a weekend of denials, Ben Garner was sacked by Thomas Sandgaard today. Not in person, of course, Sandgaard had scuttled back the US after Friday's home defeat to Cheltenham Town. He doesn't do face-to-face. The coward leaves it to one of his staff when isn't here to risk being confronted.

In just over two years we are looking for manager number five  - circa 6 months on average. Half-a-season each. Lee Bowyer jumped ship but Sandgaard appointed Nigel Adkins, Johnnie Jackson and then Ben Garner and sacked them all in quick succession. Not to dissimilar to all his bigger back room appointments, who have all been sacked too. The only common denominator in the ongoing shit-show is Thomas Sandgaard himself.

The backlash will be strong as the vast majority of the clubs supporters know what the problem is at the club and it's not Ben Garner. It's Sandgaard's lack of ambition and decision to stop spending money at the club. His son's continuing role as interfering data manager isn't helping relations either. He is going to feel the heat at the Brighton game.

There has to be a takeover underway as Sandgaard is only going to lose more money the longer he is here because he has no hope of making the club sustainable and he must know that. Certainly not by fielding weaker and weaker squads and flirting with League Two. That in itself questions why he would pay Garner off at this time? I can only assume it's his decision to shell-out now rather than leave it to a new owner. From memory Garner only had a 12 deal and I believe he was on modest League One money. The club is on it's arse at the moment and Sandgaard is taking huge stick. This looks like a desperate attempt to deflect the fire and blame Garner for poor squad he has and lack of depth. He may be reasoning that a new manager bounce (ha ha ha) might get some absentee fans back and help cut the cost of sacking Garner.

If there is no takeover come January, we really are in hot water because I can't see him strengthening the side. The best I can see is a loan or two, possibly funding by moving one or two out on loan. Bonne coming back after the September farce would be the icing on the cake of zero ambition.

Typical too that Sandgaard fires first before thinking about a replacement. Talk of appointing a caretaker manager but that didn't work with Johnnie Jackson and the appointment of ben Garner was a right mess with an on-off, will-he-or-won't-he saga for a few weeks. Sandgaard may have been able to shut Garner up with his pay-off and accompanying NDA but there was no smoke without fire and I suspect the playing budget was a large factor in Garner's hesitancy. He finally spoke out about that a week or so ago but it was too little too late having gone along with Sandgaard's hype about the new recruits and supposedly playing a new style of attacking football. All very much a case of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Kenny Jackett has been out-of-work awhile now. He is experienced and knows this division. He was at Friday's game and I am sure it wasn't because he was lured by the scintillating prospect of watching us play Cheltenham Town. He might be affordable and less risk than going with someone even cheaper who no-one has heard of....but will Sandgaard pay  the going rate in the current climate?

Friday 2 December 2022

Charlton Athletic 0 v Cheltenham Town 1

I really feel for those who paid good money to be at the Valley this evening and suffer another 95 minutes of slow torture. Our recruitment failure in pre-season once again haunting us. Not that there were many there - certainly not the 12,566 that Sandgaard is claiming. 

Garner's line-up was surprising. Youngsters Mitchell and Ness were drafted into defence alongside Captain Calamity and we were all left scratching our heads as to why the two striker roles went to wingers Rak-Sakyi and Jaiyesimi. I am guessing it wasn't just the fans either. Daniel Kanu will wonder what he's doing wrong and Chuks Aneke must see that no-one at the club believes he can do more than 20 minutes any longer. 

I spent the first 15 minutes trying to understand the formation. I am guessing Garner would think it was a 5-3-2 but it looked more like a 3-5-2 with the midfielders falling over each other and rotating positions. It didn't help that Rak-Sakyi and Jaiyesimi can't play striker and both of them dropped back into the muddle. 

Rak-Sakyi managed a decent low shot from distance which went through a defenders legs but it was easy enough for Southwood. Inniss also steered a tame header from a corner at him but that was it in the opening half. We managed to dominate possession but do very little with it. Cheltenham actually had the two best chances to score, both courtesy of Ryan Inniss who seems to have a couple of blunders now in every game. We were lucky to survive the first one as they hit the bar and we managed to block a couple of follow-ups. Before the half ended, Sean Clare sucked two defenders in and found Morgan running into the box in acres of space but his shot hit the top of the Jimmy Seed Stand. The debate about how good or how poor he is will be raging this evening but this showing will be hard for his fans to defend.

After the break we saw more possession and forced a series of corners but everything was hit-and-hope and we were too frantic. Cheltenham stood-up to us well enough but their attacking ambition was more limited. As the clock moved on, it was all about the substitutions. Aneke and Kirk came on for our two strikers but we didn't up the tempo. Bizarrely, Aneke was drifting out wide to gain possession and we were all over the place again.

Campbell and Payne came on after 77 minutes (Sessegnon and Morgan) and Payne was involved in creating our best chance of the game by far. Breaking out of defence, he carried the ball 30 yards before squaring to Fraser who floated a cross-field ball over the retreating Cheltenham backline and into the path of Charlie Kirk who clipped it passed Southwood and into the far corner. Sadly, Kirk had strayed offside and the lino's flag was up as the ball went in.

All that was left was for Alfie may to score against us once again with six minutes left. He chased a long punt which McGillivray beat him to but his header only went up and not forward and May was able to hook the dropping ball into the unguarded net. The final whistle was met with a chorus of boos and a rapid exit.

If you are looking for crumbs of comfort, Ness and Mitchell both looked assured and Sean Clare had a decent game. Clare is very good on the ball but he really needs to know what his job is. Too often he wanders about with it, taking the same player on twice when he should be focusing on creating something for someone ahead of him. 

Ben Garner isn't doing himself any favours at the moment and he needs to be very careful in his post-match defence. Sandgaard won't sack him  - he'll leave that to his successor to save money but Ben's problem is that he is beginning to lose the fans. He was dealt a bad hand but he accepted it and the facts are he hasn't played it well. Apart from limited striking options that aren't good enough, we have no leaders in the side and we have won only 5 of 20 league matches. Ordinarily that is sacking form for a club of our size in this league. I can't begin to think how he will explain his line-up, formation or the way we played but he has been making really poor excuses in recent games and he really can't afford many more. 

Thursday 1 December 2022

Peter Varney's rallying call!

Peter Varney's activity on Twitter this week is rightly creating cause for optimism amongst disillusioned Charlton supporters. Peter's tweeting is generally about the wider game and his views on based on his experience (@_PeterVarney). He has wisely avoided the temptation to pile in on Charlton-related stuff in the past and tends to hold his counsel.

So several Charlton-related tweets in recent days have broken the pattern. He criticised the clubs decision to close the top tier in the Covered End for the Stockport game which reduced the gate and killed the atmosphere. He was similarly dismissive of the initial idea that we might be allocating Brighton the entire East Stand for the cup game on 20th.

Since then, however, he has praised the latest Sandgaard u-turn and urged Charlton supporters to attend the Brighton match in particular and get behind the team. His tweet yesterday though has lit the blue touch-paper. He was unusually forthright, acknowledging the current apathy but asking supporters to get to the Brighton game because "it is very important to showcase the club on that night." He started that message with "if you care" which was akin to a World war 2 coded radio broadcast intended for the Resistance.

Varney is a man who walks-the-walk and understands that actions speak louder than words. So, for me, this is potentially very exciting and I am ringing around seeing who wants to join me at the game. 

Come on you Reds!