Thursday 27 April 2023

That "Investment Opportunity Overview" - Spiegel's view of CAFC

A 21-slide deck emerged yesterday which purports to show Mark Spiegel's Football Strategies Group's assessment of the Charlton Athletic 'opportunity' and it's bid for more investment (can be viewed here - attached in DubaiCAFC's post).

Apart from the overtly 'sales' nature of the deck which is littered with casual mis-truths to tell a better story, the key issue appears to be the degree to which Mark Spiegel needs the additional £20m investment it seeks. On face value it looks like he may be short of the money needed to convince the EFL he has the wherewithal to run the club once he has acquired it from Sandgaard. If this is the case then you can't see him being able to strike a deal and that may account for the fact he has been unable to do so until now and his exclusivity period has expired.

Rich Cawley contacted him yesterday re this and the response was that they "are not looking for funds to run or acquire the club. They say the investment document circulating is to raise funds for some acquisition funds planned in 18-24 months." There is also a strong line emerging that Spiegel may be ready to complete the deal this week, so we shouldn't have long to wait on judgement.

Looking at the deck, the mention of the £20m investment could be read both ways - that they need it to convince the EFL or that they have the money they need now and it's just what they intend raising downstream (to support further growth/development). The 18-24 month timeline suggests it would be too late to fuel a promotion charge and that they may have this covered in the running costs until then. On that basis, the timeline would suggest a bid to support life in the Championship. You could also question why they would circulate a deck now when it would look that much more convincing in a week or a month's time when they could be bidding as the new owners who have bought the club and satisfied the EFL?

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Takeover in doubt again?

Hard to believe but Thomas Sandgaard may well find himself holding the baby for much longer than anticipated as doubts emerged today over whether or not Mark Spiegel has the money to complete his takeover. Bloomberg's have run a piece that suggests Spiegel is still looking for backers to complete his bid.

They say his plan is based upon acquiring the club for £11.6m and then having £20m to invest in growing the club. His 'Football Strategies Group" (FSG) would "elevate the club, expose it to new audience and win on the pitch." Critically, he is still looking for investors and you have to worry that he has placed this piece as a desperate advertisement for help. 

Timing is not great, as we must be close to Sandgaard's exclusivity deadline and you have to worry that Spiegel can't or won't commit to the takeover price without the financial muscle in place to support the investment. Indeed, he would struggle to satisfy EFL requirements if he can't show them that he has the wherewithal to run the club in the short-term.

It may be semantics but "elevate the club" doesn't sound like a determination or commitment to promotion and "winning on the pitch" doesn't necessarily suggest it either. Perhaps I am over-focusing but it doesn't feel great. Why out-bid Methven's mob if he didn't have the investment in place to back his takeover? 

Whatever happens, Thomas Sandgaard continues to carry the risk until the club is sold. As things stand, if Spiegel backs out, Tommy will be on the hook for another couple of months at very least and probably longer. That's another few million pouring out of his coffers. Season Ticket sales won't take off and he will be left in a very uncomfortable position in terms of a squad rebuild which I am sure would be done under another budget cut.

You also have to question Spiegel's recent utterance that he was on track and all his investors were still with him. If so, you might assume that Spiegel himself isn't planning on taking a big personal risk.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Charlton players hammer out a message for the manager and owners

Last week's humiliating capitulation at Portman Road was followed, almost inevitably, by a one-nil win at MK Dons in the week.

That was a result which signalled to this team that they had done the minimum to atone for their day off at Ipswich and once again give them, in their minds, the right to stroll about yesterday and wait for victory. In a match where we had more possession, we allowed lowly Morecambe to score three times and leave the Valley with the points. Goals from Rak-Sakyi and Scott Fraser reduced the arrears and made it look more respectable than it was. It was yet another result that belies the relative size of our club and another that is part of our gradual traducement.

Dean Holden talked through the key moments and the goals as he usually does but said there was "no way we can...finish our season with two defeats after losing to Morecambe and we have to put that right." It's becoming irritating hearing him trot out the 'atonement' line. There should have been no-way we conceded three at home to Morecambe, so we are more than capable of losing the last two, irrespective of the opposition. 

Once again though, the message from yesterday was loud and clear. This squad is nowhere near good enough and too many of them are not mentally strong enough to fight for results, throughout every game of the season. Too many don't concentrate and simply don't care enough to maintain a standard of play to secure matches we should be winning. 

I want to see all of those out-of-contract released. We will have a nucleus of six decent Academy players and hopefully six good loans which must be complemented by six frees who are better than what we let go. The icing on the cake would then be three or four better players who would need modest investment and around whom we can play with much stronger leadership and a collective desire to concentrate, play our football and win games. It's not too much to ask and the minimum I expect from any new owner with a modicum of ambition.

I'd love to see Cole Stockton up front. He shouldn't be beyond our ambitions.

Monday 17 April 2023

Ipswich Town Six v Charlton Athletic Nil

A half-hearted, end-of-season embarrassment of a performance that is completely unacceptable at a professional football club, but one we have become accustomed to in recent years. Just a reminder that Ipswich spanked us 4-0 in similar circumstances last season.

It was entirely predictable from the 14th minute when our defence gave up and Ipswich went two-up. Too many of these players simply don't care enough or are not prepared to fight for the club in every game. Macauley Bonne has been an abysmal re-signing and two scruffy goals don't excuse him. His one chance came from a back post header he should have buried but instead he steered it tamely at their keeper. The bloke is a self-confessed Town fan and was liking Town Tweets after the match. Completely unacceptable. 

My step-sister was a friend of the ex-Spurs and Wales player, Simon Davies. So seriously did Simon take his responsibilities to Spurs, that he refused point blank to have his photo taken with Arsenal fans holidaying in Solva during the Summer. He wasn't stroppy about it but explained very clearly that Spurs fans wouldn't appreciate him with his arm around someone in a Gooners shirt.

The malaise ran deep on Saturday. Even Hector and Thomas couldn't be bothered and Ryan Innis managed a fourth red card late on for another poorly timed tackle. He can be a great player on his day at this level but we can't afford to have anyone in the side who risks us four results a season and is suspended for 20% of games, aside from his ability to drop massive clangers.

This has to be a screaming reminder for Dean Holden that he has to see this changed. Irrespective of who might be running the club in August, he needs to demand a budget to allow him to ditch the half-hearts and those who don't believe it's their job necessarily to battle for their fans for 95 minutes in every game.  The mark will be how many go and how many winners we bring in. Simple as that. Flowing football can wait, we need to see commitment and heart first. Holden certainly talks about this but he clearly hasn't had any tangible influence on this squad based on Saturday's horror show. He has to see this through or be clear with us in August where we may be short.

I was in Scotland at the weekend and unable to attend the Women's game at The Valley but was disappointed nonetheless that their impressive run in recent months wasn't better supported (336). The Men's showing at Ipswich really wouldn't have helped. Nevertheless, another victory keeps them in fourth and they are within three points of the Runners-up spot. Putting the Men's first team to shame, as are the Academy teams. 

Gates for the last two home games against poor opposition will be small but, frankly, this team deserves to be playing in front of 336 fans, not the Women's side who have shown fight and commitment.

Monday 10 April 2023

Charlton Athletic 3 v Burton Albion 2

A sparkling opening twenty minutes which saw Charlton go two up and look like they could score six again, slowed to a disappointing end to the first-half as Burton pulled one back from a Maynard-Brewer fumble. The second forty-five was scrappy and despite Bonne adding a third we fell apart towards the end and were hanging on at 3-2 after Payne was sent off for two rash challenges.

Jesurun Rak-Sakyi showed once again what promise he has as he scored two fine goals in the opening twenty minutes and was a thorn in Burton's side. His first goal was brilliant as he cut inside before pulling the two covering central defenders one way before cutting back and hammering a low shot wide of MacGillivray. For his second, he ran onto a through ball from George Dobson before ghosting past the last man and slotting home. 

We really should have had three before half-time. Tyreece Campbell got to the line three times but saw a shot beaten out by McGillivray and he couldn't quite find a red head with a couple of decent crosses. If Macauley Bonne had been able to find any space he might have scored too.

Just before half-time a hopeful high punt into the box saw Maynard-Brewer come off his line but he ran into the back of Hector and could only flap at the ball which Hughes hooked in gratefully. 

Within six minutes of the restart we restored our two goal lead when the ball fell kindly for Bonne who slipped it home from close range. That should have been that but we failed to capitalise once again and Burton were encouraged to keep coming forward and scrapping. Three substitutions on 68 minutes didn't really help our shape or momentum. Payne came on for Fraser, Kane for Dobson and Henry for Egbo, who to be fair, had been clattered. Burton pushed on and got the goal they probably deserved. after that we were really struggling. Bonne had taken a knock and the middle were struggling to contain Burton. Payne flew in after a couple of tasty tackles and the ref had no option but to book him. 

Zach Mitchell and Daniel Kanu came on with three minutes left but were off the pace as Burton continued to press. Three minutes later and Payne saw red after another mistimed tackle. It wasn't as bad as his first yellow but it was still late and he can have no complaints. 

I reckon Dean Holden will be very unhappy with this victory as his side showed poor game management and they lost cohesion after a positive start. For me, it showed once again the lack of winners in the team. You couldn't see anyone barking orders or directing their team-mates. No-one put their foot on the ball and we failed to slow the game when Burton were pressing us towards the end. 

It was one of those games where you left the stadium feeling annoyed despite coming away with the three points. This season can't finish soon enough.

Friday 7 April 2023

Bristol Rovers 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

A John Marquis penalty separated the sides at the Memorial Ground on a sunny Good Friday as the Gas did the double over us.

Another day of disappointment for a hefty travelling support buoyed by last week's 6-0 hammering of Shrewsbury. Sadly, we struggled to create anything against a resolute home defence but also didn't really commit men forward in any great numbers. Too often our attacks ran out of options and we again reverted to passing the ball backwards. We actually had more of the possession in the opening half and Rovers were limited to a long range effort before half-time which Maynard-Brewer did well to stop with a flying one handed save. 

On the hour Joey Barton made attacking substitutions with Loft and Collins coming on and John Marquis joined them five minutes later. Those changes saw Rovers getting forward more and they finally looked like scoring. The penalty was given against Dobson for controlling the ball with his hand as he sought to cut out an attack. We looked beaten at that point and Payne and Bonne weren't going to change it when they entered the fray after 77 minutes.

At the death, we finally got an attempt on target and it should have been a goal. A ball in from Payne (I think) reached late sub Kanu who got in between two defenders and looked like beating the keeper as he careered off his line but the inside defender manager to get a foot to Kanu's shot and deflect it out for a corner. 

Personally, I don't think it does us any harm longer term that our weaknesses aren't masked for too long. There was a risk we could keep this run going and perhaps lull the powers that be into a false sense of security about the size of the task for next season. It was good to hear Steve Brown make this point in the match preamble because too often people have a tendency to get de-mob happy after a few good performances/results.

Finally, a word for two coaches of travelling Addicks whose day ended on the M4 somewhere after traffic delays meant the lone drivers had to rest for 45 minutes when they were already running late and in danger of missing kick-off. It had taken the first team 5 hours to reach Bristol the day before but the coaches departed at their advertised time of 10.30am and joined heavy Bank Holiday traffic. The coach company presumably took the risk of going with only lone drivers unless Charlton refused to pay for additional cover? Either way, 100 fans will be looking for refunds on their travel costs and match tickets. 

Thursday 6 April 2023

Takeover latest....

A very interesting post from Henry Irving on Charlton Life (not to be confused with the Twitter troll HenryIrving10) yesterday that throws some much-needed light on the 'Spiegel takeover' and some good perspective as well as respected common sense. 

"The China Syndrome. Part 2

At the time of the Roland Duchatelet takeover of Charlton Athletic back in January 2014 I wrote an article, which I called the China Syndrome, about the Chinese word for change being made up of two characters, opportunity and danger.

Nearly ten chaotic and largely depressing years on for Charlton, I could have changed a few names and used almost the same article to greet the new Marc Spiegel regime that appears to be on the last leg of their takeover of the Addicks.  

Again, we have a name but very little indication of strategy and no clear indication of who the Atlanta based businessman’s partners are although rumours abound.  Nor do we know his wealth and more importantly how much he is prepared to invest (for which read “lose”) into a league one club with relatively high overheads that is dropping something around £8m per season.

Strong rumours, and before you say, no it’s not on the official site yet, suggests that what I’m going to call the Rubicon group after Spiegel’s recycling firm, have completed due diligence.  That the inspection of Charlton’s finances, licences, etc  was carried out by Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” global accounting firms suggests that Rubicon are serious and wanted it done thoroughly.  It also suggests that they were willing to pay to get it done properly and so avoid some of the errors of Duchatelet, who managed to overlook the £7m former directors bonds and Sandgaard, who didn’t realise his deal didn’t include the Women’s side.

Due diligence would also have been helped by having an experienced CEO, Peter Storrie, in place. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to believe that current owner Thomas Sandgaard had even heard of Storrie or had any willingness to appoint an experienced CEO, given he had avoided doing so ever since he bought the club. Sandgaard knew better and despite being based thousands of miles away and having never run a football club insisted on doing so himself, with disastrous consequences.

Technically, Storrie may be employed by Sandgaard as the Danish-American still owns the club but the West Ham fan is working for the new owners, of that I have no doubt.

So is the deal done? No, not yet and until it is done 100% it is done 0% but the process has moved on to the EFL, so the grapevine says, with the four new directors now undergoing the Owners and Directors Test.  This may take up to a month given that three of the directors are American, which will slow the gathering of information and confirmation that none of them are bankrupts, criminals or human rights abusers.  Slowly, far too slowly, the Football League have tightened their regulation of potential new owners, in part because the fiasco they allowed with Matt Southall, Lee Amis and Tahnoon Nimer’s purchase of the Addicks.  No more secret transfer embargo’s and no transfer of the golden share (effectively league membership) until every "T" is crossed and every "I" dotted.

If rumours are to be believed, and that is always a dangerous thing to do, alongside Marc Spiegel is likely to be his business partner Nate Morris, a 42 year old Kentuckian with a higher online profile than his friend that you will be searching for, probably before you finish this article.  There is supposed to be a third, unnamed, American but who is also a long term friend of Spiegel.  If true, that suggests that this isn’t a consortium of random investors cobbled together solely to buy Charlton, as appeared to be the case with the failed Charlie Methvan bid, but a group of existing friends.  Optimists will say that means that Rubicon are more likely to be a cohesive group with a common purpose and better able to work together to reach decisions.   There is also said to be a 4th, British, director. Some people have suggested that this could be former “Super-Agent” Jon Smith and the Arsenal supporter’s long time friendship with Peter Storrie adds to that theory but a theory, for now, is all it is.

So let’s make a big assumption that the gossip is true and that the four all pass the O&DT, what then?

Thomas Sandgaard wants to retain 10%, possibly in the hope of future success allowing him to recoup some of his loses. Or maybe he has to stay because he is the guarantor of the lease on the Valley and Charlton’s training ground at Sparrow’s Lane in Eltham.   I hope it isn’t so Sandgaard’s son gets to continue playing football manager as the club’s Director of Analysis, a role for which he is uniquely unqualified and which he wouldn’t even get an interview for any club not owned by his father.

That leaves 90% for the three American owners, with Smith perhaps having a small slice of that or maybe just working on a consultancy basis.

Storrie is also employed on a consultancy basis, already extended twice, now to the end of 2023.   An experienced CEO with good contacts (he even negotiated Charlton’s short spell at Upton Park when he was with West Ham) he will be a safe pair of hand to oversee a transition but he is 70 and has other roles so I’d expect a handover to a new younger CEO before the year is out. The name of Mal Brannigan, the former Wigan CEO, has been mentioned but only by me.  Charlton haven’t had a proper CEO since Steve Kavanagh left in 2012 and it shows, nowhere more so than in how a bullying culture has been allowed to thrive at the club. Katrien Miere had the title of CEO for a while but as I say we haven’t had a proper Chief Executive since 2012.

But the key questions from most Charlton fans asked of the new owners will revolve around how will they get the men’s team back up the divisions, how much are they willing to spend to do that and when will they buy back the Valley and Sparrows Lane?

Some fans will see men’s team building as the priority and will be happy for the club to continue to rent the ground and training facilities in the short to medium term. Many others will see buying the assets now as both essential to the club’s long term security and also as a key indicator the new owners commitment and their relative wealth. Again the rumour mill gives you any version of the potential owners wealth you want. Some say they have “no money” or at least that the $300m that the internet tells us both Morris and Spiegel are individually worth isn’t enough in an era of multi-billionaire owners but other rumours say that all three owners are individually as rich as Thomas Sandgaard.   That glass in your hand, is it half full or half empty?

While nearly all Charlton fans will welcome the end of Sandgaard’s poor and destructive ownership that became a text book example of “over promise, under deliver” the new owners, because of a succession of bad owners going back over a decade and more, will not get a ticker tape welcome.  Worn down by years of failure and dodgy occupants of the board room, many fans will be hard to convince and the default position for many will be “I’m not interested in promises, let’s see some action and positive results, then I’ll get excited.”  At least, that is where I am.

What Charlton doesn’t need now or ever is another set of owners who think, despite never having owned a club before, that they are smarter than everyone else and can buck the system to get huge success while not spending much money.  Spending money well, something Sandgaard and Duchatelet could rarely do, is vital but any owners have to realise that they will have to spend, and so lose, money for a number of seasons regardless of the division we find ourselves in.

So, like it or not, we roll the ownership dice again, hoping for better times but knowing that as the Chinese word tells us, the coming change may bring both opportunity and danger."

(Reproduced with Henry's agreement 😁).

Saturday 1 April 2023

Charlton Athletic 6 (six) v Shrewsbury Town 0

Charlton completed the double over the Shrews today with an all-guns blazing performance that blew the opposition away. Pity there was such a paltry crowd to witness it but that's what we have deserved given the indifference of our showings this season. Now though is a time to celebrate and it was great to see the players reactions as they were lead around the pitch at the end by Dean Holden as they applauded those who made the effort to be there.

Shrewsbury didn't play badly at all today. They matched us in the opening 45 minutes in terms of possession and football but they were unable to force any chances on goal. Meanwhile, Scott Fraser opened the scoring after 27 minutes with a beautifully flighted free-kick that beat the wall and a flying Marosi. Ten minutes later and a swift counter-attack saw three red shirts steaming forward as Rak-Sakyi brought the ball down the right wing. He picked out the over-lapping Albie Morgan who took a bold touch before latching on to the ball and driving it past Marosi. Two-nil was tough on Shrewsbury but before the break the game was killed off. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi turned them left and right before cutting a low shot across the advancing keep and inside the far post.

At half-time I was reflecting that Miles Leaburn must have sensed there was a goal in this game for him and on the hour he got his chance. A ball through to him alone up top with two covering defenders saw him advance and turn this way and that. The defenders had to turn to avoid him breaking out but he advanced further and and saw a big gap to the keepers left which he hit from 20 yards out. It was a fine goal that put him on 11 for the season, just five short of Dad Carl whose best effort season tally was 16. But Miles wasn't done. A harsh looking penalty (a handball as Flanagan turned to block a shot) looked like Albie Morgan was going to take it but Miles stepped and scored with ease. 

Could it get any better? A rash of substitutions looked like they might slow the game but we kept up the tempo as Jack Payne sought to get himself on the scoresheet. In the end it was left to fellow substitute Macauley Bonne to finally end his goal drought. An Aaron henry shot hit him eight yards out in the centre of goal and he turned before sweeping the ball beyond Marosi who must hate playing at the Valley. He was in goal for Doncaster in that ill-fated play-off game.

It's such a shame that we have waited so long for another performance like this but we have done it and it offers some much-needed promise for next season. It was the sort of game that would have been perfect for prospective new owners to have been at. 

Speigel closing in?

With April upon us, Marc Spiegel's deadline to get his takeover deal across the line must be imminent. Apart from him breaking cover to reassure us that his backers were all still in place after gossip that one of them had pulled out, we have heard refreshingly little from Spiegel. From experience, this is a good thing and I hope he gets his deal done. At very least it will spell the end of disinterested Thomas Sandgaard, under whom our fall would only continue. 

Rumour from fairly well-placed sources, (fan and club partner Steve Wisdom and Rick Everitt) suggests that Spiegel's game plan does not revolve around splashing the cash. Apparently he would rather focus on using youth players, loanees and making the most of what we have. On the face of it that would be a disappointing strategy given our current squad is missing five better players who possess the personal drive and determination to be at the core of a winning side that could challenge for promotion. It's also the same path Sandgaard has been treading unsuccessfully for the last 18 months at least.

However, these things are relative and we need to see just how this plays out. It doesn't say he wouldn't spend any money or be prepared to pay fees for players, something Sandgaard gave up on. I believe most of us would support moderate spending that keeps us in the hunt longer than perhaps splashing the cash that could be an all-or-nothing play. What we can't do is cash in on a couple of players and simply use that money - it's robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

Like it or not, loans are probably the most effective way to get the sort of players you couldn't afford to buy playing in League One. It's also a bit of a lottery so we need to get lucky on the majority rather than one or two a year as in the past few seasons. 

In terms of youth, we can compete with the best in this division, so again, a route we need to keep open. We have to get the balance right because an over-reliance on youngsters risks a promotion push and can also affect their development if they are seen to have bad games or be playing in a losing side. Our priority and what I believe has to change, is that we need to shake the current squad up. If we retain much more than 50% of them we will struggle to change the culture which I think has been our biggest problem for the last couple of seasons. We have to be serious about promotion and ensure we have a core who want it and who can lead on the pitch. We have struggled under Sandgaard to even recognise who the captain is when watching games. 

In short, I think we have to be looking at four buckets of six. Six established players (eg Maynard-Brewer, Ness, Dobson, Leaburn), six decent loanees, six new players aimed at leading a cultural and mentality change as well as six youngsters to provide more competition and back-up. 

In short, I remain hopeful that Marc Spiegel has not under-estimated what his ownership might involve and that he is prepared and able (with his backers) to do what is necessary to take this club forward. Dean Holden may prove to be a trump card this close season in that he appears to have been given a bigger say in who we recruit than his immediate predecessors and I have more trust in him to instinctively identify natural battlers. Hopefully a deal with Spiegel will also spell the end of the owner's son who appears to have done little more than meddle and potentially more harm than good. 

At the same time, what Spiegel can't rely upon is three seasons of marginal gains hoping to culminate in a promotion. We really have to do a Plymouth and find a side with some heart and playing depth that will have us competing at the right end of the table come January. Time is becoming a bigger issue. Come August we will be playing our seventh season in League One in the last eight seasons. Everything about the club (bar Charlton TV) appears to have shrunk. Season ticket numbers will surely drop again this year - the latest pricing doesn't really help that - and unless we make a fist of it early on, overall gates will fall even further.