Saturday 29 July 2023

Charlton Athletic 2 v Aberdeen 3

If you missed the game, this scoreline is very misleading. Whilst a change in formation and personnel after the break saw us pull two goals back, it flattered us enormously. 

In the first opening 30 minutes Dean Holden's side were ruthlessly exposed. Our three at the back (Ness, Hector and Jones) were over-run. Aberdeen got at us down our left flank with Ness suffering from no defensive cover from 'wing-back' Blackett-Taylor. It got so bad that Ness actually moved ten yards further up the field than Hector and Jones in a vain attempt to stem the bleeding.. 

The Don's opened the scoring after only three minutes when a ball in from the left proved too dangerous for Asiimwe covering on the right flank and he headed home past his own keeper. Aberdeen continued to press us and we were finding it hard to get any respite. Charlie Kirk was having another poor game nominally upfront with Alfie May and Scott Fraser was struggling to find any space or time in the midfield. 

Graham Shinnie applied the finish to another raid down our left after 22 minutes and we really were all at sea. Minutes later and Hector conceded a penalty which Miovski drove onto a post.  Hector muffed-up again ten minute later as Miovski beat him to the aerial ball and ran on to make it 3-0.

Ashley Maynard-Brewer also pulled off two stunning saves in the first-half to restrict the damage and when Miovski did beat him, he dragged his shot wide of the gaping goal. Maynard-Brewer was at it again in the second-half with another three fine saves which should end any debate as to whom our first choice keeper is.

After the break we finally went to a pseudo back-four with Jones dropping into left back and it relieved the pressure. After 62 minutes both sides made a slew of substitutes. Kirk, Jones and Camara were replaced by Anderson, Campbell and Thomas. We looked much better with Thomas at left-back. Camara had done ok but he is slight and easily knocked off the ball. Kirk had another poor game wasting a couple of half-chances and Campbell looked much better. Karoy Anderson helped us retain more possession in their half but the naivety of our youth was also plainly visible.

Blackett-Taylor tapped in a consolation goal after good work down our left and we continued to look more threatening as the game wore on. The final play saw late sub Daniel Kanu squeeze a shot over the line after he had done very well to control a ball over the top and manoeuvre two defenders to create his chance.

Dean Holden's post-match assessment will be very interesting. After five undefeated pre-season games where we have had ample time to practice formations and tactics, today looked like a lot of the good work was undone. The three at the back was a disaster. Hector had an absolute stinker and there are continuing questions still about his fitness. 

George Dobson was outstanding once again but Fraser struggled and Kirk was his usual waste of a shirt. I don't care how desperate we are in future but Kirk shouldn't play for us again. The Academy lads did their bit but the lesson that "you don't win anything with kids" was clear to see.

Tayo should improve our left back position and Egbo must be a safer bet for now at right-back but where was he today (injured?). Alfie May ran his socks off alone upfront and simply has to have a decent striker alongside him. We have to bring someone in this week before we face Leyton Orient.

Finally, it was embarrassing to see a small group of Aberdeen (and a few Spurs) fans attempting to create a scene as they entered Harvey Gardens from Charlton Lane. I believe they had come from Woolwich (The Great Harry) and made an effort to get in front of their covering police escort. The police stopped them in their tracks although a few half-cut Charlton idiots tried to provoke them by charging up the road throwing beer bottles. It was pathetic to witness but no doubt those involved are all pleased with themselves. I understand more of them decided to stay in Woolwich and give the game a miss which did us all a favour.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Steady the Buffs!

That historic Charlton curse of pre-season optimism is raising it's head again and it's time we all stood alert and remained focused. During my lifetime, at least, there is a tangible correlation between good pre-season and terrible starts as well as terrible pre-season and good starts. To be fair, I have still never wanted a bad pre-season..

Currently, I don't think anyone would say our pre-season has been anything other than good. Plenty of goals, unbeaten and a stirring performance in the Lions Den last night has got our tails up. One mate renewed his season ticket last night on the strength of a two-nil lead and another has lumped on automatic promotion in his excitement.

Those of you who know me, will expect caution and I give it here. Our tenth-placed squad from last year is slowly being updated as leaver gaps are being filled whilst we have seen some very encouraging step-ups from the U18's and U21's. 

I fear some are Googling new arrivals and celebrating far too prematurely. Some look solid upgrades whilst others we have really yet to see and we still have a number of gaps we have to fill and not accept long-term Academy covers. Those players should be brought in largely when safe to do so and ideally into a settled and winning side. Too often we have thrown them in at the deep end and watched them struggle.

Maynard-Brewer essentially saw off MacGillivray last year and Isted has replaced Wollacott. We will need a third choice keeper.

Tayo finally replaces Sessegnon and we have Thomas as cover, although another left-footed wing-back would be a sensible addition.

At centre-half we have Ness, Jones and Hector, albeit with doubts over Hector's long-term fitness. It looks increasingly like he struggles to do two games a week. We have Mitchell, Elerewe and Thomas who can cover but I have doubts about Elerewe and Thomas at this level if we need longer term cover.

Egbo's return from injury is welcomed and Nathan Asiimwe has burst onto the scene but he is an U18 and we have to have another experienced right-back.

Midfield is looking better with Camara and Taylor joining but perhaps a rejuvenated looking Scott Fraser will be the real win. We still don't have another strong defensive midfielder who can cover the Dobson role and need a right-side Rak-Sakyi replacement. Campbell can cover Blackett-Taylor and Karoy Anderson has shone in pre-season on the right but it would be foolish not to strengthen here. We also have Aaron Henry but to my mind he hasn't been nearly consistent enough when he has played to be considered a reliable first-teamer yet.

Upfront is crying out. Alfie may will add far more than Macauley Bonne but he needs a foil and Leaburn is out injured again. I have given up on Chuks Aneke ever returning even medium term and Daniel Kanu hasn't been able thus far to step-up.

In summary then, there is still lots to do. A third choice keeper, another left-sided wing-back, an experienced centre-back and right-back cover. A defensive midfielder, a strong right wing-back and two goalscorers. That's eight and I don't expect our "top six" wage budget will do it. We still have five (I think) loan spaces and am sure that's how we are most likely to fill these gaps but they are typically costlier, so maybe only four at most. We have to prioritise upfront. I think we have started short here since being promoted with Lee Bowyer.

I have left Kirk, Jaiyesimi and McGrandles out because they have all auditioned for parts several and times and failed. They won't play any significant part in a promotion campaign and need to find clubs more suited to them.

Charlie Methven has made it clear that his 'experienced management team' will make the difference to the fabled top six budget. We all hope so but newly re-appointed Andy Scott will have to do much better than his January recruitment which was Michael Hector and four duffers.


Saturday 22 July 2023

Methven completes the takeover

Ok, so officially it's Global Football Partners who own SE7 Partners, but ostensibly it's Methven in charge. Yes, he is far from the largest shareholder but I think we will see him calling the shots if he can keep their plan on target.

The seven 5%+ shareholders (all serial investors) are enormously busy people and I don't expect any of them to do much more than attend a monthly Board call and show up to the odd match at the Valley. Their investments in Charlton are so relatively small that they will be satisfied with Methven steering the ship.

There were a couple of surprises, too, in the formation of the Senior Management Team that will report to Methven and the other main Board investors.

Paul Elliott finally achieves his dream of a seat at the table as a Non-Exec and Steve Sutherland returns as Commercial Manager on an interim basis. As revealed last week, fan Gavin Carter has bought his way onto the SMT as the fans representative as well. All three appointments tick the 'appease the supporters box' although it remains to be seen what value we get from Elliott and Carter. Sutherland can, presumably, secure his place if he delivers commercial revenues.

We should quickly get a view on the depth of GFP pockets. I assume an operational budget will have been agreed for this season and our remaining transfer window will provide a heavy clue as to the game-plan.

Will they splash the cash and speculate to accumulate? Will the Texas Prospectus prove to have been real and see them slash costs and sell players to improve the bottom-line, or will they steer a conservative middle line and rely upon the vast SMT experience and abilities to out-manouvre  our League 1 competition as they are suggesting?

The next big question we must prepare for is 'what happens if it doesn't go to plan?' As Charlton fans we have to consider that question. Decision-making at Board level is unlikely to be smooth and Friedman and Brener may likely call the shots as majority shareholders if they are in-step. Will they be prepared to invest further? Is this a one-off punt? It may depend, of course, on what progress has already been made against the plan.

Under Kevin Cash, remember, we had actually won promotion but he wasn't prepared to invest further, so the plug was pulled. Maybe with so many investors, one or two may decide to take a greater share if others want out and put more in but again you would assume that they would need to have seen something to inspire them.

In the circumstances, it looks very much like the first half if the season is going to be especially important this year. No pressure Charlie...

Wednesday 19 July 2023

That Methven Interview

Whilst the wait goes on for final confirmation that the club now belongs to SE7 Partners, PragueAddick on Charlton Life has published the transcript of his conversation with Charlie Methven back in May.

Key snippets have been reported or paraphrased previously but there are still some interesting pointers to take from the conversation.

First, Methven will own a 7% 'investment' in the club and he confirms that Simon Lenaghan, a long-term friend and fellow Oxford United fan, will hold a similar stake. Methven also tells us that SE7 Partners was primarily an investment vehicle for "friends and family" that includes the likes of Rodwell, Warrick and other minor investors. He has subsequently revised this to include main investors Friedman and Brener, as they needed to be included to meet EFL requirements.

Importantly, we were told previously no-one would have overall control and that their combined share-holding would be less than 50%. Clarity here that with additional, smaller, family percentages, the two American Hedge Fund bosses will have a majority holding.

The expected return of Andy Scott as Technical supremo to stand alongside Jim Rodwell's 'business' role is also confirmed although, when pushed, Methven says they will not report to him but to the main board. Confusingly, he also describes his role as "sort of over-seeing" and that "on a day-to-day business," the main investors on the board will likely ask him when they want answers.

When asked about the ambitions of the main investors and their exit strategy, he is pretty vague. He says they aren't in it to make money but also that don't want to lose any. He has no view of a likely timeline in terms of their ownership as they haven't discussed that with him but he thinks it's "on the far horizon.' For the avoidance of doubt, he is clear that they have no intention of "flipping the club for £10m or £15m."

He denies any knowledge of the 'Texan Prospectus' and confirms there are no Texan investors in the consortium. I certainly saw one and associated paperwork from W11 Capital Management. Perhaps they couldn't interest anyone in the 5% share allocation they claimed to have been offered. That or it really was a fake, although it was the first time to my knowledge that anyone had heard mention of Simon Lenaghan as a potential investor.

Methven has since confirmed that Gavin Carter, identified recently as a fan who has invested, will sit on the "CAFC Board," presumably as our chosen representative. 

I really hope the reality of SE7 Partners ownership is on the positive side of the assessments because we were facing almost certain continuing gradual decline under disinterested Thomas Sandgaard. I look forward to the CAFC announcement on the takeover when we should understand more about who all is involved and, presumably, get more clarity from the Americans on their ambitions and strategy for achieving them.

Monday 10 July 2023

Park View Road Redevelopment Plans

I headed over Shooters Hill this afternoon to take a look at the plans for Welling United's redevelopment of Park View Road (PVR). News a couple of weeks ago that this was happening and that the proposals included 114 new homes as well as retail outlets onto the main road had me thinking this was a 'grand scheme' that would necessitate the acquisition of the neighbouring cricket club and the turning of the Wings pitch etc. 

So, I have to say I was underwhelmed upon seeing the plans. The redevelopment is going to occupy pretty much the same footprint the ground does today. The capacity will be c4000, the same as today although it's pretty clear that once complete there will be no scope for any expansion of that capacity. Maybe just a nice problem to have given historical gates? 

They will push the Danson Park end back to occupy the land behind the current wall that belongs to the site and the pitch will be shunted right up to the new boundary with no space for fans behind the goal. That gives them the space on PVR to maximise their commercial development and build all those homes and shops which should fund it. This is being built in one large block of 8 or so floors. The designs have the word 'standing' behind the home goal on PVR but there is so little space and no defined terracing as to effectively mean it will likely just be two sides in practice. 

The current 'Welling side' is rebuilt with a new stand the length of the pitch but with no more width than is available currently. Interestingly, the 'Erith & Belvedere side' remains largely untouched, although their stand (and small terracing) is now almost completely in the far half of the pitch whereas today it straddles the halfway line. The first half of the side is now given over to a water tank and sops such as a covered 'cycling storage' space (keeping the planners onside). How long, I wonder before they write that off and use it for something more productive?

Whilst my cynical Charlton side was emerging, Welling Tone reminded me that there is no 'do nothing' option as the current ground is falling to bits. The Wings Bar currently hides a multitude of sins which the developers have photographed very nicely to make the point.

The timeline, which always needs a large dose of salt, suggests they will be ready to start at the end of this coming season (May) and will take two years to complete. No mention of where the Wings and the Deres will play in the meantime but I understand they are looking at the likes of VCD in Crayford which would require some work or a dispensation from the league as it doesn't meet current standards.

You also have to wonder what is in this for Erith & Belvedere? They seem to be gaining far less for a two year spell playing somewhere else. All pain and no gain?

Whilst I left acknowledging Welling Tone's point, I was also left questioning how this announcement and consultation is being handled by the club. Last year, Chairman and prominent Board member Paul Whitehead did a great job communicating directly to and with the supporters. He was full of ideas, most of which he actioned. So far, no-one from the Board has been quoted at all. Nothing from Whitehead, nothing from owner Howard Prosser or WUSA Chairman Matt Mein. I might be jumping the gun but it's almost as if this is being done to them rather than them being behind it in the best interests of the club. You could be forgiven for thinking they don't want their names attached to it.

The plans should be available to view here on Tuesday..........

Saturday 8 July 2023

Dartford 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

Another game of two elevens and thankfully we had a stronger team out in the second-half although neither eleven included a striker.

The starting eleven matched Dartford and Harry Isted prevented the Darts from going in one up at the break. Jaiyesimi and Campbell were nominally the first-half strikers and Kirk and Kanu similarly in the second period. None of them did anything. Jaiyesimi and Kirk are beyond the point of no return for me. They have both had multiple chances and have failed to take them or make any sustained impression. Very disappointing given we paid money for both of them and they are still hanging around because they got long contracts.

After the break we took the game to our hosts and Nathan Asiime in particular took his chance to impress. He was busy on our right flank and was always looking to cut inside. He was rewarded after the hour when Blackett-Taylor chipped into the six yard area and he was first to the header. His glance took it wide of their keeper and in off the post. Minutes later he scored again by cutting in, beating his man and prodding the ball beyond the keeper who should perhaps have done better than to get an arm it to as it bounced in.

It looked all over at that point but Dartford stepped up and after Blackett-Taylor was out-muscled in our half, Vardy raced into the box and skinned the hapless Roddy before finding Manor a yard out at the back post. Two-one and suddenly we looked capable of giving the Darts a draw. Even after they had a player dismissed for swinging at McGrandles (how embarrassing) we still gave them opportunities down our left and Maynard-Brewer saved what would have been an equaliser. We failed to exert any pressure after they went down to ten and looked happy to get off 2-1.

This game came too early for Alfie May and Miles Leaburn is out for "a few weeks." Lloyd Jones is also still recovering from injury, so we do at least have three 'first-teamers to return.' However, the squad is horribly unbalanced and it's mind-boggling that we are being linked with another centre-half (Fankaty Daby) in the circumstances when we have six, excluding Sam Lavelle who slipped away to Carlisle on Friday (good business for them). 

We have to sign a couple of left footed players and injuries are also screaming out for another striker or two. The other elephant in the room are the personalities and winners that we need so desperately. The on-field leaders who will call the shots and give us the bite we have lacked since Lee Bowyer's team. One of them needs to be a midfield general in my mind. I don't want to see Roddy playing for us this season and, trier though he is, I can't see Payne playing a sustained role in a promotion-challenging side in this division.

George Dobson took a knock today which reminds you just how vulnerable our midfield can look without him. We don't have another player who can break things up like him and offer protection to the defence. 

I should add that I think Alfie May is a very good signing but I really hope he doesn't turn out to be our biggest piece of business. We have to bring in another six and they all need to be Alfie May's if we are realistically going to challenge. 

I have very little confidence that we will have the budget for this but I trust Dean Holden and he has said he is very happy with where we are headed, so that gives me some hope.

Sunday 2 July 2023

A tale of two elevens

First things first, congratulations to Dean Holden and his 22 players who saw Welling United off comfortably yesterday at Park View Road. The 4-0 score-line was par for the course but the performance and the result probably said more about Welling's state of readiness for league action than ours.

As has become customary, we started each half with different elevens. It gives everyone 45 minutes, helps keep it competitive and the fans get to see all the players in action. The two Charlton sides were a careful mixture of the good and not-quite-there-yet, which was sensible and it obviously worked.

However, if you picked the strongest eleven to start the match, our second-half side would have looked like this; Isted, Elerewe, Mitchell, Lavelle, Asiimwe, Henry, McGrandles, Chin, Jaiyesimi, Kirk and Kanu. In a nutshell, that is the current squad weakness and in an ideal world we should be looking to bring in better quality players than we have in the first eleven line-up, so we can move some of the current first teamers into the wider squad and move on some of the current second eleven.

The fact that we have only signed a back-up keeper in Harry Isted and extended Michael Hector's contract so far, tells you that Sandgaard isn't spending a bean more than our current (lower) wage budget and that there is no deal on a bigger budget with the prospective new owners as trotted out by Peter Storrie on season ticket deadline day. 

I listened to Michael Hector explain earlier in the week how easy it was for him to extend his deal with us, a month after he was offered a new contract. He spoke, with a smile, about his slow start in January when it seemed to take him two months to get to full fitness. So frustrating then to hear Dean Holden tell us that his absence yesterday was because "he returned a bit behind the others in terms of fitness." This is an out-of-contract player looking to get a new deal somewhere. Bear in mind he hardly played in the two years before he joined us and he is 30 years old, you have to question his motivation and just what we will get from him this season.

Holden also told us that the current process for transfers was cumbersome in that it involves putting any suggestions to Thomas Sandgaard and then floating them past Methvin's crew. I guess we shouldn't be surprised at that but it's certainly not ideal. The common wisdom is that an EFL decision on the approval of the takeover should be through in three or four weeks time i.e. a week or two before the season starts. No doubt we will add to the squad before then but don't expect six or seven signings. Sandgaard won't want to increase his current wage exposure too much and I am sure Global Football Partners will want to be seen to have made changes (however underwhelming they might turn out to be) after their arrival. Perhaps the main loanees will be left for GFP to decide. Those will be the bigger wages and potentially the biggest first-team influence.

In the meantime, Chuks Aneke was again absent yesterday, Holden us he tweaked his calf in training but you have to wonder. Apparently, he hasn't been seen around the club since the end of last season. His injury record is appalling and with a lengthy contract in place, at what point will Charlton call it a day? Not much longer you would think if they can claim insurance compensation if he is medically retired. Such a shame, but why was he offered such a long term after his injury record with us up until that point?

Oh, and we all need to pray that Miles Leaburn's injury yesterday is nothing serious or we are in deep doo-doo.