Wednesday, 22 January 2020

A Point Well Earned

OK, we didn’t get the outrageous last-gasp winner from the free kick, which would have been sweet, but a clean sheet and a point was an outcome most of us would have taken before the game. And in the end we deserved that point. If anything it was Fulham deteriorating and running out of ideas towards the end, they were far less threatening in the second half than the first, which was a tribute to the effort put in by all in red on the pitch. At times it wasn’t beautiful, but it was admirable.

We set up with a sort of 4-4-1-1 with a flat back four ahead of Phillips of Matthews, Purrington, Lockyer and Pearce (who took the captain’s armband), with Sarr and Oshilaja dropping to the bench. The most welcome returning Cullen partnered the now indispensable Pratley, with Morgan and Doughty making up the midfield, while Oztumer was in the hole and Hemed operated pretty much as a lone forward. And a strong bench (when was the last time that could be said?) contained Taylor, Williams and Green.

And there was a lively start from us as first one low cross managed to evade a man in red then one from the other side was deflected almost into the net. Fulham did settle and began to dominate possession, as was always expected. And their movement up front did start to trouble us. On half-chances it was soon 2-1 as a desperate block came in and later 2-2 as a shot across goal just went wide of our far post. Throw in some blocks from Phillips and for us a storming run box-to-box from Doughty, which ended disappointingly as he seemed undecided over how to end the move, and you had a decent game. Just that as the half wore on you had the impression that Fulham were highly likely to score at some point, while we could – but were starting to find it hard to threaten them as the emphasis was on keeping our shape in front of Phillips.

The second half wasn’t much different, except that Fulham actually deteriorated, which must be a concern for their promotion hopes. They started getting sloppier in possession, less fluid going forward, and looking back on it now I can’t think of a real chance they created in the second half. We weren’t exactly peppering their goal either – there was another promising move which ended with Doughty shooting from a tight angle rather than squaring it - but going into the last 20 mins or so it felt like there was some swing in momentum as the changes were made.

First it was Williams coming on for Morgan, with Doughty switching to the right. Next up Taylor replaced Hemed, who as they say had put in a shift (I kept thinking of the Monty Python sketch, especially given today’s sad news, something for him along the lines of ‘Scraps? We used to dream of feeding off scraps’). Their central defenders were suddenly obliged to become rather more physical than before and with more effective pressing of the ball we were pushing them more towards rather hopeful long balls out of defence. The final change was Green coming on for Oztumer, who had found a decent position for a shot but rather fluffed it – and, while having played very well, did take what I have to say was the worst corner I’ve seen in my life.

There was one more opportunity as Doughty again worked the position but the cross was wayward, then the free kick at the death that came to nothing. So be it, we had our point and they had not scored, something I wouldn’t have bet on at evens at half-time.

So plenty of positive to take from the game I think. Perhaps uppermost is the evidence that neither the January transfer windows stuff nor the recent results has had any adverse impact on the determination and effort being put in. Couple that with the news that Lee Bowyer has signed a new contract and the point we’ve secured tonight can be seen as an important step along the way of stabilising and rebuilding the season.

One aside, we have now played West Brom twice and drawn twice, Fulham the same, and have played Leeds once and beaten them. If only we could play the top three every week.

Player Ratings:

Phillips – 8/10. Dealt with everything thrown at him, claimed crosses when he needed to, don’t care about the occasional poor kick out.

Matthews – 8/10. Unobtrusive but can’t remember him being caught out or slipping up.

Purrington – 7/10. I thought he started the game rather unsteadily, but as it progressed he got stronger and played his part.

Lockyer – 8/10. Solid performance with some very good tackles and blocks.

Pearce – 7/10. Overall fine but did think there were a couple of errors losing the ball which put us in a difficult position.

Doughty – 7/10. Caused them real problems and this could have been a match-winning display. But in three good positions, which he had worked for himself, he didn’t manage to make them count.

Cullen - 8/10. Deserves that mark for being able to put in the full 90 mins so soon. A very welcome return.

Pratley – 8/10. Excellent, some timely interceptions and very good reading of the game.

Morgan – 7/10. Didn’t stand out but helped us to keep our shape and played his part.

Hemed – 8/10. Never stopped looking and working for an opportunity and to try to disrupt their play.

Subs – Williams 8/10 (made things happen, no question we were more of a threat going forward after his entrance); Taylor 7/10 (took some strong challenges to welcome him back, still very much hope he stays); Green 7/10 (not much of an opportunity to shine, only on for perhaps 10 mins).

Sunday, 5 January 2020

No Cup Upset But Some Positives

We all knew the score (and the probable score) before setting off and confirmation that we will have to wait another season for FA Cup glory isn’t going to matter in the greater scheme of things. Of course we wanted to win the game but the real interest lay in whether the new owners would take a bow or provide some insight into their plans in the programme (in the event there was nothing along these lines, really just not the day for it), a first look at new loanee Andre Green, whether some of the returning injured on the bench might get some minutes (Jonny Williams and Tomer Hemed duly did), and whether some of the kids might make a name for themselves. With West Brom putting out a side containing Barry, Austin and Brunt it was going to be a tough ask; and thanks to the BBC for providing the stat of the day: apparently seven of our starting XI were not born when Barry made his debut in 1998.

So in front of Phillips in a back four were Solly, Oshilaja, Sarr and Stevenson (with Lockyer and Pearce given the day off), and whether you call it 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 the two wide players were Green and Odoh with Vennings, Henry and Wiredu in the middle and Davison pretty much the lone striker (with Taylor also given the break). The bench included Gallagher, Pratley, Williams and Hemed, along with Morgan, Harness and Powell, the notable absentee being Ledley, giving rise to the impression that we may have already seen the last of him.

In truth the first half was a rather dull affair, with West Brom seeming to be playing within themselves and us not looking to commit going forward; and the first ball towards Odoh was a lofted one, a tactic which seemed unlikely to produce results. Our one effort of note was a shot on the volley from a half-cleared corner which went narrowly wide. Green had one decent run but we struggled to get the ball to him in good positions, Wiredu did get into space a couple of times but overran the ball (the first time he had a bad bobble off the pitch), while the star of the show was Oshilaja.

In amongst all of this West Brom did score, around the half-hour mark. Having probed but seldom actually threatened they were able to score far too easily. Their big No 9 was allowed to amble around the box unchallenged and he moved forward, played a one-two with another of theirs, and found himself one-on-one against Phillips. He didn’t miss. Otherwise they threatened from a number of corners and towards the break we were just hoping that they wouldn’t notch a second as that would probably have been that. They didn’t, so there was still hope, especially as presumably a few if not fresh then older legs would be coming off the bench.

The second half did indeed prove to be a livelier affair, although for most of it the surprise was that West Brom did not extend their lead. We did manage to get the ball to Green outside the box and after he pulled it down with aplomb he moved inside and hit a good shot turned around the post by their keeper. This and greater adventure on our part seemed to sting West Brom into trying to ensure no unwanted extra time or replay. They had a shout for a penalty as a shot at the far post hit someone’s hand, then their big No 9 shrugged Solly off the ball and laid it off for Brunt, to curl one over Phillips only for it to come back off the underside of the bar. It seemed that Austin must convert the rebound but somehow it was kept out and scrambled clear. Then a few minutes later a more routine effort from Austin hit the outside of the post.

Our changes saw Hemed and Morgan replace Green and Henry, plus a little later Williams making a welcome return for Wiredu, who had just picked up a yellow. And as the clock ticked down and West Brom were content to sit on what they had we did threaten to level things up. Hemed had no immediate impact but did provide an extra presence up front, making a lofted ball forward not the waste of time it had been in the first half. And Sarr was bringing the ball out of defence to good effect, usually picking out decent passes forward.

Our first real chance came as Odoh was tripped right on the edge of the box (on another day it might have been seen as just inside). The curled ball in somehow wasn’t converted at the far post, being put out for a corner. And shortly after that a cross in was nodded back and down by Hemed and Davison went for the overhead kick. Thought it was in but that one too came back off the bar. Into four minutes of stoppage time (and two West Brom substitutions) and right at the death Hemed had a shot from the edge of the area which just didn’t dip in time. And that was it.

So no surprise victory but no broken hearts either. We all know there are far more important games to come. Just how we shape up by the end of January remains to be seen. What is most important is that a line is drawn under the past few months and we regroup, don’t get hangdog because games have been lost. The spirit still looks good and has to remain so. Of course the rest of the season begins with another visit from West Brom. Bring it on.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Will He Stay Or Will He Go?

It’s not yet clear whether Lyle Taylor has turned down the new contract offered as part of an as yet unfinished negotiating process or whether he has made up his mind to leave in January. As in most cases there is a strongly positive outcome for us, a clearly negative one, and plenty of grey in between.

The strongly positive result is that Taylor signs a new contract in the very near future, ie before the end of December. That would end the matter and leave Steve Gallen and our new owners all of the January transfer window to make changes they want to. His re-signing before the end of January for me still falls very much into the positive category. We are in a relegation struggle and a fit and motivated Taylor would be a massive factor in staying up. You’re lucky if any replacement gels quickly and there no doubting that the team plays at its best when he is part of it.

The strongly negative outcome is of course the uncertainty dragging on through January and Taylor being sold at the last minute. Past history indicates we are not very good at dealing with those situations. I’d also list as negative Taylor not signing a new contract with us but not being sold, perhaps with a pre-contract signed for the summer. We would then be in the twilight zone, unsure if Taylor will be up for the struggle (and then doubts about how fans would react if it looks like he is not).

What is clearly needed is resolution. If Taylor makes it clear that he wishes to leave there will be no griping from me. He’s 29 years old and this would probably be the final move higher of his career (if it is possible to go higher than Charlton). Nobody should blame him even if it proves to be just about the money. He’s been an outstanding player for us, played a central role in our promotion, and has been a leader on the pitch. That some fans might feel in some way betrayed by someone they have made a talismanic figure deciding to walk away really is their problem, not his.

Just please Lyle, make it clear very soon, for your own benefit if nothing else. There is no reason to part on bad terms, if him and us must part. If he is indifferent to such concerns he is not the man we thought he was. Who knows where paths will lead and when they will cross again.

Whatever the outcome, if Taylor leaves now and were to return to The Valley at some point in the future, I’d applaud him. There’s an element I guess of ‘salute the rank, not the person’. He has played a major role in our recent history; it’s not an exaggeration to say that without him we would be scrapping it out in League One and probably with the lunatic still looking for a buyer. That contribution should not be forgotten.

I though the booing of Karlan Grant during the Huddersfield match was a little silly but not outrageous (as opposed to the abuse he received on social media, which was shameful, disgusting and utterly unacceptable). I can’t blame anyone for taking the opportunity to advance their career and to escape from Duchatelet’s oversight. But when the history of Charlton is updated he isn’t going to get more than a line: ‘Brought into the first team too soon, had a number of chances to shine, finally got it right and after a very good half-season took the chance to get away’.

What I do find absurd, if it is repeated, is the booing of Scott Parker, if it gets repeated when he brings his Fulham team to The Valley in January. Parker is a Charlton legend and we don’t need to go over the reasons why. To say that he deserves our respect and thanks really ought to go without saying. Yes, he left us in acrimonious circumstances. That is unfortunate. But it should in no way overshadow what he did in a Charlton shirt.

There’s no question surely that if Taylor goes he will need to be replaced. I’ve no idea if and when Hemed might be available, which leaves Bonne and Aneka plus Leko trying to operate as another forward when he is surely a big asset playing in a wider and freer role. Our midfield problems can be fixed with players returning from injury, but options up front are too few to be confident. We need to know soon what they are.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Another Tough Night

Ahead of tonight’s game there was no doubt what was expected and what was hoped for. A much-weakened team without a win in eight games, coming off the back of what was by all accounts a poor performance at Boro, up against a side one place above the relegation spots and themselves without a win in five. Needless to say you take any sort of ground-out, ugly win – and don’t go in anticipation of a demonstration of the beautiful game, especially on a wet pitch in blustry conditions (to the point where it wasn’t just the North Stand lower tier running for shelter from the rain).

And in that context the first half didn’t disappoint. Bowyer opted for a back five with Pratley sitting in front of it, which with the full backs not venturing past the half-way line left Gallagher to contest much of midfield almost on his own, to try to supply a disparate trio of Bonne, Leko and Doughty. It looked as though the instructions might have been ‘keep it very tight, keep a clean sheet to the break, if we’re lucky we might nick something at the other end, then we’ll change it at some point in the second half’.

To say the forward players were feeding on scraps would be an understatement. A ball bounced over their defender’s head to let in Doughty but he shot over the bar, one or two set pieces (one after Lockyer – I think – made a good break forward only to be taken out, their guy picking up a yellow), and that was about it. At the other end Huddersfield’s front two (including Grant of course) had pace and movement, but our set-up afforded them no space. One routine save for Phillips (plus a strange decision from him to head a ball away when he was well inside his area; if he wasn’t sure fair enough), some threat from corners was the sum total. They’d had more of the ball but to that extent our gameplan had worked.

So at the break we’d had 45 minutes of pretty horrible stuff but the promise of a different second period attacking the Covered End, with a certain someone on the bench. One thing worth noting was that Gallagher had picked up a yellow, for his fourth or fifth slightly mistimed challenge, but he showed commendable maturity after that by adjusting his approach, not giving the ref an excuse to give him another but remaining combative.

The second half was likely to be different – and it was. Huddersfield found ways around our defenders twice early on (at least once from a corner) and both times hard, low shots prompted superb saves from Phillips to turn them around the post. In a game in which the first goal was becoming increasingly important it was only thanks to him that we were still on level terms.

However, after those scares we started to come into things more. It was noticeable that Solly was getting further forward, Sarr was bringing the ball out down the left side more often (not always to good effect but always with intent), and with the urging of the crowd we were starting to look as if we might carry a threat, although Bonne and Leko were being well marshalled by their defence (I kept noticing their number 27, Stankovic, who dealt with everything).

With 20 minutes left on the clock the change we expected was made, Taylor making his long-awaited return. Have to say I was a little surprised that it was Leko who made way. Not that he was having much of an influence but as I’d have liked to see what we might have done with him and Bonne either side of Taylor (and shortly after Doughty was replaced by Vennings). The change lifted the crowd again and we went looking for the winner.

And we did produce two moments when it might have come. First, good work down the left involving Gallagher and Bonne produced a low cross just behind Taylor but running onto it was Solly. He hit the shot well but a defender threw himself in the way to block. Then arguably the game’s defining moment as a ball into their box was deflected up and Sarr and Taylor seemed to combine to get it over the line. However, the linesman’s flag had gone up well before the ball was in the net. Seems Bowyer is saying it should have been a goal, I’d have to see it again.

Huddersfield did themselves have a moment or two in the final 20 mins, including one situation when their guys were lined up on the left side of our box in isolation only for the ball not to find a way through to them. But in that final 20 period there was really only one side looking to win the game – and looking likely to.

Into three minutes of stoppage time and it looked like we’d have to take the point. But a move down their left saw the ball covered by Solly, should have been a routine clearance. Instead he rather lamely knocked it out straight to their guy, who advanced and put in another low cross. Like the two before it early in the half the ball in was hit well and this time Phillips could do nothing about it. And shortly after the final whistle went.

One advantage of drowning your sorrows after a game rather than dashing back to scribble something is you can have a look at Bowyer’s comments. He said the players gave “absolutely everything”, which was undoubtedly the case, no questioning the effort and commitment. He added “we score a goal that gets disallowed for offside – He’s not offside”, which is possible, have to see the replays. He also said “we didn’t get anything that we deserved from the game today” and that “in the second half it only looked like one team was going to win it”. I’d say almost. In the final 20 minutes we were the team going for the win, but that was after two saves early in the second half which kept us in the game. Over the 90 minutes (45 really given that the first half was a waste of time) I’d guess a neutral would say a draw would have been fair and of course losing in stoppage time is always a kick in the teeth.

It's tough, the chances are we’ll drop some more in the table with tonight’s games, and we’ve Hull on Friday evening, with Bowyer indicating that Taylor shouldn’t be risked to start the game. Whether there’s any reshuffling of the small pack for that game remains to be seen as until Taylor is fully match-fit (and signed up on a new contract) we are bit in limbo. The real decision will probably be whether to stick with a back five and Pratley in front of it.

Player Ratings:

Phillips – 9/10. His two saves kept us in the game, no chance with their goal.

Purrington – 7/10. I saw nothing wrong and, like Solly, he got forward more often in the second half.

Solly – 6/10. Might have been an 8 rating if his shot had found the net and if he hadn’t made such a hash of the clearance for their goal.

Lockyer – 7/10. Can’t really have any complaints about the central back three, all of whom did their job.

Pearce – 7/10. Perhaps still looks a little rusty, one or two unnecessary fouls conceded, but overall sound.

Sarr – 7/10. Defensively a mistake or two and mixed results going forward, but he does give you something different.

Pratley – 6/10. Nothing wrong with him being asked to protect the defence, but with five of them didn’t leave much over for the midfield to cause them any problems.

Gallagher – 8/10. The mark isn’t because he had a great game. He didn’t. But he was aware enough to adjust after his yellow card, strived manfully with little help in the first half, and was involved in most of our best moments when we went more on the attack in the second.

Doughty – 6/10. Bright in the first 20 minutes or so but became increasingly peripheral as the game went on (to be fair he was subbed for the final period when we attacked most).

Leko – 6/10. Not much went his way and like Doughty was taken off for our most attacking period. Doesn’t look comfortable trying to play more centrally with a partner and had little joy against their centre-backs.

Bonne – 6/10. Kept going but for much of the game was outplayed by their defenders and didn’t manage to hold the ball to wait for support. We wait to see if he can form a good partnership with Taylor (or of course if he or Taylor leaves in January).

Subs – Taylor (6/10 – no miracle return, but that would have been expecting too much); Vennings (6/10 – questionable whether it was the best choice to send him on into an area where we were struggling to compete).

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Hard To Take, But Not Unfair

Tough result to take. On another day we could have won, if we’d taken the lead in the second half, or taken a point. But nobody would say we were robbed. We know the list of absentees and the gaps that were being filled; Addicks may have turned up with their dancing shoes on but if we’d brought boots we had a fair chance of getting a game. Even had the thought that Bowyer or Jackson might have been able to do a job for us even now (and just imagine the impact on the crowd!). As it was we tried to patch up, to make do, and to win the game. It was a good effort, but on the day not enough against a rather ordinary but ultimately efficient Sheffield Wednesday side.

Both halves – and the game – turned on key moments within a minute or so at either end. Having had much the better of the opening 15 mins, Wednesday had taken the lead, all too easily. From an earlier corner their guy had been free to head the ball into the net, only to be ruled offside, and when a pretty routine ball came in from the left their guy was first to it ahead of Sarr to head home. It was a goal that they didn’t have to work that hard to score.

That wasn’t the turning point. Instead about 10 minutes later Wednesday missed an absolute sitter. Another ball in was won by them and Philipps made a good save, only for the ball to run loose to their guy, a few yards out and with the goal at his mercy. There was one of ours on the line but he somehow he managed to put it over the bar. Some let-off. And pretty much from that we got the ball wide left and Doughty pushed it past his marker and won the race, squared it, and with the help of a deflection and the post Bonne managed to convert. Somehow from being a whisker away from two down we were level.

That was pretty much the first half. We did have a free kick just outside the area, with the lively Oztumer brought down. But what looked like a training ground routine ended with a rather lame shot wide. At the other end Wednesday had a one-on-one well blocked by Philipps and generally threatened without creating many chances.

At the break I remember thinking that if I was the Wednesday manager I’d be pretty furious with my team. They were stronger, more cohesive, had the better chances, but weren’t ahead. Charlton get some credit for that as there was no shortage of hard work, but aside from Oztumer the creativity to fashion opportunities seemed to be missing.

Perhaps they did get a rollocking during the break as Wednesday started the second half seemingly in determined fashion, making one substitution. Only a superb save from Philipps, leaping to his right to turn around a shot, kept us level. But we were still in the game, by now Vennings was on for Morgan, and there was cause for optimism as Leko seemed to have the beating of his man. As the clock ticked down you had the feeling that if we could nick one from somewhere, to have something to hold on to, we could win the game.

Wasn’t to be as we had the second and what proved decisive set of events in short succession. This time all eyes were on the referee. From a set piece Addicks were up in arms as Lockyer seemed to be wrestled to the ground. Looked like one of those that are sometimes given, sometimes not. This ref was unmoved. And shortly after he was called on again to make a decision as their guy went across the box and went to ground. A neutral might say he was tripped by Oztumer, quite frankly it was too far away to be confident whether it was a foul and whether it was inside the box. The referee took an age but eventually gave the penalty, which was dispatched.

A possibly tiring Oztumer was soon replaced by Davison but through the final 10 minutes or so we huffed and puffed but failed to make their keeper work. Wednesday were by now more intent on holding what they had, but did manage to rub salt into the wounds with a third well into stoppage time. To say we were stretched was an understatement and with numbers to spare it was crossed from the left and an unmarked guy headed home. It was their second goal that decided the game, that just gave a scoreline that flattered Wednesday.

We knew it was going to be tough, for obvious reasons. And we’ve lost another because we’ve again not kept a clean sheet. But there are no real conclusions to be drawn, the squad is too threadbare at the moment – learnt after the game that Purrington came down sick and Morgan was unwell - and nobody’s going to either complaining or worrying yet.

Player Ratings:

Philipps:  9/10. No chance with any of the goals and Wednesday would have been out of sight but for his saves.

Matthews:  7/10.  No complaints, didn’t see a lot going forward but it wasn’t the sort of game for anything cavalier.

Doughty:  7/10. Slotted in it seems as a late replacement for Purrington, his piece of invention was responsible for our goal.

Lockyer:  7/10. Effective, calm. Only downside is that we’re not keeping clean sheets.

Sarr:  6/10. Perhaps harsh but he was beaten too easily to the ball for their first goal.

Oshilaja:  6/10. Put in a shift but can’t remember him doing much of note, aside from a decent shot over the bar.

Pratley:  7/10.  Not an easy game for him as we were lacking drive in a decimated midfield.

Morgan:  6/10.  Can’t remember moments of note but seems he wasn’t 100% and substituted early in the second half.

Oztumer:  8/10. Everything positive from us came through him. Sure, he’ll get knocked off the ball and not everything comes off. But he looks to make things happen, obliging Wednesday to take him out too often.

Leko:  7/10. Especially in the second half seemed to have the potential to win the game for us. Just didn’t quite happen.

Bonne:  7/10. Took his goal well enough and on another day that would be enough. But found it tough in the physical contest against their centre-backs.

Subs:  Vennings (6/10 – looked lively at times, not an easy game to get into); Davison (6/10 – only on for the last 10 minutes or so).

Friday, 29 November 2019

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Ticket for tomorrow's game bought. Everybody wear dancing shoes. Enough said.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

De Turck Replies With .... Well Nonsense

Oh my giddy aunt. We have got used to the periodic spouting of nonsense by our absent owner, sufficiently to just be mildly amused by the further evidence (if such were needed) that he has no grasp of logic or reality. But when his sidekick delivers the same sort of gobbledygook you really do wonder how any prospective buyer of our club could get any sense out of either of them. And what is more incredible is that the responses to the questions put to him in his absence at the recent Fans Forum meeting are not off-the-cuff remarks but considered, written replies.

I don’t know if Lieven de Turck has had formal legal training, or if like his boss (who to reiterate should be paying his fees, not our club – the statement describes de Turck as “representing the club in takeover talks”, which is not the truth; our club is a separate entity from our owner, our owner is – allegedly – trying to sell an asset, our club, and de Turck is working for him) he just believes he has expertise or insight in areas where he patently does not. If he has, I’d suggest he could submit a decent claim to get back the fees he paid. The replies are available on the club website, in case anyone wants to check.

Question 1: Is Charlton a more sellable club now it is in the Championship?
Everyone in the room presumably realised that this was a leading question, given Duchatelet’s remark in his post-Wembley statement that “the fact Charlton are now back in the Championship should increase our chances of being sold”. The question is really therefore ‘do you agree with your boss and if so why haven’t we been sold yet?’ Instead de Turck goes off on a tangent and suggests that “some fans question why the owner is very transparent regarding not only the positive, but also the negative points of owning the club”. And who might these fans be? Then “some think we should not speak about the negatives to increase the chances to sell the club”. Now does anyone for a moment think that a prospective buyer will not already know exactly what he/she/they are getting into, or that the chances of concluding a sale will be altered one iota by whatever Duchatelet says publicly about the pros and cons? Of course not.

Then he just gets sillier. “It is a matter of culture and ethics not to fool others”. Just words not supported by the evidence; Duchatelet has tried to blame others for his failure to conclude a sale and is utterly opaque when it suits him to be; and as we see below de Turck is quite happy to try to provide confusion where no confusion exists. “A seller has the legal obligation to inform candidate buyers properly”. I think you’ll find that such obligations fall within the parameters of the due diligence process, not some ‘thought of the day’ comment from our owner.

OK, that stuff’s just silly, de Turck (and Duchatelet) really shouldn’t judge others by their own standards. What follows on the more pertinent issue of the ex-directors’ loans is where de Turck is obviously out of his depth – or trying to be misleading.

Question 2: It has previously been said that the former directors’ loans are not an issue, now it appears they are an issue. Has this changed? If so, why?
De Turck acknowledges that “the club can be sold with the loans in place”. Fair enough. But he then says that there are “two debates” concerning them. The first, apparently, is does the loan repayment expire?

The wording cited is “The loan shall be repaid in five (5) equal instalments payable on 31 August in each year in which the Club competes in the Premier League up to a maximum of 5 years in any period from (the date of this deed)”. De Turck says “please note the wording ‘up to’. Those words can only make sense if, under some circumstances, the number of periods of repayment can be ‘less than’ five years, which would imply an expiry date”. What utter nonsense. It is hardly surprising that the deed outlines the conditions under which the loans would start to be repaid, and the terms: equal instalments up to a maximum of five years. If there was no maximum number of instalments the loans could be ‘repaid’ at a penny a year, ad infinitum; and five years (or instalments) is deemed the maximum because of course if desired the loans could be paid off sooner than that, should the other party wish. There is no expiry date, stated or implied, and to try to suggest that this wording forms the basis for one is either incompetence or duplicity.

There’s more. Another quote from the deed. “For the avoidance of doubt, it is acknowledged and agreed that no repayments of the Loan will be made at any time when the Club is competing in a football league other than the Premier League”. I think we all understand that. Except that De Turck says “this gives the impression that a stay in a football league other than the Premier League interrupts the repayment. However, that is not what it says”. Come again? It is exactly what it says. De Turck suggests that this might make it an ‘eternal agreement’, something he describes as “very unusual in legal terms”, adding that eternal agreements “cause confusion and create a mess”. They are indeed unusual as normally the person extending the loan requires a final settlement date. What de Turck calls “confusion” is the ex-directors having been exceedingly accommodating in their repayment terms. I’d suggest de Turck does not try to use that leniency as a means to try to muddy the waters.

We move on to the second ‘debate’, whether the Club is obliged to secure the ex-directors’ consent for anything. De Turck states: “Some of the ex-directors say they can object to assets within the BATON Ltd holding to be moved (that’s his incorrect wording, not mine) or reorganized. However, when the previous owner sold the club to the current owner, one of the options presented at the time of the sale was to sell The Valley land for development and move the stadium next to The O2, without any reference to the need of agreement of ex-directors which would seem to contradict this”.

Now I don’t think you need to be of above average intelligence to point out to de Turck that whatever was said by the owners before Duchatelet in the context of their attempts to sell our club should have been – and would have been by any sensible buyer – taken with a very large pinch of salt. And an ‘option presented’ is not the same as a legal document. This may reflect badly on the previous owners, but it is hardly a reason for suggesting that the ex-directors do not indeed have a legal hold over certain assets. If that issue went to court, do you think that a judge would be won over by the suggestion of such an ‘option’? I believe the phrase is caveat emptor. Or in the case of Duchatelet, if you didn’t ask/find out about the ex-directors and their loans before you bought our club more fool you.

De Turck goes on to say “some candidate buyers may want to use the fixed assets of the Club as collateral for loans, which can’t be done with the ex-directors in place”. Well tough. They either accept the limitation, offer a way around it (including telling Duchatelet to sort out that problem before they buy), or walk away. It’s like me turning up at the Club and saying I’d like to buy it but don’t have any money.

There is another section on the price being asked by Duchatelet but that quotes Rick Everitt with a slur to follow. I’ll leave that for others to discuss. Suffice to say that if I was De Turck I would – like most of the incompetent managers (and players) Duchatelet has lumped us with over the years – just take the money for services rendered and consider myself grateful to have found a boss who values my advice, because I’d guess there aren’t many of them, perhaps only one.