So, its news by default. The cancellation of the Murray/Chappell Q&A, on legal advice, is perfectly understandable in the context of ongoing negotiations regarding the prospective Varney-led takeover/investment. But the cancellation is the first concrete development (rather than rumours) to actually indicate that such talks are indeed taking place. Presumably they were taking place before the event was scheduled, so arranging it at least implied that it was expected that matters would be resolved by now, one way or the other (let’s face it, there’s not a lot else to ask about as we are led to believe that the manager’s position and a number of player retentions are contingent on a deal). We have to infer, therefore, that at the very least a deal is taking longer than expected to agree (or faltering?).
None of this should be necessary. When the prospective Dubai takeover came along the club issued an appropriate statement (admittedly after having received an indicative offer; perhaps Varney is making offers that are less than indicative). Of course there’s a need for confidentiality and we don’t need chapter and verse until something’s signed and sealed, or indeed ruled out. But this time around there’s been just silence from the club – at the worst possible time (ie when the club needs all the goodwill from supporters it can get). I really just don’t understand why there has not been a simple statement issued given the time that has elapsed and the evident feelings of fans.
I was giving the Murray/Chappell gathering a miss in any event, having previously signed up to attend the Westminster electoral reform rally. I have never voted in a general election (and would have a spotless record on local elections were it not for the Valley Party). It always struck me as incongruous to support ‘one person, one vote’ but not the idea that each of the votes count equally. The campaign is all about encouraging debate on reform (it doesn’t have to be pure PR), discussion, openness, free flow of information. Seems like a current theme.
No doubt it will all come out in the wash, but it’s indicative that when you feel disgruntled about something other issues tend to grind. It starts to nark when the club releases an email newsflash that we have signed a new player – a welcome addition who of course we all hope goes on to have a long and successful spell with us – but no such emails when it comes to departures (Hudson, Wright and now Zheng Zhi). No disrespect to Manuel Angel Llera, but as soon as we saw he had signed the assumption was that the reports about Hudson going to Cardiff were true. It’s not as if there’s something to hide. We have a broad idea about the finances and netting a £1m-plus swap on presumably lower wages clearly makes sense. And let’s face it none of us are surprised either that Zhi has declined the chance to get kicked to bits (although I do seem to recall Steve Wiggott saying something before about how much he loved the club; ah, how fickle affairs of the heart can be).
So, it wasn’t exactly with a spring in the step that I boarded the 89 for Welling. The chance to see two composite teams for the two halves comprising a number of players we still have no clear idea whether they will be staying, under a manager who two months after the end of the campaign is still ‘unsure of his position’, with an assistant out of contract. I didn’t even know if the three players who are now out of contract but whose futures are unresolved (Holland, Fortune and Randolph) are eligible to play for us (or if the club would stump up for Matty’s train fare down from Colchester if he is). In the event Randolph played the second half. With none of my compatriots daft enough to attend, I really had the impression on the way that I might be the only one turning up. But while perhaps not as full as in past seasons the turnout wasn’t bad by any means (scientists may have discovered how to reproduce male sperm but they’re still nowhere near isolating the gene that pre-determines Charlton fans).
There’s no point in a proper report on what amounts to a training exercise, just a few personal observations. Undoubtedly the focus of attention in the first half was Llera, but not for the best of reasons. His first touch in a Charlton shirt was to collect the ball from Elliott, stride purposefully forward, then wellie a cross-field pass high into the stand (well, high relative to the size of the stand). That was just about his only decent strike of the ball. After that he managed to slice a couple into touch, managed one air shot, and got caught in possession. He did look suitably commanding in the air, but as for finding his feet he obviously had but managed to attach the right one to the left leg. He'd better get them sorted before the start of the season as at the moment, given possible departures, along with Elliott and perhaps Burton his is the first name on the team sheet.
Otherwise it was pretty nondescript, as was to be expected at this stage. Burton and Dickson started together up front in the first half, with Tuna and Sam down the flanks, while McLeod and Fleetwood took over in the second. All had moments, but nothing more. A Mambo header was ruled out for something and after a scoreless first period Wagstaff shot home from a tight angle early in the second, only for Welling to equalise from a low cross. After that the game petered out. What we were left to ponder were the names missing from the 21-name line-up: no Holland, no Gray (presumably we are doing all we can to offload), but for me perhaps most surprising was no Mouatouakil (has he gone, injured, not selected?).
You can’t call it a curtain-raiser. For that you need the orchestra to be seated, the conductor warming his baton, and the actors/singers ready and waiting. We don’t even know who’s writing the play.