Just what to make of yesterday? We began the day with Oxford apparently promising an “exciting announcement”, assumed to be confirmation of a new manager, the position having been vacant since January (and with the club’s new owner having reportedly said in February that he expected to make an appointment in the “next couple of days”). And although Karl Robinson had previously played down the rumours and distanced himself from the job, the bookies had reinstalled him as odds-on favourite, the odds on Sven Goran Eriksson apparently lengthening.
We ended the day with not a word from Oxford, nothing from Charlton officially, but with seemingly well-sourced reports that Robinson had offered his resignation to Duchatelet not once but twice. To add to the speculation, reports resurfaced that if the Australian Football Consortium does end up taking us over current Crawley Town boss Harry Kewell would be brought to replace Robinson. Just another day in the tragicomedy that is currently our club.
So basically so far nothing has actually happened (except that we are one day closer to an end to Duchatelet’s ownership). Robinson may still be off to Oxford, he may still resign irrespective, or he may be in situ for Saturday’s game against Plymouth, one which probably represents our last chance saloon as far as fading play-off chances are concerned. I think we could all use some clarity before then, which would be in everyone’s interest.
Perhaps best to separate out the two issues re Robinson. First, is he trying to jump ship having been tipped the wink about Oxford (as a convenient – for him – switch given location and the opportunity to get across a message that he is leaving us because of broken promises from Duchatelet) or was he instead acknowledging that he is failing to get us promoted and in taking responsibility for that by rather more honourably giving the owner the option to replace him? Second, should we be happy or sad if he is gone before Saturday?
Of course on the former there’s currently no way to tell. If Oxford announce the appointment of Robinson it will be up to him to persuade us that he has not behaved badly; in the absence of any convincing explanation – rather more than ‘I did my best but ...’ - we will probably be left to assume that he has, irrespective of the lunacy of Duchatelet’s ‘stewardship’ (there would be a certain irony in that for most of his time with us Roland has been sacking coaches but now he would have seen his trusted CEO and a manager walk away from him). If they announce the appointment of someone else, there would still be a need for some comment from Robinson on the resignation reports. It’s not as if he isn’t going to get asked at every press conference from now on.
How we would feel about him going or not will in part I suspect be conditioned by what is said re Oxford. Nobody can blame Robinson for wanting to get away from Duchatelet – and the line that he was let down in January would carry some conviction – and being tired of the lame duck position he finds himself in vis-a-vis the drawn out takeover. But he is well paid and should have known what he was getting into when he joined us; also, some of the players that have been brought in over the past 12 months are ‘his guys’ and so far they have not turned us into worldbeaters, while disappointment at January window departures and arrivals should be conditioned by the fact that Ezri Konsa was not sold (nor was Josh Magennis). If he goes now Robinson will still deservedly carry the ‘failure’ tag with him. If he is to stay, he has to demonstrate clearly that he is up for the task in terms of enthusiasm and commitment (to Charlton, not the owner).
Ultimately whether Robinson stays or goes is now very much secondary to the takeover, given recent results and current form. We may yet pull off what would in the circumstances be an entirely unexpected victory on Saturday, in which case the picture changes once more. Quite possibly the players are well aware that Robinson has come to the end of his time here – but that would be no excuse for playing with indifference.
There is one issue that still nags at me, one which I don’t think was fully resolved at the time (early 2017). When Robinson joined us he talked of having been won over by the vision and strategy that Duchatelet had for the club, most obviously the emphasis on developing young players. It still seems to me entirely inappropriate that when manager of MK Dons he managed to end up with a (small) shareholding in the company of Dele Alli’s agent, which only came to light with that company getting sued by the tax authorities (MK Dons said they did not know about the holding). This may be something and nothing, but I’d still welcome some reassurance that Robinson has – and has not had since joining us – any personal financial interest in the young players developed at Charlton.