Bloody hell. We’re back well and truly in the merde if this quote from Lee Bowyer is to be believed. “On Saturday I had an email from the owner saying that Pat (Bauer) is staying. He said that Pat is a massive part of our defence and we need to keep him because he improves our chances of promotion”. There haven’t been many positives over the last 18 months or so, but Duchatelet pretending that he’s far too busy to be involved with Charlton has been one of them. If the extended delay to a takeover, and the absence of a CEO, is leading to the daft old buzzard taking more of an interest again and expressing views on footballing matters past experience indicates we can expect a debacle.
Don’t get me wrong, if Bauer stays that will indeed be great news. If he’s up for staying then together with Pearce it’s a well above-average centre-back pairing for this division, especially as they have had a season playing together. If the two full-backs Solly and Page can stay fit, and if Phillips makes the shirt his own, we would have a first-choice defence to match against most if not all others in League One. But of course there are plenty of ‘ifs’ involved, including whether Bauer is tempted by the new offer on the table and whether Roland would accept a fresh, higher offer (even a repeat one if he changes his mind after another month of losses). Plus there is the issue of the number and quality of the back-ups who will undoubtedly be needed.
Surely at this stage, given the position we’re in, it is nothing more than wishful thinking to talk about a promotion challenge. To say we can mount one is fair enough, but there’s every reason to expect more sales – the current talk seems to be of Ajose going overseas – and no knowing the quality of who may be brought in. And if there’s one acid test at present it’s surely that no club in this league with promotion on its mind would accept a bid of £200k for Magennis just because its cash up front (reportedly). Bowyer may have been expecting him to go but if the details are correct Bolton have got an absolute snip – and we have been fleeced, or rather our owner just doesn’t care.
After all, while the first-choice defence looks decent, the options up front clearly do not. Not long ago, even though we knew there would be changes, we had on paper Taylor and Magennis in the frame as target men, Vetokele and Ajose to compete as the goal-scoring accompanying forward, with the renamed Grant perhaps available. It was competition for places and options available, which is what you need if you are planning to get promoted. Have to say I don’t understand Bowyer’s comments on this front, when talking about Taylor being a straight swap for Magennis and what more needs to be done: “We have to bring in someone who is a bit more versatile – it won’t be another out-and-out striker. It will be someone who can play that position like Karlan Grant – out wide or up top. Otherwise I could have four strikers for two positions.”
I think having four strikers for two positions is entirely desirable. Plus we now have the small matter that Vetokele is injured and unavailable for some weeks, Ajose is rumoured to be off if Roland can find anyone with cash in the bank for him, and Taylor himself is a doubt for the start of the season at least. And if we’re relying on the goals coming from deeper positions Fosu, Clarke and Reeves are all apparently out for varying lengths of time.
Injuries of course happen (although the implications of players losing time when fitness levels are expected to improve are worrying), we don’t know yet who may be brought in. Suffice to say this is not ideal preparation if a club has promotion as its objective. For Charlton, while of course we have no divine right to be higher than the third flight, I hope I never see the day when we view a season in League One in which we are not promoted as anything other than a failure. If we don’t get promoted this campaign we will set the unwanted precedent of four consecutive seasons in the third flight, for the first time in my lifetime.
In that context, it is surely blindingly obvious to every Addick that our only realistic prospect of mounting a real challenge is for a takeover to finally go through. If Duchatelet stays it is of course his right to sell anything that moves, he owns the club, he pays the bills. Just don’t insult the intelligence of the supporters by mentioning promotion while you do it. Sorry, I forgot: ‘Duchatelet – insulting the intelligence of supporters from the start’.
This all of course leads to whether or not to support CARD’s call for a boycott or the Trust’s polite decline to do so at this stage. Nobody wants to protest but the decision has to be down to whether there is sufficient reason to believe that doing so will help to accelerate a sale (heaven forbid he actually decides he wants to keep us; in that event all hell will quite rightly break loose). If yes, we do it, despite the short-term implications; if no, forget about season tickets and spending inside the ground but turn up. There’s no right or wrong decision, just a personal assessment of the pros and cons.
As things stand, to the best of our (collective) knowledge the Australians are still trying to buy us (by the absence of evidence to the contrary I think we can now assume that the supposed second bidder does not exist but apparently there might be another one emerging), Duchatelet still wants to sell (albeit at a daft price, seemingly based on a spurious revaluation of the property involved), and we really don’t know exactly why it hasn’t happened yet but hope that it will soon. Simples.
Any decision by me on a boycott is pretty academic for now. I’ll be in Lyon until end-September, by which time perhaps, just perhaps, a sale will have been concluded. No question if I was in London I would not be buying a season ticket until new owners were installed, that’s easy. For individual games right now, tough call. Let’s perhaps focus not on whether CARD is right, on decisions individuals take, but on us being united in our desire for Duchatelet to be gone.