We’re not far short of a week into the Thomas Sandgaard era and no indication yet of anything to rock the boat off the pitch, although on it the outcome at Lincoln wasn’t exactly what we had in mind – and even what I might have bet on until close to half-time. Yes, the result was infinitely less important than the ownership change, but nevertheless. Had hoped for a real spring in the players' steps, to reflect the enthusiasm of the interview with Sandgaard and Lee Bowyer. We sort of had it for the first half but Lincoln did a job on us in the second, having been gifted the lead, getting bodies behind the ball.
The lessons I’d take from the game were that first, it underlined that the loss of both Pearce and Aneka has really hurt us. We started the game with two debutants and introduced a third, with Amos and Barker still feeling their way in too. Hardly surprising that we are not as yet a cohesive operational unit aware of its strengths and how to play to them. I thought Oztumer took his rare opportunity well, he made things happen and when he and Levitt were pulling the strings in the first half we were looking pretty good. As they faded and were replaced we lost tempo I thought. Williams has different strengths and relies on some space to run with the ball. Against Lincoln that just meant coming up against a brick wall. And to be fair we’d run out of steam well before their late second goal (whatever happened to putting someone on the line?).
Perhaps the players are as mentally tired as the fans. It has felt very strange this week not having to contemplate what the next twist and turn might be (please let there be none), not to think about protests and how to register our dissatisfaction, not to have to follow the transcript of the latest court hearing. It doesn’t help of course that we can’t really meet up with fellow Addicks and raise an extended toast to our new owner before a lengthy ruby to round things off. Strange times indeed.
No matter, let’s focus on the fact that the Sandgaard/Bowyer interview was an absolute joy to listen to, to hear a Charlton Athletic owner talk credibly in terms of long-term goals on the pitch rather than an experiment, some desire to prove some point (guess who), or hollow pledges which nobody bought into (more recent). He sounded also as if he would enjoy the ride (I always found it rather sad that there was never any sign that Duchatelet actually got any pleasure from involvement in football). That, as Bowyer told him, Sandgaard will get a hero’s reception when the day comes for fans back inside The Valley is beyond doubt. Since the news broke I’ve been unable to get rid of the gravelly voice of Lee Hazlewood: “I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me”. I hope our rock start owner would approve.
And let’s face it, it’s really not just us Addicks who should be celebrating our upturn in fortunes. I’ve been working on a thesis, one in its infancy that I hope will prompt more detailed study in academic circles to establish its veracity and what we can learn from it. There does, however, seem to be a strong correlation between Charlton doing well and the world progressing/being optimistic. When either turns positive the other tends to follow, with some lag – and vice versa. Just look at the facts.
We can begin with most of the world celebrating the end of WW2 and what happens virtually in the same breath? Charlton lift the FA Cup. More recently, as we plummeted to near-bankruptcy in 1984 and left The Valley in 1985 Ronald Reagan was getting a second term in the US and the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded. As we turned things around and secured promotion to the top flight later in 1986 (staying there until 1990), things brightened for the world in general, leading to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (and after that the Oslo Accord etc).
Fast forward to more recent times and of course we were relegated from the Premiership in 2007 (could argue that the turning point was appointing Dowie in 2006). What followed of course was the onset of the financial crisis – and as our fortunes soured further so the world went to pot as well. We get lumbered with Duchatelet and the world post-crisis recession, then the Brexit referendum, Trump and Covid-19.
Our fortunes have now undoubtedly taken a major turn for the good. I guess we have to see if the world follows suit, again, and if so the thesis gains more credence. While I’m not looking to fill in the obvious gaps as regards the next step, we will get a good idea in early November with the result of a certain election the other side of the pond.