Friday, 10 January 2014

Duchatelet Statement Positives

I was just getting ready to ramble on about the game tomorrow (we know that, barring a last-minute deluge, it’s on and I hope there’s a bumper crowd ready to provide a warm welcome to Monsieur Duchatelet whether or not he’s there in person), about transfer rumours, and/or about life in general (including just why was I at the ground to use a season ticket voucher to get a ticket for the Bournemouth game for my French partner Suzanne, even though she tried to poison me over the holiday period). There was a danger of a bit of negativity, based not least around some of the rumours, but have just seen the statement released on the club site and, reading between the lines, what it contains is undoubtedly positive.

So the statement related to key concerns first (sorry, the poisoning attempt may have to wait). Number one, Duchatelet refers to Charlton having “a rich history, a cherished stadium ….” It is indeed a cherished stadium and if describing it as such is indicative of no plans to turn it into affordable housing that’s a real thumbs-up.

Number two, he says he’s having regular discussions with Chris Powell “about his plans for the rest of the season …”. That’s not quite along the lines of ‘Sir Chris is one of the finest young managers in the country and I would be daft to consider making a change, I want to tie him up on a new contract’ but here too it’s a positive statement. At the least it suggests no preconceived ideas about any managerial change.

Duchatelet confirms that Richard Murray “will act as the spokesperson for the board” (just as Powell will “represent the first team”). That at least suggests that Murray will be more than a figurehead. There is another board member announced, Katrien Meire, who according to the statement “will be working at The Valley from now on”. That will have sent us all off scrambling to Wikopedia, where she is described as ‘legal and international relations manager at Standard Liege’. Presumably no more. One potentially murky element is the fact that the search seems to reveal that she is also an agent for players, including (if this is the same person) Belgium’s newest starlet Michy Batshuayi (the report was about whether Arsenal had made a bid for him; back off Gooners, he might be ours now ….).

The statement concludes that “we will do our best to make sure that there are many more reasons to be proud to be associated with the club in the years to come”. Amen to that. So as an introduction, I’d see the sentiments expressed as all-round positive. The title of this post might have been ‘silence isn’t always golden’ and there’s no need for that now. Over to the team (and us) to deliver the victory tomorrow that would mean a great deal all round, for morale and for the basic implications for our league position.

So why was I concerned? Well, it’s fair to assume that our new owner, our manager (and his staff), the players, the fans, and all right-thinking members of the human race have a common goal in ensuring that this season does not end in relegation. The takeover increases the chances of that, as has a four-game unbeaten run over the holiday season (albeit with only one win and with a poor performance against Sheff Wed). But we are still in a position where it could go pear-shaped. After all, three teams will go down and there’s a long way to go.

For me, our major asset in this situation is the character and determination that the players and management have demonstrated through the past two seasons. Every club says there’s a good spirit in the dressing room, but often this is bs. The only evidence of a good spirit is the way the team performs, not in terms of quality but in terms of togetherness. I don’t think anyone can doubt us on that front of late. Leading on from this, the spine of our team has been Hamer, Morrison, Jackson and Kermorgant (which is not in any way meant to belittle the contributions of others, most obviously Solly and Wiggins but many others).

Now in the past couple of days we’ve seen confirmation that Stewart has joined Leeds and that Obika has gone out to Brighton. Stewart may not be the finished article but if put into a good team he may well shine (I will gloss over whether I think Leeds are a good team); with the exception of the last time I saw him (Sheff Wed, when he had a mare) it seemed to me he applied himself well and made a valuable contribution. Good luck to him. Obika would have been welcome back again, but it’s not to be. We’ve also seen speculation regarding Morrison and Stephens and have concerns about other saleable assets (Solly, Kermorgant).

Of course all teams change, but ask me what would be likely to scupper our prospects for this season and it would be upsetting the dressing room. Hamer got injured and lost his place to Alnwick. Since coming in, I haven’t seen him put a foot wrong (I do regard distribution of the ball as low down on the priority list for a goalkeeper). Now Hamer, if he’s really fit again, might well accept that there’s no case for him replacing Alnwick, unless and until the latter loses form or gets injured. Equally, Pope may well accept that with plenty of time on his hands being number three is fair enough. But I would expect all three to be heartily hacked off if one of the early post-takeover moves was to bring in another goalkeeper. Now Yohann Thuram-Ulien may well be a fine keeper, I hope he has a splendid career. I may even hope he ends up with us one day. But this isn’t it. It’s not that we don’t need another goalkeeper, it’s that bringing one in, especially one that might expect to come in as first choice, would be decidedly counter-productive.

I honestly don’t know if we’ve brought in Thuram-Ulien or not. The reports/blog posts yesterday suggested we had, but there’s been no confirmation from the club. The piece on the ‘agreed’ loan deal published on Get French Football News was clearly written by either a moron or a lazy journalist who can’t be bothered to check his facts. Commenting that we have “one of the worst” defensive records in the league is just wrong. Eight teams have conceded more than us, which puts us at the bottom end of the middle third. Not outstanding, but when set against the fact that only three teams have scored fewer than us, as others have pointed out, our priorities are midfield and up front. With Hamer/Alnwick, Solly/Wilson, Wiggins/Evina, Morrison plus Wood, Dervite and (hopefully before long) Cort, we are covered and have more than enough quality to leave well alone.

I find it hard to believe that Sir Chris would have made another keeper a priority, which in turn might suggest that if Thuram-Ulien does come on board he isn’t deciding on who we need/don’t need (again, Duchatelet’s statement does provide some reassurance on that front). With Stewart departing, bringing in Ajdarevic does have obvious rationale (although I’ve no idea whether he’s match-fit or indeed what he feels to be his best position). Beyond that, getting Morrison (who with apologies to Solly got my vote for player of the year last season and would get it for this if the vote was held now) nailed down on new contract would seem to me to be a real priority. Make him happy, keep the keepers happy, reassure Kermit that the club is back on track and, along with Jackson, we have the spine in place to build around. The alternative scenario would see to me to be obvious and clearly unappealing.

So, onwards and upwards, starting tomorrow. Blimey, if the good run continues I might even hold out the hope to Suzanne that she could see us win when she comes along to the Bournemouth game, having this season assured her that the points were in the bag against Millwall, Leeds and Sheff Wed. Perhaps there lies the reason for the poisoning attempt. You see, it might be a splendid tradition to put a sixpence in the Christmas pudding, but putting a brass weight, one caked in months of accumulated fat and grime (who actually needs a set of scales?), into a tart au praline and handing the piece to your partner has to be questionable. If the teeth didn’t go, at best it would have sat in my stomach for years to come, setting off every airport security check; at worst … well, I’m no doctor. Perhaps by the time she arrives for the Bournemouth game we will have a full squad of French/Belgian players. That might appease her, were it not for the fact that she’s not especially enamoured with French men at the moment, due to the (alleged) activities of her president. Sometimes I just can’t win (he is male, so I get the rap).

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