Sunday, 18 May 2014

Why 'Move On' When The Direction Sucks?

I may not (yet) be on the nine-month (or permanent?) sabbatical that some have been calling for, but I do feel in need of one after two weddings and a party in seven days (in Oxfordshire, Sussex and Lyon respectively). Timing is everything they say. So when a niece opts to get spliced on the final weekend of the season, obliging my partner Suzanne’s family to put back a party by a week (which proved to be a blessing in disguise according to them, as it chucked down on the original date), and then a mate opts to tie the knot in between, somewhere out in the sticks, you know somebody’s trying to mess with you. They did a good job, especially as the final leg(s) involved getting back to London and home half-cut around midnight to pack and get up in time to get across town for an 06.18 Eurostar/TGV to arrive (late) for a party at which decorum required at least giving the impression of being sober at the start. Fortunately Suzanne was on hand to fulfil that role.

Have the diversions and a little time helped with some fresh perspective regarding my negativity towards our new owner and his ‘vision’ (and actions)? Well, no, at least not to the extent of budging – ‘moving on’ if you like, but if the direction you are being dragged in looks like going over a ravine staying put may be the sensible option, ahead of information to the contrary. We are of course all waiting for news regarding whether or not Riga returns, on how many players opt to walk or are sold, and in what sort of fashion a new team is put together. Personally I’m waiting most of all for the outcome of the promised meetings with supporters groups for them to air prevailing concerns. Those weren’t considered enough of a priority to be held before the end of the season and (unless I’ve missed something) now play second-fiddle to holidays and the outcome of Standard Liege’s Champions League qualification effort. Of course perhaps the board is hoping that avoiding relegation means that they can be quietly shelved indefinitely.

I don’t want to go over old ground, people might get the idea that I’m somehow stuck in my ways. I don’t mind admitting that the journey under Sir Chris was one that I was happy to be on. The football wasn’t often pretty (but did provide some rousing moments/games the memory of which I’ll treasure) and contrary to popular belief I didn’t think he was the greatest manager on the planet; he was (and hopefully soon will be again) a young manager learning his trade, capable of progressing and developing with us. Of course that might have proven not to be the case, but I was happy for us to find out, not least because of the admirable virtues he’d instilled in the team, through his personality and choice of players. I think Riga’s smartest move when coming in, reflected in his recent comments, was to ensure that the spirit and determination was sustained. For that he and the players deserve considerable credit. We can only hope that the next crop of players have similar qualities.

That journey/chapter is indeed over. The problem now is that everything we know and can reasonably infer about the next one fills me with dread. Perhaps, given that the best I can now ‘hope’ for is a draw in our bet (which would require circumstances that I really don’t want to come to pass), and may well end up handing over to him a bottle of his choice, it’s useful to address what Wyn Grant wrote in Voice of the Valley regarding the new regime. The piece was, as to be expected, reasoned and fair. Where we seem to differ is on emphasis and the balance of doubt.

Wyn noted that he felt there were mistakes made in the January transfer window. I think that’s an understatement. They were dreadful howlers, moves which led me to conclude at the time that our new owner was nothing more than an asset-stripper as there seemed no other reasonable explanation. Either Duchatelet made the decisions himself, in which case he presumably believes he knows better than others about football (especially Championship football), or he was advised by someone he trusts but obviously understood little of our circumstances. But calling the moves mistakes at all is only possible from the point of view of a primary objective of strengthening the team. From Duchatelet’s perspective, we stayed up and he cut his outlays, getting transfer fees and shipping in people who were in any event paid by his consortium. In that context the changes involved risk, given the financial implications of relegation, but if your priority is to move asap towards balancing the books they can be justified. Even this kind interpretation (rather than simply gross ignorance/arrogance) says something about the goals of our owner.

Wyn acknowledged that the Duchatelet vision may not be utopian and may not work. Again, our only disagreement here is the emphasis. For me, it is a sterile and utterly unappealing vision – and this comes from an avowed European federalist. Just what constitutes it working? I’m inclined to suspect it means us making no net drain on Duchatelet’s finances (and ideally – for him - a positive flow) and an increased pool of available players, especially developing players, to shunt around at will to the benefit of the consortium rather than Charlton per se. I may be wrong here of course. Perhaps Duchatelet will decide that the net worth of his consortium is maximised by a drive to get us into the Premiership, which would presumably involve us being sold/loaned first-choice Standard Liege players. Perhaps. Then again he could change his mind.

There’s no concept of the owner being driven by what is best for Charlton per se and further moves which are not in our interest seem inevitable. We were told we ‘must accept’ players going to Standard Liege. I didn’t when he said this and still don’t. The drive to strengthen the academy has been almost universally welcomed and viewed as a real positive under Duchatelet. I hope it turns out that way, rather than a feeding centre for the consortium. Some may see no real difference between developing young players and accepting selling some on, which has been going on as long as I’ve been an Addick, and the new set-up. I think the difference is considerable, as under the former sales were made in the interest of our club per se.

Also, I’m no fan of the fair play rules. Whether or not they end up getting thrown out by the courts, they seem to me an ill-conceived and unnecessary attempt to address perceived ‘problems’ where none really exist (or rather where they do exist are already dealt with, albeit sometimes with negative consequences for individual clubs). I’m no expert on the thinking behind them, but they seemed to arise at a time when there was concern that with Man City joining Chelsea and Man Utd in terms of financial clout the Champions League could end up being dominated by English clubs with an ‘unfair’ financial advantage. Leaving aside why the authorities felt moved to act now, when clubs like Real Madrid have benefited from ‘unfair’ support from their cities/regions for decades, the fact that since then PSG have hopped on the bandwagon and that English teams are not dominating the Champions League suggest the need for FPR is questionable at best. Just how FPR morphed into trying to impose an unwanted structure for all leagues beats me. Perhaps it was just a cover to hide the real motivation.

Wyn noted in his piece that the Duchatelet vision at least puts us in the vanguard of a European trend. Being to the fore – or rather trying to take advantage of – a set of unnecessary and unfair rules which I believe will end up being either thrown out or circumvented does not fill me with joy.

Wyn also quite fairly pointed out that those, including me, who feel nothing but disgust and dread at what we have learnt to date about life under Duchatelet have yet to come up with some better alternative and that without one things could have been a lot worse. Fair enough, I’m certainly not privy to what went on from the time the previous regime made the decision to put the club up for sale and the takeover. But there are clues. When Voice of the Valley published its article on a prospective sale and the related document, it was in terms of a sale for £40m-plus. The previous owners had to spend months ratcheting down their asking price and would presumably have had to continue to do so. No-one can know whether this would have unearthed potential buyers at a yet lower price or whether administration might have resulted, but I’m inclined to believe the former, just because it would have made more financial sense for the old owners to continue to cover the monthly losses while lowering their asking price to try to flush out other buyers.

We could of course have been bought by someone/something based on a plan for a forced move from The Valley, something which the alleged sale document alluded to. But is this likely? Anyone coming in would surely have been aware (or made aware) of the history on this front. A move away from The Valley under whatever circumstances would have resulted in mass supporter defections, seriously undermining the case for a purchase (unless a new owner concluded that he/she could still make enough by accepting the football club ending up being run down/shut down). In other words, the Back To The Valley campaign would have made any prospective owner at least very, very wary.

That does raise a related question. One comment from the previous post asked a fair question as to whether I was as disgusted by the sacking of Parkinson as that of Powell, with the suggestion that both were pretty much a case of new owners installing a new man. The answer is I wasn’t. I was surprised at the time, was far from convinced it was the right move, and was concerned about what might come next. That pales in comparison with disgust at the dreadful hand Sir Chris was dealt by the old and the new regime and respect and admiration for the way he coped (and that disgust is only intensified if the recent report that he is still waiting for his settlement is true). In any event, it reminded me that when Parkinson went the bookies installed Dennis Wise as the odds-on favourite to succeed him. I don’t know if they had inside information or were just putting two and two together given previous ties, but is it also possible that the outpouring of opposition from Charlton fans to the idea of Wise taking over was material in the owners not going down that road? If Jiminez/Slater had appointed Wise, should our appropriate response have been ‘oh well, they own the club now, we should support them/give them the benefit of the doubt’ etc?

So I’m still sitting, waiting, not budging, not moving on if you like. I’ve been surprised by some blogs/comments expressing optimism over the prospect of some investment in quality new players heralding a positive new era. It’s possible of course, but where is the evidence to believe that we will be investing in quality players (quality in the context of the Championship)? The goal is to break-even and that isn’t going to put us among the highest payers in the division, where the club is going remains uncertain, so why should a quality player choose to come to us? Rather the reverse appears to be the case. Whatever the pros and cons of the possible departures of Hamer, Morrison and Dervite, and Poyet, in these cases it appears that the player involved is assessing whether their interests will be best served by moving on, if so to a higher-paying and/or more likely to prosper club. We shouldn’t be cynical about this relating to higher pay as no doubt we would do the same. And as indicated by Morrison’s recent comments, they have done us service. If they go they go with our best wishes, with the same applying to Hughes (no issue there), Green and Evina.

Trouble is I’m not really sure what might come out of the board and supporters meetings that might materially ease my concerns. Duchatelet isn’t about to change tack. Perhaps what might count is some insight into just why he wants to own football clubs, what is his real motivation and objective. I want something to believe in. I feel that we had that (which is not to overlook the adverse aspects of the former regime). For sure it’s gone, but please tell me what are the positive aspects of what seems to be on offer now (other than that we continue to exist, in a fashion).


the cat said...

For most genuine Charlton Supporters I find you an embarrasement, any person who might toss a coin to see whether to go, Charlton Supporters are positive not the negative views you portray.Sir Chris Powell will always be a legend but in some games he brought a third centre half on when we were winning against a side who were useless near the end to cost us points. I am a half full not half empty supporter would not be happy but would support them in any division they played in. Ben Hamer, Dorian Dervite etc are average players who are only Championship players at the best. I would like to believe that one day we would get back to the premiership but are probably about the 30th best supported club. The atmosphere at the last few games was fabulous players like Pope, Cousins, Solly etc are what we are about, enough said.

Anonymous said...

The article is absolute nonsense - had you not noticed we stayed in the Championship? Speculation on speculation on speculation - do you work for the Daily Mail? The bottom line is Duchatelet stepped in and put money on the table – if others were playing chicken with the previous regime - Guess what - they screwed up.
The expectation you rebuild a rudderless (with 60% players out of contract we were rudderless) club in a January transfer window, or by bringing sundry loan players is beyond ridiculous. The one priority was Championship survival that 2 players chose to exploit the situation for their personal gain is a matter for them. Who needed that headache 14 days after taking over?
We survived but with your value set re FFP you need to find a new club to support or do you expect every club owner to stump up the £180mn Leicester intend to spend? Or do you draw the line at the £15mn Bournemouth and Brighton lost – how long do you want owners to stump up the £15mn – Have you not noticed how many owners we have been through in the last decade? Murray? Chappell? Murray (2nd windfall) & friends? Slater & Jiminez (Cash)? Does the quoted takeover sum not register? £14mn – amounts to 2yr losses under the previous regime? Recognise the friendly debt £7mn? – It represents the rump of another couple of years losses but it is OK cos it is not your money. You sir are a fool!

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more with the first two replies.
every time you post you embarrass yourself.
Your post after the Leeds united home game made me embarrassed to be a addict and a man,
You won’t accept that you quit the lads.
Go back and read your previous posts.
You quit period.
If I was SCP I would be worried. This sort of hero worship is creepy at best.
Now go away, seek help.

PS. as for the quitting I think a move to France is perfect for you . They will understand

peterS said...

What I find embarrassing is all the vitriol aimed at a fellow supporter who has a perfect right to express his feelings like all of us.
I broadly agree with much of what BA has written although maybe I am slightly more optimistic as I have renewed my (more expensive) season ticket in the last hours of the 'reduced' price.
Some signs are good and others not - only the next few months will give us a better idea of what the future will bring. At the moment the future direction of Charlton is only in the head of one man who admits that he does not 'get' football fans and has radical (maybe inspirational , maybe foolish) ideas about running football clubs.
If an owner has several clubs then I cannot see how a fan can tell whether or not an action (like selling or loaning a player) has been made for his club or for one of the others in the stable.
Anyway I am trying to be positive.
Good wishes to you BA and don't let the arseholes get you down!
PS. I do not post much but sometimes other people’s unpleasantness annoys me so!
Desperate Pete

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the thoughts DP, and even others. Being called a few names isn't going to cause any loss of sleep, or determine where I end up living. Vive la difference!

Ken Jennings said...

"What I find embarrassing is all the vitriol aimed at a fellow supporter who has a perfect right to express his feelings like all of us."

But if their feelings are different to yours they are 'arseholes'? Make your mind up mate.

Unknown said...

What a load of tripe, Sir Chris would have taken us down. Six wins in thirty league matches.Riga eight in sixteen.
RD bought us for 14 million. Spending 2 M on the training ground, 500000 on the pitch. Without him we would probably be in admin.

Anonymous said...

Based on your headline, do not move on and therefore give up supporting the team. It is best and it will give you a whole new lease of life as well as curing this need you have to keep writing this blog telling us how crap the new board is etc etc and depressing us all. Move on.

Anonymous said...

One of Powell's mistakes was not bringing in Poyet earlier, as he turned out to be a revelation. Without him, I doubt whether Riga would now seem to be the amazing saviour he's portrayed as by some people. Having said that, I hope Riga stays, although that seems to be uncertain and Poyet seems also likely to go. At the moment we still haven't got a decent striker at the club and the defence (which was the only part of our side that was any good last season) all seem to be going. I can't really see anything to be positive about at all, but time will tell.

Dave said...

BA - Good post for the "not convinced yet" brigade. I am reminded how fickle our fans are. Had we gone down we would be full square in an anti-Duchatelet campaign and the glaringly obvious mistake to cash in on Yann Kermorgant would have been hung firmly around his neck. Dervite, Morrison, Hamer and Poyet moving on will leave us with a relegation squad which will need much more than half-a-dozen network players for next season. I don't get this model either. I want to be proven wrong but there are no signs of it as yet and if Duchatelet does what he has said he will, then there is little hope of us adding the quality and strength in depth we need.

Anonymous said...

To negative for me BA , CP loved by all was I think the 8th. Longest serving manager ,we were bottom of the Leauge and playing pretty naff football. Along comes a rookie coach , who takes over from a club idol and after we have lost "arguably" our two best players, turns things around . Make what you want of that but don't keep criticising the new owner , he does not deserve it yet and to many addicks their is a slight breath of fresh air with certain views he seems to hold regarding youth and paying your way.

Sciurus Carolinensis Nemesis said...

Your hope that any new football club owner would be "... driven by what is best for Charlton per se..." is naïve to the point of delusion. Not at even Conference level is this vaguely likely. Higher division football clubs have very often been wealthy men's playthings, ego boosters, for the purposes of showing off and bathing in the reflected glory. Elton John decided years ago that Watford was too costly and he is nearly as rich as god and genuinely loves the club. Some clubs in recent times have been bought by wildly delusional dreamers - Mark Goldberg and Palace - or chancers (without genuine financial clout) on the make - Portsmouth, Notts County, Southampton (the previous time). Spanish Tony and Mick the Manc fall into that last group.
Charlton has been very lucky to avoid too much ownership turmoil and the associated financial strife. Bar the last couple of years things had been relatively stable on that front.
Roly Douchebag has a different agenda to any we've seen or heard about up to now. But just cos it's different or you don't "get it" don't make him the Big Nasty. Charlton under Powell were bottom of the league, limping out of the cup, and crucially scoring very few goals. Doing nothing at that point would have ensured nothing changed on the pitch. Of course RD was protecting his investment with his next few decisions we'd have known him for a clown or worse if he hadn't, few of us liked those decisions at the time but their wisdom is proved (with hindsight) by an 18th placed finish, by and large with Powell's squad but significantly not his usual selections. The number of players whose contracts end now is also not RD's fault and neither is it entirely under his (team's) control, those players can quite rightly do whatever they like, same as you and me and our jobs.
In the medium and longer term Charlton (and all football clubs) has to wash its face financially. The days of Simon Jordan's palarse model (of borrowing money you have no chance of repaying and expecting to just carry on) are over.
With RD we still have a Charlton to argue about for the foreseeable future, without him we'd be writing eulogies.
I'm nervous about the current inaction on the threadbare squad but that's immeasurably preferable to the real alternative.
Cheer up BA you might have it mostly wrong about RD but we still have a Charlton Athletic to go and watch, if we want to.

Anonymous said...

Another great post BA, stimulating interesting debate. It is totally unrealistic for everyone to be in agreement with how the club is moving forward. Some will be happy, some will not. We have freedom of speech, you are entitled to your say, just as those who disagree with you are. It is very easy to criticise from the sidelines.

For posts that are described as 'nonsense' and 'tripe' you receive far more interaction than any of the other CAFC bloggers. Your posts may be divisive but more interesting to read and football is all about opinions. Keep up the good work.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks all for the further comments, pro and anti. Delay in replying due to having to get an 05.50 train (French time) back to Blighty.

Can't comment on all that's been said, but I'd add that Powell was offered a new contract, one that he felt unable to accept, and for all the shortcomings and the way the game ended up we were perhaps a Harriott toe-poke away from getting to Wembley.

Finally, I've acknowledged from the start that from his comments and what we know about him I've been ambivalent (OK, more than that) about Duchatelet as they remind me greatly of those of people I've dealt with in the past. In this I may be doing Duchatelet a disservice, drawing inferences which are unfair. I've never met the guy. It's why I'm waiting. If future events prove I got it badly wrong, I will be happy as we will be in a better place and will hold my hands up (yeah, and pigs might fly).

Anonymous said...

BA is absolutely accurate in his assessment of the current situation. Powell who had a genuine feeling for the club was treated very badly because he had principles and sacrificed his job because he saw where Charlton were being taken. His record was good especially if you consider that he was given no money this year to progress by the previous board, who sold out to whoever they could in the end. We have an owner who provides the bare minimum financially which has kept us afloat, but from his comments and actions has little commitment or empathy with the club. I have supported Charlton for 45 years but the special spirit and history of the club are being eroded to the point where I simply won't care what happens in the future because of the current direction.

Anonymous said...

I think RD let CP leave with dignity . He probably wanted to sack him from day 1 but new how much he meant to the fans and I think also realised what a great bloke he was, so offered him a way out of the club with his head held high.
RD may not be the demean BA portrays.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the further comments.

On the aspect of having an owner/owners who only want what's best for us, I didn't mean to sound naive (but probably did), just that if the owner has an affinity for the club (which Murray did/does), or just wants to make money through the value of that asset appreciating (which is only possible if the club prospers) there is at least confidence in common interest (ie no conflict of interest). If what matters is the net value of a consortium of clubs, of which we are just one element, there has to be doubt.

As for some of the outgoing players 'only' being average Championship standard, even if that is true (which is debatable) where is the evidence that those who will replace them will be of higher quality?

I'd agree that the timing of the takeover and the awful contract situations presented Duchatelet with a dilemma: back Powell in January or replace him. If a change had been made then, we might not have liked it but there would have been a rationale. Instead we had team/squad changes which Powell cannot have welcomed, followed by a decision to extend him a new contract. Powell clearly found some elements unacceptable and was then dismissed. What would Duchatelet have done if we had won the quarter-final and Powell was set to lead the team out at Wembley?

Duchatelet's not a demon, just a guy with qualities which have obviously served him well in his business career but which may or may not lend themselves to other areas. Which still leads me back to just why does he want to own football clubs? I have thoughts on that front, but they are really only prejudices based on past experience.

I share the concerns of Anon above but truly hope they prove to be wide of the mark. Just that the benefit of the doubt, which was afforded at the time of the takeover, has for me been lost through what has happened since.