In relation to Roland Duchatelet's recent takeover of the club, I have been amazed to see how
misinformed and naive some of my fellow Charlton fans have been about the whole affair. Particularly
with regards to the recent sacking of Chrissy Powell, many Charlton fans have been far too
scathing and narrow-minded with their views towards it all. As a young Charlton fan, there are several crucial points to be made which I think need to be acknowledged before a well-rounded opinion can be formed about what the new owner, as well as the new manager, have done so far.
First of all, we have to remember the financial situation the club was in prior to the Belgian businessman's takeover. Kevin Cash, the man who was essentially bankrolling the club, withdrew his financial support for the club. Thus, we would have probably been facing eventual administration without any financial aid. Duchatalet's takeover has meant that he has taken on the debt the club had, as well as providing financial ammunition for loanees and potential transfer targets (particularly forwards) in the Summer.
Jose Riga has done, in my opinion, a great job since taking the managerial reigns of the Addicks. However, his job has been something of an uphill struggle from the start. This is down to many things, but nothing is more significant than our testing schedule. Because of the dire state of the pitch at our beloved Valley, as well as our decent cup run, we have had several games postponed. This has meant that we have been playing at least two games a week, which I think it's fair to say is a difficult prospect at both ends of the age spectrum for our team. Cousins and Poyet, with a combined age of 29, have been superb considering their inexperience and wearying match schedule. It's no secret that both Jimenez and Slater were nothing short of negligent towards the home pitch during their tenure. But because of Duchatalet's takeover, we are now able to address these problems, with the club already having made a request to Greenwich council to introduce a new playing surface with under-soil heating.
The departures/new faces
Many fans were outraged when Duchatalet first took over the club. Rumours of his poor treatment of players, as well as fan protests, at Standard Liege by the Belgian only added fuel to the fire. This was then worsened by the 'outrageous' decisions to sell supposedly our two best players. But this is not as black and white as it seems. Firstly, let us analyse the departure of Dale Stephens. Personally, I always felt that the centre midfielder was something of a liability. He gave away possession far too easily and always played with something of an 'I'm too good to be here' attitude. Aside from a few spectacular goals and glimpses of class, I thought he was highly overrated. So why Charlton fans were quite so angry at his departure is a mystery to me. Particularly when you look at who has blossomed in his absence. Diego Poyet, at 19 years of age, has been by far our best player since joining the first team. He possesses a maturity and class which I feel blessed to be able to watch every week in the West stand and I don't think it would be unjustified to suggest that he will be a future England player. There are a few players who I have watched over the years and realised from their first touch in a Charlton shirt would be stars in the future; Scott Parker and Jonjo Shelvey to name the two most obvious. But, to me, Poyet has the potential to be more of a complete player than either of those two. In conclusion, the departure of Stephens has been a blessing in disguise.
This one is a bit of a mixed bag. I cannot even explain how distraught I was when I saw that Kermit was going to Bournemouth. I felt almost tearful reminiscing over his time with the club. He epitomised Charlton, always giving 100% every game, towering above defenders twice his size in the air, superb from set pieces, incredibly skilful, prolific, a favourite of every fan. You could also rely on him to have an absolute blinder against Leicester. So I could understand the attitude of the fans when he left. However, I have realised in more recent weeks that this is not as bad as it seems. If we think about it, Kermit didn't actually score that many goals for us. True, he was usually top scorer and would usually bury it if he was given the chance. But we were still in a terrible position in the league even while he was playing regularly. I don't think this was his fault. The club seemed to be lacking in poise and class in the early stages of the season. To be honest, I think this may have been partially down to our style of play under Powell. We lacked belief in our passing ability, opting usually to pump the long ball and try and aim for Yann's head and hope for the best. This was simply not a viable option in this league and I think we are better for it, although I still miss Yann regularly when watching Church running around aimlessly, seemingly unable to keep hold of the ball, let alone hit the back of the net. In summary, Kermit's departure proved to be an error of judgement by the new owner, but he only had a couple of years left in him and his departure significantly reduced the club's wage bill as he was the highest paid player at the club.
Charlton as a 'feeder club'
This one is very simple to put to bed. From the moment our new owner came in, we were labelled as 'sub-standard Liege' and 'the new Watford'. But this has proved to be complete nonsense. Not one player has yet gone from Charlton to Liege, proving we are not a feeder club. And in response to the idea that we are just a club for Liege rejects, I personally think this is also rubbish. Ajdarevic, in particular, has been a real asset to the club. He's become one of my favourite players and he is only a loanee! He possesses finesse and passing ability rivalled only by Poyet. He also seems to be loving his time with the club, jumping out of the tunnel with Jackson after the Yeovil game. Gooch, while a little slow to get going, has also proven to be pretty handy in my opinion. His goal against Leeds shows the class he possesses, he is an international for a nation who have qualified for the World Cup and is a favourite of Iranians (as I think everyone at Charlton has worked out by now). He sometimes looks a little out of his depth, but this is due to adjusting to the ferocity of the Championship, as well as still needing time to mesh with his fellow players. Thuram has been a complete let-down in both attitude and performance, but this has been essentially irrelevant as he has been benched for almost the whole season. Some fans took issue with what Roland said about us giving players to Liege when they are very talented. But look at it this way: did he say that because he actually means it or because he does not want Liege fans to take issue with his attitude towards their club? If you read between the lines, then it becomes clear. Duchatalet is a shrewd businessman. So is he going to be more interested in the few million pounds that Liege will get for, at best, getting out of the group stages of the Champions League? Or will his real aspirations be to get Charlton promoted and obtain the substantial amount of money which Premier League football will earn him? I think this was only said to temporarily appease the Liege fans, while preparing to invest heavily in Charlton. Another pro for the takeover..
Once again, I feel that this is a simple one. Despite being a great man, a cheerful and well-loved personality, he simply wasn't getting the results. Whether this was his fault is debatable. He did, after all, completely shake up the squad in his first full season and get us promoted in the first season. Then he effectively got us 9th place in the Championship with a League One squad at his disposal. With a weak squad, lacking in depth and variety, it is perhaps not Powell's fault that the results were not going our way in his tenure this season. However, his tactics and decision-making had to be called into question. He seemed to be scared of making substitutions and just didn't seem to be clinical enough with his tactics, usually preferring an ineffective 4-5-1 formation away from home, with Church at the helm. This, surely, is a recipe for disaster. He had to go in my opinion, and I think Riga has been as passionate as Powell, as well as being more positive in his style. Free-flowing football starting at the back, adventurous formations and usually effective substitutions are all helping his case. He is also proving popular with the players and fans. Plus Powell recently said in an interview regarding his sacking that, at no point, was he forced to make any decisions with regards to the teams he chose. Correct decision from Roland if you ask me.
I think this has been covered in the previous section. But what is also clear to me is that the new manager is not just a 'yes man' puppet for Duchatalet. He has consistently benched Nego and Thuram, as well as often leaving Ajdarevic and Gooch on the bench. This shows that he is acting on what he thinks is going to win games, not what the owner wants. He also has to be empathised with, having to rotate Sordell, Obika, Church etc because of the regularity of our matches, and I think he has prioritised brilliantly.
Roland Duchatalet's intentions with the club
Again, this has been touched upon already. However, one of the most interesting things to analyse about the takeover is the owner himself. In all the interviews I have seen with him, I have instantly taken to him. His emphasis on our youth academy is admirable. He believes in using our youth to counter the Financial Fair Play regulations that are being instigated now and I think this is brilliant. His money also means that the likes of Cousins, Hamer, Morrison and, hopefully, Poyet will not have to leave the club because they will be paid sufficiently and rewarded with new contracts. He also seems to be a nice guy to be honest. He clearly has a lot of respect for Charlton and its fans, describing the Premier League as 'where we should be'. He is also presumably the one who is funding the new training complex. Again, I think he has been very sensitive towards the needs of the club and is someone I am glad is in ownership of the club. He wants us in the Premier League and has the money to get us there.
Overall summation of the takeover
The pros of the takeover vastly outweigh the cons and I am delighted that it has happened. If it had not, the qualms anyone has with what has happened under Roland's reign so far would be irrelevant because we would have been completely ruined as a club without proper ownership. The takeover saved our football club.