There’s a lot of talk going on around The Valley, most of which is to do with the Chairman, Roland Duchatalet. Sadly this isn’t mentioned in the press and most people still see Charlton as ‘that club who used to be in the Premier League’ and nothing else. The general consensus among fans is that he does not care about the club and he is just using us as a way of making money off of youth players and getting the most out of his purchases from his other clubs.
The thing is none of this has actually been proven and people are jumping to conclusions because things haven’t gone well on the pitch. The only youngster we’ve been forced to sell was Diego Poyet to West Ham and that had very little to do with Roland. That was a result of mistakes made by the previous owners who somehow managed to let our most promising youth product get into his last year of his contract with nothing on the table. By the time the end of last season came and young Diego’s contract had run out it seems his head had already been turned by the bright lights of the Premier League and no matter what offer we made he wasn’t going to sign an extension. The fact that Gus junior has barely played a game for the Hammers first team makes you think he should have given it another year at the club that made him what he is so far. So other than Poyet, no other youth have been sold off as of yet. And even if they were, it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had to let a young star go on to bigger and better things! As long as we get their money’s worth and that money is reinvested into the club I do not have a problem with this.
In terms of players coming in from Standard Liege, I think Roland has admitted that he underestimated the standard (for want of a better word) of the Championship last season and the majority of the players he brought in from the ‘network’ didn’t work out. These players have now moved on in one way or another and you would like to think the lesson has been learnt. Of the players that have come in this year the majority have been up to the task and in some cases have been our better players. Tal Ben Haim has been a revelation since joining the club, albeit he does have experience playing here before. Yoni Buyens started off the season very well but has suffered during the recent bad run. People have decided that he doesn’t care and we need to get rid asap, but from what I’ve seen he has completely lost his confidence in recent weeks, much like the rest of the side. Freddy Bulot hasn’t impressed it’s fair to say but in his most recent performance he was much improved so I will hold judgement on him for now. The only other player from the network is the young goalkeeper, Marko Dimitrovic who was brought in while Stephen Henderson regained fitness. He didn’t make any errors and was certainly better than youth player Nick Pope, or another loanee Neil Etheridge. I genuinely think Roland see’s these network players as a cheaper way of finding back up players, rather than signing players other teams deemed not good enough. Give me a reserve from Standard Liege over Simon Church any day!
While the network players haven’t been a massive success, Roland has made some signings from a slightly broader market that have been much more influential. Strikers Igor Vetokele and Tony Watt have both impressed and in their first start together they looked to link up well and terrorised the normally miserly Brentford defence. Now I am aware Tony Watt came from Standard Liege but I see this as a bit of an anomaly as there won’t be any other Scotsman coming from them! Watt was looking to come to England to reignite his career as he didn’t settle in Belgium. The other main signing made over the summer was Johann Berg Gudmonnsen from AZ Alkmaar. JBG has now scored 7 league goals from the wing, in a side that has struggled for large parts. If he can get into double figures for the season I have no doubt we will stay up and he will have had a fantastic first season in the country. If we can keep hold of these three and maybe bring in a couple of other players of a similar quality I genuinely think we will have a good side next season. Not all bad then is it!
In the end, all that matters is the results on the pitch. I don’t care who owns the club, of course I’d prefer it to be a Charlton fan, but that’s never going to happen in this day and age. As long as the players put in a shift on the pitch and we have a ground to play at it really doesn’t matter where they’re from or who is paying their wages. A football club is defined by it’s fans. Fans who struggle on through the bad times in League 1 and when we’re on another losing run. Fans who sing the players’ names and talk about the golden times over a beer. I think some people are scared of the unknown and until Roland comes out and assures everyone that his intentions are good then we will just have to wait and see. Nobody ever said being a Charlton fan would be easy!