Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton Athletic 1-0 Wigan Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A new-look Charlton side took to the field on Saturday as life at The Valley settles down following the Thomas Sandgaard takeover. KEVIN NOLAN was there for another behind-closed-doors match.

With an uprecedented five players making their club debuts, this important win over fellow relegation victims Wigan laid the first building block in Lee Bowyer’s new work in progress. Awkward trips to Blackpool and Northampton will immediately test his ability to juggle his fledgling squad and his hopes of making up ground on the League One pacesetters. But this was a good start.

These evenly matched sides met at The Valley in July in the penultimate game of the nine-game post-lockdown mini-season. Their 2-2 draw briefly kept alive mutual hopes of avoiding the drop but each of them was doomed to disappointment, with gutsy Wigan unable to overcome a disastrous 12-point penalty.

Since that epic but ultimately meaningless fixture, the exodus from both clubs has been staggering if entirely predictable. Only five of the 18 Addicks on duty in July were available to Bowyer on Saturday; four survived to represent the visitors. Footballers and badgers – they’re both subject to periodic culls. Wigan went one better and divested themselves of their manager Paul Cook, a popular, capable veteran who had come within one point of saving them. Charlton showed more commonsense in keeping faith with their boss.

One of the quartet of Addicks who started the July fixture was Jake Forster-Caskey, a relative old-timer among the wave of newcomers who flooded into The Valley during a hectic transfer window. The attacking midfielder has divided opinion during his Charlton career, with an inability to score since November 2017 cited against him. He ended his drought with the goal which sank the visitors, sending them back to Lancashire grumbling about their luck and nursing a sense of injustice.

A series of free kicks which suited Forster-Caskey’s left-footed skill had seen him balloon the first into a non-existent crowd before he adjusted his sights and clipped the bar with a second effort. On 65 minutes, he was crudely chopped down from behind by Lee Evans, who was booked for his villainy and punished further as his victim converted the resultant set-piece. From 30 yards, Forster-Caskey’s low delivery beat the poorly-positioned Jamie Jones and found the net off the right post. It had been a long time coming but when it finally arrived, the scorer made it count.

Charlton hadn’t been entirely convincing but there was further encouragement for Bowyer in the contributions made by the new blood. After negotiating a hesitant start, huge centreback Ryan Inniss settled down and showed enough to suggest that one of Charlton’s centreback problems might be solved; to his right, the vastly-experienced Chris Gunter was an error-free replacement for Adam Matthews. Midfielder Andrew Shinnie was quietly effective and indefatigable forward Paul Smyth worked tirelessly alongside the outstanding Chuks Aneke.

Until he tired and was replaced on the hour by Omar Bogle, Aneke ran the Latics ragged. His deft turn on to Alfie Doughty’s pass bewildered a posse of defenders and it took Jones’s excellent block to keep him off the scoresheet; the second half solo run and subtle pass slid in to Darren Pratley was equally sublime, with Jones again rescuing his side at close range. A fully fit Aneke could be the scourge of League One.

While the recently-assembled Addicks were getting to know each other, Wigan created but wasted several chances to exploit their unfamiliarity. The first of them fell to Darnell Johnson, whose meaty header met Evans’ left wing corner but was instinctively parried by Ben Amos. The best of them was squandered by Joe Garner who cleverly chested down Viv Solomon-Atabor’s cross but hammered an unhindered 10-yard volley hopelessly off target. Before Forster-Caskey scored, Amos fumbled Solomon-Atabor’s low drive but recovered to save follow-up efforts from Kai Naismith and Will Keane. Charlton’s defiant keeper was eventually beaten by Evans’ vicious drive which crashed down off the underside of his bar and was heroically scraped off the line by Ben Purrington. There were loud but optimistic appeals for a penalty as Inniss slid in to dispossess Keane, but referee Ollie Yates was unmoved.

Had the fifth debutant Bogle not scuffed wide the late chance created by a heavily bandaged Doughty, the scoreline would have looked more healthy. As it was, seven added minutes were negotiated without undue drama, a triumph in itself for Charlton. This was all about winning – not exactly ugly but not entirely attractive. Just winning.

Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Famewo, Inniss, Doughty, Pratley, Forster-Caskey, Shinnie (Purrington 73), Doughty, Smyth (Washington 87), Aneke (Bogle 63). Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Williams, Morgan, Levitt. Booked: Gunter, Watson, Smyth.

Wigan: Jones, Massey, Johnson, Tilt, James, Naismith, Gardner, Lee Evans, Solomon-Atabor, Garner, Keane. Not used: Owen Evans, Crankshaw, Joseph, Merrie, Jolley, Aasgard, Long. Booked: Massey, James, Lee Evans, Keane.

Referee: Ollie Yates.


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Kevin Nolan’s Valley View: Charlton 0-0 Sunderland

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

 The Charlton Champion‘s reporter KEVIN NOLAN was at The Valley to witness the Addicks’ first league home game since Thomas Sandgaard bought the club

Completely outplayed in the first half by Phil Parkinson’s rampant Black Cats, who racked up eight fruitless efforts on target, Charlton got away with one on Saturday. A point, that is, which is one more than looked likely at half-time.

Profligate Sunderland, it should be said, deserved no more than their struggling hosts. Their overwhelming domination of the opening 45 minutes should have seen them two or perhaps three goals in front at the break. A corresponding failure to score owed much to their poor finishing but even more to an outstanding display of goalkeeping by Ben Amos.

During the Wearsiders’ early onslaught, Amos made several fine stops, which paled almost into insignificance alongside the truly unbelievable save he produced to frustrate visiting skipper Bailey Wright at the height of Sunderland’s pressure.

Having barrelled through the Addicks’ puny resistance to meet Luke O’Nien’s outswinging left wing corner, Wright powered an unstoppable header which seemed certain to find the left corner of Charlton’s goal. Diving instinctively to his right, Amos incredibly contrived at full length to turn the ball to safety much to Wright’s astonishment. His magnificent save in a one-sided game during which his shot-shy colleagues managed two off-target attempts on goal single-handedly earned his misfiring side this useful point.

Amos’ defiance of Parkinson’s marauders included several other saves, the best of which saw him defy Danny Graham at close range after Aiden O’Brien’s far post header returned O’Nien’s accurate cross to the veteran’s feet. Later on, Graham laid off Tom Flanagan’s creative pass to O’Brien but Amos brilliantly parried the ex-Millwall winger’s point blank shot; in a hectic scramble for the rebound, Ben Watson bravely blocked Graham’s follow-up effort. Before the interval came to Charlton’s rescue, even Amos was a helpless bystander as Graham slid in to finish off Scawen’s pinpointed low cross but from four yards skied into the empty North Stand. A North Stand which in happier circumstances would have risen to their heroic keeper as he headed for the tunnel.

Though they continued on top, Sunderland’s best chances had come and gone. An improving home side began to share the run of play without suggesting they had it in them to break the deadlock. The 72nd minute introduction of Chuks Aneke added physicality and the newcomer’s lightning-quick combination with Dylan Levitt set up the burly forward to shoot narrowly over the bar. In the context of Charlton’s feeble attacking contribution, his near miss constituted a triumph of sorts. So did the headed flick which sent Conor Washington sprinting goalside of Flanagan and persuaded the outmanoeuvred defender to chop the Northern Irishman down from behind. Last seen deflecting Patrick Bauer’s late winner into his own net at Wembley, it’s safe to assume that the next time Flanagan bumps into Charlton will also, he hopes, be the last time. Enough already so soon. He’s suffered too much at their hands.

Manchester United loanee Levitt, meanwhile, promised more than he delivered. His vaunted distributive ability completely deserted him, with pass after pass delivered off target. The late free kick he sent spiralling into an empty North Stand capped a less than productive performance. Stylish and composed, the young Welshman can do better – much better. Lee Bowyer will undoubtedly persevere with him.

Fellow newcomer Akin Famewo (the ‘e’ is apparently silent) is already on his way to becoming a fans’ favourite, assuming of course, he’s still around when The Valley asserts itself again. A cool, confident operator, the former Norwich centre back makes time and space for himself, passes crisply and appears panic-proof. Squarely by his side as the North Easterners asked all the questions, Darren Pratley was his usual competitive self, the industrial language he used when late sub Marcus Maddison’s overhit set-piece soared over his head providing verbal proof of his commitment. No need to apologise for swearing, Darren, we found it colourful and, in some strange way, reassuring. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, footballers gotta eff and blind. They’re immutable laws of nature.

Having shown belated signs of finding their collective feet, the cancellation of next weekend’s trip to Ipswich is timely, if only to work out in training a shape which fits all. On Saturday, this admittedly tactical dunce gave up trying to figure how the Addicks were deployed. From the perspective of your comfortable armchairs, possibly you can shed light where there are shadows.  Answers on a postcard as per usual.

Charlton: Amos, Oshilaja, Famewo, Purrington, Doughty, Pratley, Levitt (Maddison 83), Watson, Vennings (Aneke 72), Oztumer (Williams 46), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Barker, Lapslie, Morgan. Booked: Watson, Levitt.

Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Willis, Wright,O’Brien, Goody (Grigg 65), O’Nien, Scawen, Graham (Wyke 65), Leadbitter, Hume. Not used: Matthews,McLaughlin, Power, Xhemajli, Diamond. Booked: Scawen, Willis, O’Nien.

Referee: Andy Davies.


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Charlton Athletic saved from the brink – but Duchâtelet still owns The Valley

The Valley
Charlton fans now have something to celebrate

Danish-American businessman Thomas Sandgaard has bought Charlton Athletic, ending months of uncertainty about the troubled club’s future – but The Valley remains in the hands of its eccentric former owner Roland Duchâtelet, whose botched sale of the side brought it to the brink of administration.

Sandgaard has bought the club from East Street Investments (ESI), which in turn purchased it from Duchâtelet nearly a year ago. However, the ESI deal unravelled in March after a public falling-out between its principals Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer, with the two trading insults on social media and promised investment not appearing, contributing to its relegation last season. It also emerged that, contrary to statements at the time of sale, the pair had not bought The Valley or the club’s training ground in Sparrows Lane in New Eltham.

ESI was then “sold” to Manchester businessman Paul Elliott, however, the English Football League blocked the deal and the club’s future was then dragged through the courts. Last week, an injunction prevented the sale of ESI while the ownership wrangle was resolved. The club would have run out of money within a week if the deal had not been done; in July it was effectively been warned it risked expulsion from the league.

Floyd Road graffiti - Save CAFC, our club, not yours!
Fans had left ESI in no doubt of their feelings

Sandgaard – who owns hospital equipment company Zynex Medical – emerged as a potential bidder for the club last month, and this morning dodged the injunction by buying the club itself rather than ESI.

The Valley and Sparrows Lane, however, remain with Duchâtelet. Sandgaard said he had agreed to extend the lease on them from five to 15 years. The EFL, which had put a transfer embargo on the club, has agreed the deal.

“When I started negotiating with Duchâtelet, I wanted to buy the stadium, but the conversation quickly turned into a rental agreement and it seems for now that is the best for all parties,” he told Talksport radio. “I’m renting the stadium and training ground for 15 years and have got rid of all the weird side deals so everything’s cleaned up.”

Ownership of The Valley is a sore point with Charlton fans; not having control of The Valley led to the club’s disastrous seven-year exile from SE7 in 1985.

He added: “This is one of the best days of my life, it’s up there with when my two kids were born. The support I’ve had from fans during this whole process has been unbelievable.”

Sandgaard said on his own website: “With the club about to run out of funds this month, it was important that I moved quickly to complete the acquisition and put funds in to the club to ensure its survival.

“I have always had two passions – rock music and football. I was a bit of a nerd when I was 13 so decided to go out and buy a guitar because I loved music and wanted to be one of the cool kids – and become a rock musician. I ultimately ended up playing in lots of rock bands in the seventies and early eighties.

“My love of football started when I played at an amateur level in Denmark and then really fell in love with the English game when I watched the FA Cup finals on Danish television in the 1970s. In the last few years, I’ve reached a point financially where I can really do something like this. Four months ago, a friend asked, ‘Have you thought about owning an English football club?’ And I thought, wow, that could be one of the most positive things that I could ever be a part of.”

Charlton fans' protest
About 500 fans held a protest at The Valley five weeks ago

Fans held a protest against Elliott’s “ownership” last month, while a group invaded his solicitor Chris Farnell’s office in Hale, Greater Manchester.

Local MP Matt Pennycook said the takeover of the club was “outstanding news”, while Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe joked “a freedom of the borough is in order ASAP!”

Greenwich borough’s Conservative opposition leader Nigel Fletcher said the news was encouraging but wanted to “seek assurances on some key outstanding issues”.

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