An Abu Dhabi-based consortium has bought Charlton Athletic, ending five years off calamitous ownership by the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet.
East Street Investments – named after the street (now Eastmoor Street) near the Thames Barrier where the Addicks were founded in 1905 – have bought out Duchâtelet, who alienated fans by interfering in team selection, sacking much-loved manager Chris Powell, drafting in unsuitable players from other clubs he owned, and mocking unhappy supporters as “vinegar pissers”.
Fans threw plastic pigs onto the pitch and travelled to Duchâtelet’s home town of Sint-Truiden to protest at a regime which saw the club relegated to League One in 2016. While the Addicks regained their Championship status this spring after winning a play-off final at Wembley, the future of the club – and especially manager Lee Bowyer – remained uncertain with key players and the manager himself only retained on short-term contracts. Now many fans are ending lengthy boycotts of the club.
The new chairman, Matt Stratford, said in a statement: “While we may be the club owners, truly we are only the custodians. The true spirit of this football club rests with the fans, it is nothing without them. Their support throughout some difficult times both recently and in the past has been inspirational and we intend to build on that loyalty. Our priority will be immediate contact with fan groups in order that their views play a major role in the club going forward.”
Stratford’s fellow director is Tahnoon Nimer, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Business Development, the private office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of one of the six ruling families of Abu Dhabi. The company oversees the running of more than 60 companies including energy, insurance, broadcasting, shipping and sports businesses.
Charlton fans will be hoping it is third time lucky with new owners – Duchâtelet was preceded by Michael Slater and Tony Jiminez, whose reign foundered when promised financial backing was withdrawn. The new owners’ plans for The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in Eltham will also be closely scrutinised.
A point gained or two points lost? Saturday’s match against Cardiff City provided lots to ponder, as KEVIN NOLAN reports…
The outcome of this exhilirating lunchtime clash divided opinion among Charlton fans as they filed away from a dank, damp Valley on Saturday.
There were those among them who felt that the surrender of a 2-0 interval lead amounted to rank carelessness and tasted uncomfortably like defeat. They had a point but it was one not shared by this reporter, who would refer them to the names – listed here – of 10 first-team squad members unavailable to Lee Bowyer through injury.
Starting with experienced goalkeeper Ben Amos, they include Jonny Williams, Jake Forster-Caskey. Lyle Taylor, Chuks Aneke, Lewis Page, Beram Kayal, Tomer Hemed, Sam Field and George Lapslie. To their ranks can now be added midfield inspiration Josh Cullen, stretchered off with what looked to be a serious injury after 52 minutes. Charlton are, in fact, performing heroically in plugging seemingly impossible gaps.
Able to name only six substitutes, three of them recent youth academy graduates, Bowyer made do and mended admirably as usual. 19-year-old Albie Morgan capably substituted for Cullen, while comparative veteran Alfie Doughty – aged 20 – stepped up to replace the hit-and-miss Jonathan Leko. That both of the greenhorns repaid the manager’s faith with sterling contributions – Doughty was a dancing delight on the left flank – is beside the point. Which of course is that Bowyer, with the unlucky Cullen joining the wounded, is now looking at a complete starting XI on the sidelines.
The one-game suspension of Darren Pratley further complicated the Addicks’ problems. But as one door closed, another opened for Erhun Oztumer. The tiny midfielder showed once again that his ability to produce devastating passes in congested spaces is the product of an agile footballing brain; he also boasts a lively turn of pace, as he showed in making Charlton’s second goal. Morgan and Doughty proved that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Oztumer extended the adage to prove if you’re good enough, you’re big enough.
There were other individual successes in a solid team performance against big, physical City. Deji Oshilaja played at the base of the diamond and supplied stout support in front of redoubtable centrebacks Tom Locker and Jason Pearce, his one blemish a clumsy first half challenge on Callum Paterson inside the penalty area, to which erratic referee Charles Breakspeare turned a charitable eye. It looked like a stonewall penalty, as was impartially but discreetly pointed out to the boss-eyed official from the press box.
By that time, the inevitable Conor Gallagher had put the Addicks in front with his sixth goal of the season. The spadework was done on the right by the excellent Macauley Bonne, who ghosted between two mesmerised Bluebirds and crossed low into the area. Leko’s miskick wrongfooted everybody but Gallagher, who used the outside of his right foot to stab the loose ball past Neil Etheridge.
With their tails up, Charlton doubled their lead three minutes before half-time with another fine goal. This time, Oztumer’s devastating burst from his own half spreadeagled the visitors and with Gallagher providing a distraction to his left, the playmaker delivered a perfect defence-splitting pass for Leko to pursue and drive left-footed inside Etheridge’s near post.
Visitors far from finished
Despite being two down, the visitors were far from finished and seemed to have found a way back two minutes after resumption when Ben Purrington pointlessly manhandled Paterson as they disputed a left wing cross. Hoillet’s weak spotkick was easily smothered by Dillon Phillips but, oddly, it was Cardiff who were galvanised by the missed penalty. Within minutes, they had halved their deficit as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing resolved an untidy goalmouth scramble by hammering home from close range.
Shaken by the turn of events, Charlton were rattled further by the loss of Cullen, their reliable midfield metronome. The visitors sensed their discomfort and Phillips’ desperately deployed legs were required to keep out Leandro Bacuna’s treacherously deflected shot. But there was nothing the besieged keeper could do to stop Lee Tomlin from equalising with a crisp drive after the seasoned substitute was set up by Mendez-Laing.
At that pivotal point, with 17 minutes plus added time to negotiate, the resurgent Bluebirds seemed more than likely winners. But that was to reckon without the customary fighting spirit of Bowyer’s stubborn side. It was they, not the cock-a-hoop Welshmen who finished more strongly. Bonne might have won it for them but drove Morgan’s inviting cutback into Etheridge’s stomach, before Morgan tested the keeper with a crisp effort from 20 yards. Local hearts were in mouths, though, as towering centre back Aden Flint blasted over the bar from close range.
The conflicting arguments have been heard and duly considered. It’s disappointing to lose a 2-0 lead at any time but on this occasion it’s forgivable. This was a more than useful point achieved in adversity. Next case…
The Addicks returned to winning ways at The Valley on Saturday with a victory over Championship title favourites Leeds – KEVIN NOLAN reports…
After the corporation dustcart…the Lord Mayor’s Show. In turning the old epigram on its head, Charlton followed their passive performance at struggling Wigan with a stirring display of magnificent defiance to send hot favourites Leeds United home pointless. Goals still promise to be rare but one scrambled effort was enough to deliver this vital win.
After dominating possession (72-28%) and corners (13-2), Leeds made their bewildered way home wondering how they finished with nothing to show for their mathematical superiority. Their globally vaunted manager Marcelo Bielsa, secure in his bubble of denial, provided a post-game masterclass in ignoring the facts and missing the point.
“The difference between the sides was big.” explained the Argentinian visionary, “We didn’t impose our superiority and that was the reason for what happened. They had one shot and scored one goal. Our players were better than theirs.” He didn’t add “So there!” so we’ll do it for him. Codswallop, of course, but we have to accept he wasn’t in the best of moods. Otherwise he might have pulled himself together, acknowledged that his side fell short in the only statistic that matters and bent his efforts to figuring out why 72% of possession brought zilch to the scoring column.
In that regard, his opposite number Lee Bowyer was on hand to helpfully mark his card. Paying heartfelt tribute to the character of his players, he declared that sheer hard work made them worthy winners. “We held our own and tactically got it spot on. This is a group that never says die.” He diplomatically declined to point out that it’s goals that count but the fact that the Addicks scored from one of only two corners while the visitors were repelled on thirteen occasions by a posse of red-shirted sentinels might bring the hard-done by Bielsa to that conclusion in the longer term. But probably not.
Set piece improvements
Last week at Wigan, Charlton conceded twice to the same player from corners, a disastrous failing which was obviously addressed at the training ground. A succession of wickedly delivered flagkicks on Saturday from set piece specialist Kalvin Phillips was stoutly resisted, with even Jonathan Leko popping up in the first half to clear a goalbound effort from Ezgjan Aliosko. Whenever a block or interception was necessary, there was always a willing volunteer to put his body on the line. Not that Charlton retreated into siege mentality. They remained cohesive and always dangerous on the break. As they demonstrated shortly after the half hour to claim the only goal.
Chasing down Johnny Williams’ piercing pass to the right byline, Macauley Bonne found himself briefly isolated and sensibly settled for forcing a right wing corner – the Addicks’ first of the game – off Ben White. A low delivery from Josh Cullen was inconclusively met by Tom Lockyer, with ricochets off Kiko Casilla, Stuart Dallas and decisively Bonne pinballing the ball over the goalline. Undeniably lucky, of course, but as golfer Gary Player famously remarked “the more I practice, the luckier I get”. Competing in the six-yard area for the chaotic bits and pieces that derive from a cutely delivered corner is surely coached at Sparrows Lane. And that, despite Bielsa’s blinkered comments to the contrary, “was the reason for what happened.” So there!
They all count! 🤷♂️@TomLockyer leads the celebrations but it’s @MBonne9‘s first goal for Charlton!
Picking out the key defensive highlights from such stubborn selflessness is a thankless task. Phillips’ superb low save from White was made at a critical time; a crucial interception from the inspirational Darren Pratley to deny Patrick Bamford access to Stuart Dallas’ menacing cross also deserves mention; as does Naby Sarr for nullifying Bamford’s dangerous turn at close range: and two critical headers beyond the far post by the outstanding Chris Solly, which whisked crosses off waiting heads in the second half, stood out. But each and every Addick, including the mercurial Leko, bought into the principle that defending involves everyone and that the end result justifies whatever means are legitimately employed to secure it. While goals promise to be elusive, the fighting spirit exemplified by the hard-grafting likes of teenager Conor Gallagher and Cullen, with Williams always prepared to suffer a battering for the cause (the adverse caution count of 3-1 tells you all you need to know about John Brooks’ cockeyed refereeing) will keep them going.
Catapulted back into the top six by their latest upsetting of the odds, meanwhile, Bowyer’s braves will pragmatically accept that survival in the Championship remains the priority. On Wednesday evening, they entertain Swansea City, another side with promotion aspirations. It may not be a footballing classic but the understanding Valley crowd will again accept that it’s not all about elbow-crooking style or foot-on-the-ball posturing as too often indulged in by Leeds. They used to call it getting stuck in but whatever the modern parlance, the Addicks will be up for it. They didn’t sweat blood at Wembley five months ago to crash and burn this season.