We’ll oppose Charlton Athletic leaving Greenwich, council leader says as EFL warns club

The Valley
The Valley is owned by Roland Duchâtelet, but the club is not

Greenwich Council says it will oppose any attempt to move Charlton Athletic out of the borough as the club’s future hangs in the balance following its relegation from the Championship last week.

Supporters had rejoiced last October when the Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet sold the club after five turbulent years to a group called East Street Investments (ESI). But promises that the new owners would invest in the side were not followed through – wrecking hopes it would stay in football’s second tier – and ESI collapsed into acrimony last March, with leading figures Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer trading insults on social media.

To make matters worse, Duchâtelet – apparently attempting to recoup the millions he lost during his time in charge – has held onto The Valley and the club’s training ground at Sparrows Lane in New Eltham. Last month, the club claimed ESI had been sold to Manchester-based businessman Paul Elliott, but that deal has yet to be ratified by the English Football League.

Tonight, the EFL confirmed it had not received sufficient information to approve the takeover. “The club is aware of the consequences of not meeting those requirements,” the EFL said, effectively warning Elliott and his lawyer Chris Farnell, who sits on the ESI board, that the club risks expulsion from the league.

Last year, a similar situation led to Bury being expelled from the league. Farnell was also Bury’s lawyer. The Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust has warned the club could be thrown out of the league in less than seven weeks.

Last week, the Eltham MP Clive Efford told the House of Commons that the situation was “undermining the future of the club”. Both he and the Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook have written to the EFL to demand action.

Supporters fear The Valley could be redeveloped, but Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has told The Charlton Champion the authority wants to see the club remain.

“Generations of Greenwich residents have supported Charlton Athletic and they would have been devastated by their relegation last week. The council has very close ties to the club, especially its Community Trust which has worked with us to coordinate over 1,000 volunteers to deliver food and other vital support to residents during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“I wrote to Mr Duchâtelet two years ago when there were protests about his ownership and had hoped that winning promotion last year and new ownership would bring about some stability to the club. Sadly that hasn’t happened, and relegation could make things even worse.

“The stadium and training ground sites are designated for specific uses and we would not be interested in any proposals that involved a change of use. Charlton Athletic belongs in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and we will oppose anything that could lead to them being moved out of the borough.”

While The Valley is generally thought to be a difficult site to build on – a large sewer runs underneath it and road access is limited – fans have feared development proposals for many years. Duchâtelet’s predecessors as owners, Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, had explored the idea of moving to Greenwich Peninsula and striking a deal to have The Valley used for social housing, a court case in 2017 revealed.

Further back, a separation in the ownership of club and ground led to Charlton leaving The Valley in 1985 for Crystal Palace’s ground at Selhurst Park, leading to a damaging seven-year exile from the area. Greenwich planning policies designate it as “community open space”.

However, there is also concern at Woolwich Town Hall about the fate of Sparrows Lane. While it is designated as Metropolitan Open Land – giving it one of the strongest protections against development – councillors fear a planning inspector could still allow building there.

A Premier League side as recently as 2007, Charlton were relegated back to League One last week after a 4-0 defeat at league champions Leeds United. Fans fear the relegation and off-field drama will lead to the departure of manager Lee Bowyer as well as several key players.

The club said tonight: “Getting the change of ownership approved is the top priority of everyone at the club and there is no delay on the part of the club.

“The club will be in touch with the league on Tuesday morning with aim of getting this process concluded.”


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 2-2 Wigan Athletic

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A big point for the Addicks behind closed doors at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN watched from the sofa.

Stick the black crepe back in the cupboard. Re-start the clocks. Cancel the wake. Charlton are very much alive. At least they are until Wednesday when the last cards will be dealt. That final game at Elland Road has been an ominous dot on the cards since this tortuous campaign started with a 2-1 victory at Blackburn a year ago.

Whatever their fate, respect the never-say-die courage of Lee Bowyer’s defiant players, who took it to the wire by quarrying a priceless point from this vital game, thanks to a second equaliser deep into six minutes of added time. And give fervent thanks to scorer Macauley Bonne, who stayed admirably calm in the penalty area as rampaging substitute Chuks Aneke rose higher than Cedric Kipre to touch on Adam Matthews’ searching cross. Steadying himself sensibly, the big league rookie potshotted a deliberate low shot beyond David Marshall and neatly inside the keeper’s left hand post.

Bonne’s 11th goal of an injury-interrupted first season makes him joint top scorer alongside a more accomplished striker, whose name need not bother us here. He had missed a golden first half chance with the score 1-1 when sent clear by Naby Sarr’s gloriously flighted long pass. His point blank effort was brilliantly blocked by Marshall and public criticism of his faulty finishing was no doubt due another post-game airing by an exasperated Bowyer But he kept his head in a growing crisis and redeemed himself with a crucial equaliser.

A share of the points was no more than the Addicks deserved for a stirring performance against a super-confident side riding a wave generated by an excellent string of results, culminating in an eight-goal demolition of Hull City in midweek. Still buoyant after that devastating accomplishment, rampant Wigan required only eight minutes to take the lead.

The early goal was an avoidable disaster. Forced inside on to his weaker left foot, Matthews struggled to retain possession under pressure from Antonee Robinson. His weakly dribbled clearance fell conveniently for Kai Naismith to cross for Kieffer Moore, whose header was instinctively parried on to a post by Dillon Phillips. Beating Tom Lockyer to the rebound as it flicked upward off the unlucky keeper, Jamal Lowe nodded in the afternoon’s opening goal.

Wigan’s lead lasted three minutes, all the time it took Alfie Doughty to conjure a candidate for Charlton’s goal of the season. The visitors were sliced open by another of Sarr’s adventuresome diagonal balls to Matthews in space on the opposite flank. The right wingback’s deep cross was met by Doughty beyond the far post and exquisitely cushion-volleyed across Marshall into the far corner. No carefully choreographed celebration from this outstanding prospect -just quiet satisfaction.

Seven minutes before the break, the Addicks fell behind again to their free-scoring visitors. Overpowered by Robinson in a 50-50 duel inside the home half, Josh Cullen was left appealing for a non-existent foul as Robinson outpaced Tom Lockyer and squared hard and low across Charlton’s six-yard area. Sliding in desperately, Sarr was unable to cut out the cross, which was efficiently converted at the far post by Kieran Dowell.

Beginning the second half behind to the Championship’s in-form team was, for a side which had scored only four post-lockdown goals, a discouraging scenario.

Not since their 3-1 victory over Luton Town on February 22nd – ten games ago – had the Addicks managed more than one goal in any game. They plugged away optimistically, though, with the 55th minute introduction of Aneke for the blameless Josh Davison, making a significant difference. Muscular and belligerent, Aneke was, from Wigan’s increasingly weary defenders point of view, the substitute from hell. His superiority in the air eventually laid on Bonne’s late leveller, following which he cheerfully offered out their entire back four after they took exception to him.

And so … on to champions Leeds at Elland Road, with an eye and half an ear on developments elsewhere. Bowyer’s team selection will be of critical importance
in a fixture by no means given up as impossible. Hopefully Sarr will be retained to supply his towering personality; Davison did enough to warrant another start, with Aneke an ideal impact sub. Doughty picks himself, as does Sam Field if fit. Then pray that Charlton’s warrior captain Jason Pearce declares himself fit.

The Charlton Champion, meanwhile, has just one tactical, admittedly crude, suggestion to make to management. When the situation demands our defensive lines be cleared, personnel should be encouraged to do just that … clear your lines, chaps, without fear of criticism. Horsing around at the back is a recipe for disaster. Give it up. And, by the way, good luck and thanks.

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce (McGeady 82), Sarr, Cullen, Field (Williams 46), Forster-Caskey (Morgan 46), Doughty, Bonne, Davison (Aneke 55). Not used: Amos, Purrington, Oshilaja, Green, Hemed, Booked: Morgan.

Wigan: Marshall, Robinson, Balogun, Kipre, Byrne, Williams, Morsy, Lowe (Roberts 86), Dowell (Evans 68), Naismith, Moore. Not used: Jones, Massey, Pearce, Garner, Dobre, Mlakan, Gelhardt. Booked: Williams, Morsy.

Referee: Gavin Ward.


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Kevin Nolan’s Locked-Down Valley View: Charlton Athletic 0-1 Reading

Kevin Nolan's Valley View

A grim afternoon behind closed doors at The Valley. KEVIN NOLAN watched so you don’t have to, and makes a few suggestions…

A tortuous exercise in pure frustration, which featured two unfavourable penalty decisions and a first half goal contentiously ruled out for offside, prolonged Charlton’s relegation agony in Saturday’s lunchtime clash with Reading at The Valley.

Their ordeal began as early as the second minute when Deji Oshilaja needlessly cut across Andy Rinomhota, bundling him over as they disputed John Swift’s sharp pass into the penalty area. His zeal was misplaced and referee Darren Bond dutifully operated within the law to penalise him. George Puscas drilled his spotkick down the middle as Dillon Phillips gambled to his right.

Scorers themselves only three times in five post-lockdown games, the Addicks could ill afford Oshilaja’s rush of blood. They battled on doggedly but powderpuff finishing again proved their undoing. Up front, Macauley Bonne went close with a couple of half-chances but looked out of his depth while Chuks Aneke was fortunate to escape a caution for persistent fouling. It was Aneke, however, who appeared to have equalised shortly before the first drinks break when he turned home the rebound after Rafael saved Aiden McGeady’s crisp snapshot at full length. Referee Bond clearly saw nothing wrong with the “goal” but, reasonably enough, deferred to his linesman’s upraised flag. Charlton can’t catch a break at the minute; Reading’s penalty follows hard on the heels of the dubious decision which helped Brentford to overcome their stout resistance in midweek.

Much later, Bond was required to adjudicate a similar tangle between substitutes Jake Forster-Caskey and Jon Obita inside the area. Obita’s challenge, like Oshilaja’s in almost the same spot, seemed excessively physical but again the full force of the law came down on the home side. Forster-Caskey was not only denied a penalty but was unfairly booked for “simulation” while Obita escaped scot-free.

Later defeats for Middlesbrough and Hull City mitigated the damage done by this demoralising setback but Charlton would be unwise to rely on the continued ineptitude of others as they enter a critical three-game micro-season. Their current inability to score promises to be their downfall. Bonne is the only recognised striker with a goal to his credit, while a popgun-firing midfield, in which Darren Pratley has been the sole scorer, consistently fails to contribute. The four goals grudgingly conceded by the defence in six games (one of them the penalty generously awarded to Brentford), meanwhile, stands comparison with sides at the top of the division. No team has recently rolled over Charlton, as has happened to their relegation rivals and that jealously guarded goal difference may yet enter the equation.

An increasingly careworn Lee Bowyer will weigh the pluses and minuses in selecting his sides for the upcoming clashes with fellow strugglers Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic. He must surely concede that Oshilaja, a right-footed left back, is a square peg looking for a suitably square hole. His advances along the left flank invariably end in him checking infield on to his right foot before passing either square or backwards, a consequent loss of momentum not common to Alfie Doughty or, indeed, to the totally overlooked Ben Purrington.

The manager will also have been quietly pleased with the first half shift contributed by McGeady who, besides producing Charlton’s most effective shot on target, probed and passed intelligently. The Scottish playmaker’s clever cross created a near-post chance which Bonne screwed harmlessly across the face of Rafael’s goal before, as usual, he faded dramatically after the interval. McGeady should have been substituted long before his 79th-minute departure in favour of anonymous Tomer Hemed.

An interval replacement for ineffective Albie Morgan, Jonny Williams made a determined effort to establish a new personal best for free kicks earned. Another non-scoring midfielder, Williams might be encouraged to spend more time inside opponents’ penalty area, where his propensity to attract fouls could pay off. Like McGeady, he’s good for no more than 45 minute stints. Perhaps they should alternate to good effect.

And in a Charlton side beginning to present a jaded, colourless persona, should room be made for Naby Sarr, a charismatic player hard to ignore and even harder to overlook? Maybe he could even make a difference up front, where he’s been known to cause havoc. Bowyer will probably opt for caution at this late stage -and he might well be right -which will mean more bad news for the diminutive Erhun Oztumer, who seems to be surplus to the manager’s requirements. Oztumer and Sarr, the unused Little and Large pistols in Bowyer’s armoury, might well be worth a look, though. After all, when it’s broke, fix it!

Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Doughty 46), Cullen, Pratley (Forster-Caskey 84), McGeady (Hemed 79), Morgan (Williams 46), Aneke, Bonne. Not used: Amos, Sarr, Purrington, Field, Oztumer. Booked: Doughty, Cullen, Forster-Caskey.

Reading: Rafael, Cabral, Blackett, McIntyre, Morrison, Osho (Gunter 74), Pele (Obita 46), Olise (Richards 61), Rinomhota, Swift (Moore 74), Meite, Puscas (Baldock 56). Not used: Walker, Miazga, McCleary, Boye. Booked: Blackett, Osho, Baldock.

Referee: Darren Bond.


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