Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Cashing in....

First, good news for St. Truiden that Roland Duchatelet has sold-up and freed himself of the tiresome responsibility of owning his local football club. Japanese media group DMM have stepped in to take his full shareholding after a period of part ownership. Not a bad model when you can 'try before you buy the whole shop?'

The obvious interest for Addicks fans here, of course, is that it would appear a clear sign that the ill-fated network-experiment is finally being aborted after the earlier sale of Standard Liege and the ongoing cloak-and-dagger negotiations at the Valley. The fact that the sale of St. Truiden still leaves Roland owning the stadium and associated infrastructure isn't such a bright point and something we must view negatively, especially if price becomes a stumbling block on our own sale.

The St. Truiden Chief Executive, Phillippe Bormans, speaking about the takeover said that "DMM is very ambitious and we are looking forward to it.......they have seen with their own eyes that you can't handle a football club like you treat a company." Wise words indeed Mr Bormans - ambition is precisely the issue with Roland Duchatelet, because he has none.

Elsewhere, Katrien Meire seems determined to maximise cash for Roland, something else you might expect of a departing regime. We have already seen prices for the 'Back to the Valley' dinner set at an eye-watering £95 a head which seems indefensible even taking into account a donation to the Community Trust. This week's club update on tickets sales tells us to hurry because there are only ten tables (100 seats) left! Those re the hard-to-shift ones that less well-off supporters might have coveted.

Having listened to the various complaints of those fans unable or unwilling to fork out ninety-five smackeroos for dinner, they have compounded matters this week by ramping up tickets prices for the heralded 'Back to the Valley' league game against Portsmouth. Apparently, last year's League Two opponents are now 'gold' visitors and the prices will range from £20 to £31 and that's without the walk-up Meire Tax. Not sure what Alan Sugar would make of these tactics on The Apprentice but my guess is he might have two words to say....

The other news of the week would appear to be the ongoing expectation management that Esra Konsa will follow in Joe Gomez's boots and be heading out the door to bring in several million more in the January sales. No great surprise but interesting to see Karl Robinson continuing to put it out there and actually mentioning Arsenal and Everton as prospective buyers.

In the meantime, we wait and hope for white smoke from the Valley chimneys....

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Welling United 3 v Concord Rangers 3

An absorbing and entertaining match this, if slightly disappointing result from a Welling United point of view.  The Wings are the form side in the National League South and have moved themselves into genuine automatic promotion contention in recent weeks. A win today would have moved them up to second in the table but sharing the spoils means they have to be content with fourth spot.

In front of 636 fans, the Wings started like a steam train and really should have taken the lead and control of this game. In the opening two minutes Louis Wells in the Concord goal pulled off two excellent close range saves to deny Christian Nanetti who was following up from the right on two fine Wellings raids down the left lead by Jeffrey Monakana and supported by Jebb, Healy and Goldberg. Just as the home fans started to settle, Welling came very close again and Wells this time managed to save one-handed and push the ball up and out beyond his far post when it looked in all the way.

The Wings have been guilty of squandering early chances in other home matches and the early flurry of opportunities almost inevitably lead to Concord Rangers settling more into the match. They were disciplined and lead from the back by Steve King who had an excellent game. In front of King, Amos Nasha swept up and prompted the midfield in front of him. Welling were generally a match-up or better elsewhere but the Concord spine with Ben Greenhalgh at centre-forward was strong. It was Nasha who opened the scoring by running on to a ball in from the left on a quick break and steering it high inside the near-post with debutant keeper, Callum Kitscha, clutching air.

Welling continued to boss possession in the first-half but didn't have enough penetration in the centre of their attack to finish off some excellent play down the flanks with Jebb and Healy supporting Nanetti and Monkana. Bradley Goldberg is a decent striker but he is small and it's asking a lot for him to lead the line on his own. 

After the break, and with the Wings kicking towards the massed home fans at the main road end, Welling looked more lively but again it was Concord who scored after a counter-attack down the right lead by Greenhalgh in which Kitscha was caught out of goal and Farrell only had to hit the target in front of the ten visiting supporters. 

Two-nil and time for Jamie Coyle to change the game by bringing on the bigger and stronger front pairing of Phipps and Bradbrook. Almost immediately, Concorde were under more pressure and the very-cool Joe Healy took the ball through two challenges before driving home a low shot which Wells couldn't stop this time. Two-one with 25 minutes remaining and Welling went for it. The difference between the sides was now fully apparent and it was no surprise when Phipps met a swirling cross from left-back Archie Johnson to volley the ball home from close range with the outside of his boot. Welling continued to press and Phipps got his reward for a surging run under pressure which saw him force his way into the box and see his cross-shot deflected high past Wells into the top of the net.

Three-two from two-line down with only five minutes left but the visitors weren't done and the spine of their side had stood up and they had counter-attacked effectively all afternoon. So it was that they had the last laugh scoring in the 92nd minute when sub Femi Akinwande capitalised on a far-post mix-up which again had all the eyes looking suspiciously at Kitscha in the Welling green jersey.

It's a real shame that Welling struggle to maintain a consistent squad of players because they have the nucleus of a really good side. Dillon Barnes has been outstanding in goal this season but, like Eliah Phipps, is on short-term loan from Colchester and has just returned. However, they are competitive and disciplined, which they will need to be next week when they travel to fifth-placed Hemel Hempstead.

Monday, 6 November 2017

It's AFC Wimbledon away....

The reward for seeing off Truro City on Sunday is a second round F A Cup tie away at AFC Wimbledon. Hardly inspiring but a winnable away London derby is probably as good as it gets given who's left in at at this stage. It will give the angry Dons fans the opportunity to get their naughty Robinson banner out again and it will also fire big Karl up to beat them once again. We should have no problem selling our tickets for this one.

Elsewhere today, great news for oppressed football, as Valeri Belokin wins his high court case against the 'orrible Oystens at Blackpool FC, who have been told to buy-out his 20% shareholding as part of a move which will cost the hated owners a cool £31m. Belokin had argued "unfair prejudice" towards him as minority shareholder during Blackpool's Premier sojourn when he claims the Oystens used the club as "a personal cash machine" without any discussion or recourse to anyone else. Owen Oyston famously took an £11m "Directors fee" during the boom times. 

Long-suffering Seasiders will hope that this leads to regime change with the Oysters finally forced to sell. The judge called it "an easy decision" and denied a right of appeal, additionally setting a condition that the first £10m must be paid within 28 days.That won't stop the Oysters from going directly to the Court of Appeal but it won't stop Blackpool fans either from celebrating in the meantime and praying for new ownership which will signal a return to matches for thousands who continue to boycott. I will raise a glass for the Seasiders this evening.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Two wins

Couldn't make it to St. Albans yesterday where the Wings picked up from last week's home set-back and beat fellow promotion contenders 2-1. That man Joe Healy scored again and Jack Jebb put Welling clear before St. Albans managed an equaliser. 'Charlton Tony' and son Bobby where amongst 140 Wings who made the trip and returned with their side sitting third in the table. A win at Park View Road against Concorde Rangers next Saturday could send Welling top of the table if Dartford and Braintree fail to win their games away from home. 

This afternoon, Karl Robinson fielded the strong side he promised Charlton fans at the Bromley Branch meeting this week. Reeves got two and Marshall added a third as we kept the White Tigers at arms length. Truro had a proper go though and can return to Cornwall with their heads held high. Addicks fans have a rare chance to listen with interest to tomorrow's evening's draw on BBC Radio 2 and BT Sport at 7pm, where we will dream of avoiding another potential banana skin. 

Katrien Meire will be praying for an away draw in order to avoid losing any more money. Today's disappointing F A Cup gate of 4,494 will have cost us and it means (I think) that we have set another new record low in a week following the Checkatrade Trophy 741 v Fulham. Assuming the rumoured takeover goes through, it would be fitting that these records have been set towards the end of Duchatelet's reign.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A pair of one-nils

Back home from a frantic week's break in Cyprus. I took the family to stay with longstanding friends in Pafos for half-term and was too heavily engaged watching their beloved Millwall on i-Follow to cover the Charlton (or Welling) game.

I was explaining why Ricky Holmes appears to score so many goals (because he's very good and has an unerringly accurate shot) when he duly obliged and we were able to see him bend yet another rasper in from an acute angle to see off what, I gather, was a typically scrappy Wimbledon side in what was an otherwise disappointing match. Still, the three points maintain the current fine run and suddenly we have a bit of a gap as we close in on Wigan and Shrewsbury. I keep saying it won't last...

Welling fell at home to the other National League South top form side. Ben Jefford's sending-off didn't help as Wealdstone ran out 2-1 winners at Park View Road. They face another tough game this weekend away at fellow play-off hopefuls, St. Albans. The Addicks, meanwhile, take on another of Welling's play-off contenders, Truro City, in a first round F A Cup encounter at the Valley at 2pm on Sunday according to my Flash Score app. Not sure how I missed that but probably a consequence of Duchatelet-induced lack of attention.

Speaking of which, we must be due some confirmation of pending takeover talks, if not wild, deep and long-lasting celebrations of an actual announcement that a deal has been done and we can finally move forward with hope and genuine ambition of engaged and committed ownership. Reading between the lines, the view is that those pesky former Director loans might be presenting a last-ditch hurdle. That figures as the individuals concerned probably have no better chance of getting their money back now than through any well-intentioned thoughts of repayment from a Premier League windfall. They can see Duchatelet looking to recover every penny of his disastrous ownership and are probably saying, 'fuck that, I will insist on my money now if he thinks he's getting out intact." Something like that anyway. There is obviously a danger it delays or even scuppers a deal but this is their best leverage and I don't blame any of them if they take it. We only have to hope that whoever is buying us holds  the line in terms of paying what the club and it's prime assets are worth and not paying through the nose, however desperate we are to be rid of the Belgian-ridden Scrooge. Pray too that change of ownership also means he is gone forever and not left holding any cards.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Gloucester City 0 v Welling United 1

I trekked over to Paddington this morning, met up with Tony and Bobby and we took the train to Evesham to see the Wings make it six league wins in succession. For anyone head-scratching at this, Gloucester are currently ground-sharing 25 miles from home, which is probably why the gate was a tad under 300.

We stopped in town for a quick pint before a taxi took us the Evesham club house and a few more pints in a relaxed atmosphere out of the howling wind. The conditions were the worst I have witnessed since that fateful day in Yeovil. The rain was light but the wind constant and it was clear from the off that there wouldn't be any goals at the westerly end. 

It was a tight first-half, played mostly in Welling's half as they defended the easterly goal. It was difficult for the Wings to really get the ball out of their half although they persevered and looked the better side with the ball on the floor. Dylan Barnes was relatively well protected given the pressure the back four were under and he mopped up what did get through to him. It wasn't a day for the dribbling left winger, Nanetti, nor really for Eliah Phipps, both of whom appreciation precision football. They eventually made way for Bradbrook and Goldberg in the second-half as Welling sought to use the wind. 

At half-time Tony and I were checking our coupon (Stoke and Luton let us down) and we noticed that Welling had somehow been moved from 6/5 to 3/1 to win. The bookies must have been going on the stats because nothing else warranted the change in odds and clearly no-one at Bet365 was accounting for the gale. We duly lumped on.

Into the second-half and, surprisingly, Gloucester managed to make much more of it in the Welling half against the wind but they still looked short of sufficient power to beat Barnes from any distance. Welling, meanwhile were beginning to create wind-assisted chances and we were still confident of a winner into the last ten minutes. After a spell of Wings pressure, another attack saw a congested penalty box as Gloucester got men behind the ball but it was worked to the clever Joe Healy who conjured a deceptively soft but accurate shot which crossed the box and nestled high in the net. The 60 Wings fans behind the goal celebrated wildly and minutes later it was all over. The jubilant players made their way behind the goal and every player shook every hand offered and thanked us for our support. Welling move up to fifth and are the side to beat in National League South at the moment.

In the taxi en route to the station I learnt that the Addicks had matched the Wings with a very good 1-0 win at Bradford. Ben Amos won the match with two fine last gasp saves but we were good value for the points and it's been an excellent week on the road for Robinson and his team. I only hope the takeover goes through quickly now so we can capitalise as a club on our league position and the feel-good factor of new owners. Please let it come to pass.

All-in-all a good day and one where we came home with more money in our pockets than when we left. Can't be bad.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Why Duchatelet is selling and why we need to move on...

News of the ongoing takeover of our beloved football club continues to stir debate and emotions. Whilst the majority look delighted, there remains a rump who are worried about the risk of incoming owners and some who think we would genuinely be better off with Duchatelet 3.0 or that change risks our promotion chances. There are even a few members of the Flat Earth Society who refuse to believe it because they still think Duchatelet has a long-term commitment and plan to atone for his disastrous ownership!

1) Worried about new owners?

It's an obvious concern. Unknown new owners are going to carry risk. What we do know about the Aussies (if indeed it is them as believed) is that they have had one bite at the cherry previously and appeared not to have had all the money or to have been able persuade Duchatelet to sell. Indeed, the rumour was that the deal excluded the Valley and Sparrows Lane which would have left us at the mercy of Duchatelet. However, given the turmoil of the last three and half years under this man which in headline terms has seen us relegated, gates halved, revenues slashed and the club reduced to a laughing stock, the only thing that could possibly get worse is we could end up in financial difficulties. New owners would be investing millions. They are taking the biggest risk here, not us. Plenty of clubs get into financial difficulties and the vast majority resurface - look at Southampton and Palace. 

2) Better off with Duchatelet?

There is a debate that pre-supposes there is a even a medium term choice here! This bloke wants shot and has done for over two years. He bought us as part of a network of purchases to exploit FFP and that failed within a year of his acquisition. By far the two biggest financial liabilities in that network of clubs was Standard Liege and Charlton Athletic. The sum total of the other three would still make them third in that list. Liege were promptly sold for a profit but Charlton Athletic were not in a position to be sold for profit as Katrien Meire had steered us over a cliff and the club was at "war" with it's supporters. We were heading down and were duly relegated. He had to steady the ship and that has taken time. Look at the facts, he hasn't even seen us play at the Valley in three years! Meire has been put in a cupboard (and humiliated in the process, let's face it) for almost a year and Pitch PR have been providing common sense and pragmatic judgement on key operating decisions which has seen the steadying Duchatelet needed to sell. Duchatelet has continued his cost-cutting and there has been no real term investment for a very long time. 

Some see this 'steadying' as an option and proof that Duchatelet has learnt his lesson and changed. To some extent he obviously has but it's been driven by his desire to cut his losses not because he wants to continue to run, develop and progress a football club he has no interest in any longer.

3) Change and Promotion Chances

Again understandable but a chance that we have to take if the opportunity is there to move Duchatelet out. From what I can see, new owners will have a very long list of things to tackle and changing the manager and playing staff are definitely not top of the list. We will be halfway through a season and the January transfer window will be upon us. We are handily placed and there are no clarion calls for Robinson to go beyond those who would like a completely clean sweep. They are far more likely to give him the rest of the season and some money to see if he can immediately inflate their asset. How much do you reckon Roly's going to give him otherwise? Do you think Roly would avoid the opportunity to cash in on one or two players if he's still a reluctant owner?

If Robinson wins promotion he would deserve the role going forward. If not, he should be replaced so we have a complete fresh start next season. Any new owners would be better served getting rid of the likes of Tony Keohane and all the others who have followed orders with unnecessary enthusiasm and enjoyed doing it.

As for the Flat Earth Society, well it's all over when it's all over. A few might content themselves with still believing they knew better but most will be wise after the event.