Roland Duchatelet’s takeover of Charlton Athletic brought about something that is normally an alien concept amongst fans of the Addicks; positivity and rational thought.
Of course, there were those who were dubious about the Belgian’s intentions, worried about the safety of Chris Powell’s position as Charlton boss and panicking that the club’s home colours would be changed to black, yellow and red.
But the majority, in a rare break from tradition, were optimistic. Duchatelet’s pedigree was, to some extent at least, encouraging, his piggy bank was significantly heavier than the one owned by the departing Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez, whilst the positivity that Powell exhibited when speaking about his new chairman was infectious.
On top of that, the Addicks were destined to stay up. The cash laden Belgium would add a touch of quality to a side that were beginning to improve already. Johnnie Jackson’s last minute equaliser against Ipswich Town two days before Duchatelet took over had extended Charlton’s unbeaten run to four.
Add into that the promise of players signing new contracts and a statement from the owner that suggested Powell was part of his plans for the club, and everything was looking up.
Maybe not the immediate future, in terms of rocketing up the table this season, but the future beyond that promised progression.
Alas, that stage of Charlton fans broadcasting positive and rational thoughts didn’t last long; events in the very minute short-term dictating the overall emotions of Addicks towards the club and Duchatelet.
First, Andy Hughes was in the firing line. His crime? Being a Leeds fan in a Charlton shirt.
It was clear and apparent that Hughes instigated Cameron Stewart’s move to the Elland Road club. Stewart wouldn’t dream of moving to a huge club, with the potential to be great again, that’s in the north without the persuasion of Hughes.
In reality, Hughes only offered some words after Stewart had already opted to join Leeds. That it’s clear the midfielder is completely committed to Charlton, and wouldn’t want to weaken his current side, seemed to completely escape the minds of some.
Next, Duchatelet was unable to locate a new pitch for insertion over The Valley’s bog of a playing surface. Neither of his 3153 clubs were willing to depart with theirs, apparently they needed to use them, and so Charlton were left to postpone games against Oxford United (x2) and Barnsley in farcical circumstances.
All he could offer was a cover, sort of named after a former Charlton striker who was a bit rubbish, that helped to improve the state of the pitch to a playable condition in time for Oxford’s third attempt to travel to The Valley.
Of course, the previous owners were at fault in the grand scheme of things. The damaged drainage system that was causing the pitch problems could have been fixed in the summer, or the bank of Slater&Jimenez could have parted with a relatively small amount of cash for a MacLeod Cover.
But, if you really must blame someone, why be rational and logical when you can blame the club’s media department or the ground staff? Duchatelet just about got away with this one.
He didn’t escape the wrath of Charlton fans for long.
His first signings at the club were midfielder Astrit Ajdarević, on loan from Standard Liege, and goalkeeper Yohann Thuram, on loan from Standard Liege.
Ajdarević was clearly rubbish. Leicester City fans didn’t think he was any good six years ago, and getting a game for Hereford United automatically ends any hopes of a successful career. That he had plenty of games for top flight Swedish and Belgium clubs meant absolutely nothing, of course.
Thuram just wasn’t needed. Signing him was a clear sign that Ben Hamer would be leaving, the ‘keeper no one likes anyway apart from when he wins Charlton points, which is quite often.
That a 30-goal-a-season striker and a winger, both with Championship experience, weren’t brought in, but this pair of Standard players, showed Powell wasn’t in charge of transfers, nor would he be in charge of picking his team.
How on earth could the Addicks be expected to stay in the division with a bunch of Standard rejects loaned to us by Duchatelet?
That Thuram started in the defeat to Middlesbrough on Saturday showed for certain that Powell wouldn’t be picking the team. Hamer’s injury and Alnwick’s illness were just cover ups. A view only amplified by Thuram’s error for Middlesbrough’s goal; the worst mistake committed by any man in a Charlton shirt since the beginning of time.
With more Standard players rumoured to be joining, and neither Powell nor his players agreeing new contracts 17 days after the Belgium took over the club, Duchatelet was clearly intent on destroying Charlton’s soul and turning the South East London club into Standard B.
So it must have been rather confusing for some to see Ajdarević enter the fray with 15 minutes to play on Saturday, after not being picked to start, and quietly impress. That Thuram pulled off two incredible saves to keep Charlton in the game has also passed many by.
Of course, Powell wouldn’t have had any of the players coming in from Standard on his wishlist a few weeks ago, but that isn’t to say he doesn’t want them, and it certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t making the transfers.
In my eyes, there’s nothing wrong with Duchatelet offering these players to Powell. It’ll be up to Powell whether he picks them or not. It’s very similar to a scout offering players to Powell.
A man of such integrity wouldn’t allow the owner to pick his side. I’ll refer you back to the warmth in Powell’s tone when speaking of Duchatelet.
Of course, I’d love us to sign a Billy Sharp and an Andy Reid, but players of that quality aren’t easy to sign at the best of times, let alone in January.
The indication from many is that the Standard players won’t be good enough, but that’s said without any prior knowledge. Even if they’re not better than what we’ve already got, they’ll bolster a very small squad. Give them a chance.
Give Duchatelet a chance too. A chance to get his feet under the desk and work on offering new contracts to Powell and his players. These things don’t happen overnight, and that Powell hasn’t been offered a deal yet doesn’t mean he won’t get one at all.
I don’t believe Saturday’s defeat changes anything either. The Addicks played well, like they did against Brighton and Ipswich, but were just missing a little bit of cutting edge, and Chris Solly. Powell will undoubtedly guide this side away from trouble, let alone a side with a few additions.
Yes, Stewart’s gone. Yes, the pitch is poor. Yes, the squad needs a striker and Powell’s men lost their first game in four against Middlesbrough, dragging them right back into the mire.
But a replacement for Stewart and a striker will be found. I have trust in both Duchatelet and Powell to come up with the goods; it’s clear they both want whats best for the club. Whether they be a short-term fix or a long term option doesn’t really matter; this season is all about staying up and rebuilding next season.
The pitch is the perfect metaphor for that. The cover will keep it just about playable before major work can be carried out in the summer.
In the meantime, faith in the owner, Powell and his players is needed. Not the cynicism that is seen so often.
Patience and calm, please.