Not for the first time under the stewardship of Roland Duchatelet’s regime, Charlton Athletic have managed to successfully work themselves into a completely avoidable lose-lose situation.
For while there is no doubt that the reshaping of a squad that will unquestionably lose most of its more trusted faces must begin early if the Addicks are to have any chance of making an immediate return to the Championship, and to convince disillusioned supporters to reconsider their decision not to purchase a season ticket, attempting to recruit players without any sort of structure or key staff in place would appear counterproductive.
The suggestion that Charlton will make a second bid for talented Colchester United midfielder George Moncur should, under normal circumstances, create a sense of optimism.
Moncur an excellent attacking playmaker, who would fill a void that hasn’t been attended to since the departure of Dale Stephens. Colchester’s relegation from League One not tainting the current ability nor the potential of the 22-year-old.
And, somewhat oddly, despite the unrest and justifiable toxic atmosphere, there remains an argument that The Valley is a positive place for young footballers to ply their trade. There might not be a head coach in place to sell a vision, but he need only look at the number of players who have used SE7 as a stepping stone in recent years. Attempting to attract players to SE7 isn’t necessarily a lost cause.
But instead of optimism, the £150,000 bid and a rumoured £200,000 second offer for the former West Ham midfielder has brought about justified confusion, scepticism and concern.
With no head coach, head of recruitment or senior scout, who in SE7 is behind this approach when the few currently employed by the club currently lack either the power or knowledge to make it?
Well-respected first-team coach Simon Clark, with Colchester connections, has the knowledge, but it would be unusual for such a member of the backroom staff to be given recruitment responsibilities, while Katrien Meire’s lust for power has seen her name mentioned, but allowing someone so unqualified to make footballing decisions is insulting and embarrassing.
The issue, however, isn’t necessarily who’s making the decisions, but who isn’t. That there has been an approach for a player, irrespective of the impact signing Moncur may or may not have, without any of the major staffing appointments made does little to quell fears that power will again lie away from The Valley, and decisions will be made not exclusively for the benefit of Charlton Athletic.
For the suggestion from Meire since Jose Riga departed, criticising the club’s structure quite ruthlessly as he did, is that the next managerial appointment will have control over player recruitment. A more important promise than the one regarding the nationality of our next boss.
But number one target Chris Wilder, prior to Sheffield United approaching him, is rumoured to have turned down the Addicks as he wasn’t provided with the reassurances he requested in writing. Easier to believe that than it is to trust Meire given her past history of empty promises and lies.
The continued delay in appointing a head of recruitment or director of football, with someone needed to take on one of those job roles to make Duchatelet’s flawed experiment even slightly viable since the beginning, and chief scout, with Phil Chapple bizarrely not replaced despite departing at the beginning of October 2015, also increases this uncertainty that the promised change will either be a token gesture or won’t actually occur. The South London Press reporting that discussions with Lennie Lawrence to become the head of recruitment at The Valley never progressed.
For while I would much rather, particularly on the evidence of the cohesion and collective strength of Chris Powell’s hand-picked title-winning squad of 2011/12, the new boss receives full control, it isn’t a total disaster if he doesn’t, whether under this regime or another.
It not uncommon for clubs, and successful ones and that, to have their transfer strategy directed by individuals qualified to do so away from the dugout, but also away from the boardroom.
The concern at the moment, with the Addicks approaching a player without anyone in the dugout nor in the stands, is that the experimental, computer-based scouting strategy that has previously dictated Duchatelet’s signings will continue to have a role to play.
Not necessarily a worry when it offers up players like Moncur, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson before him, but a huge one when the duds that have been forced into the hands of head coaches under Duchatelet’s regime are considered. For every one Gudmundsson, there’s three Naby Sarrs.
Additionally, there’s something uncomfortable about the squad building process beginning without the new boss’s consent. Even if he were not to have full control under a more modern recruitment structure, he would at least be able to oversee and have a very important say in the shaping of his side. No one thrown upon him unexpectedly.
Ultimately, therefore, the question is whether the Addicks approaching players, regardless of their quality, without the sort of staff qualified to do so, nor a head coach to dictate the overall process, is a genuine concern.
Given that it suggests the flawed and hidden former recruitment strategy has not vanished completely, the head coach’s powers will remain tainted, and the damage it does to the already minimal trust in the club, the answer is yes.
Moncur, if signed, might well be a decent addition, but the manner of this approach doesn’t prevent a scepticism of the way the Addicks operate continuing.
Concern and scepticism, however, that could have so easily been avoided if appointments of the required staff had been made when it became clear they were needed. Or some strategy and structure was applied to the club instead of empty promises continuously being made.
Or, rather simply, these concerns could be addressed by Duchatelet moving the club into more trustworthy hands. But that, like being able to develop a sense of trust in the club and it operating in a sensible manner, appears too much to ask for.