Make no mistake, the situation at the Valley is dire.
On the field, the cracks have been papered over. Lee Bowyer is a face from old, a Charlton youth who made it big and has come home to help them out. Up front, they’ve got ambitious strikers like Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Lyle Taylor, with Josh Cullen another incredible talent in the middle of the park.
Football isn’t all about 3pm on a Saturday though and when the floodlights go out and the dressing room doors close, the club is in complete turmoil.
Owner Ronald Duchatelet wants to sell the club, but he’s asking for £35m. For a League One club. He paid £20m for them whilst they were in the Championship and has barely spent a penny as they’ve bumbled along in League One.
The protests have been numerous and extensive, but the trouble continues. Staff weren’t paid bonuses and a report out today suggests that the numbers are dwindling. Behind the scenes, players are leaving and not being replaced. The once-proud Premier League club is slowly rotting away from within because a belligerent owner wants to get his money back, and some.
Staff have been asked not to eat crisps at their desk because of the associated cleaning costs. Staff members have been forced to hold meetings in the dark to save on electricity bills and towel dispensers in staff toilets have been sealed.
On the pitch, Lee Bowyer is saving face and he’s been quoted as having the backing of Duchatelet. Maybe that is because a few wins might make a takeover more viable, maybe Bowyer is the cheap option. Karl Robinson certainly didn’t like what he saw, he left for Charlton last year after a frosty relationship breakdown with the chairman.
Where do they go from here? Tucked in nicely for a play off assault, the Addicks are hoping for a return to the glory days that saw them regularly host Arsenal and Manchester United. They’re not going to get that by cutting water from the players training sessions, or having staff send emails to HR every time they want a bag of crisps.
The EFL have said they now want a meeting with the club to get a firm grasp on the current situation, but it is clear from reports what is happening. The owner wants out, he won’t accept a loss or even a break even on his initial investment and that is hampering takeover talks. There’s been two bids under discussion, one from an Australian consortium and another about which less is known. It is believed Duchatelet will accept either, as long as it matches his valuation.
If he carries on in charge, there might be a difficulty in getting £3.5m for the club, let along £35m.
something has to change because when all is said and done, it is only the fans and hard-working staff that suffer the most.