Charlton seek happy ending to tumultuous campaign - Interview
Thursday, 25th Jun 2020 09:17 by Clive Whittingham
A headline-grabbing season of three separate owners has Charlton standing on the brink of an immediate return to League One. Louis Mendez, host of the Charlton Live podcast, tries to make sense of it all.
Off the field
So you finally shifted Roland Duchâtelet, and then these new guys came in. How were they received, what did they say, what was the reaction initially?
At first, East Street Investments were very well received by the fanbase. Chairman Matt Southall was engaging and promised the club would be ran sensibly but with money to spend – it all sounded like it was a world away from the belt-tightening Duchatelet era. There were always rumours bubbling below the surface about the veracity of the picture being presented but the majority of Addicks fans were more than happy with what they were hearing.
At what point did it become clear that you'd gone from the frying pan to the fire and all was not well with the new owners?
Warning shots were fired when no permanent signings were made during the January transfer window despite Charlton’s chronic injury crisis and relegation troubles, but it all really came to a head when a remarkable social media battle flared in early March. Majority shareholder Tahnoon Nimer appeared to announce he had pulled out from the project on Instagram of all places, accusing Southall of misusing club finances and spending them on Range Rovers and an incredibly fancy apartment from himself and his cronies, as well as withdrawing massive ‘consultancy fees’ on top of his salary. Southall retaliated by claiming Nimer had never put in a penny of the money he promised to fund the running of the club. The EFL then confirmed the Addicks were under a registration embargo as Nimer hadn’t proven the source and sufficiency of his funds – which meant the EFL never green-lit the takeover at all. Both Southall and Nimer continued to battle for control at The Valley, each using the club official website to announce the other’s departure within a little over a week, before the stalemate appeared to end when Southall was marched out of boardroom by security on Nimer’s orders (I was watching from the car park that night, it was quite momentous and ended up in the police being called).
Summer Ins: Macauley Bonne, 23, CF, Orient, £200k >>> Tom Lockyer, 24, CB, Bristol Rovers, Free >>> Chuks Aneke, 25, CF, MK Dons, Free >>> Adedeji Oshilaja, 26, CB, Wimbledon, Free >>> Ben Amos, 29, GK, Bolton, Free >>> Nathan Harness, GK, Stevenage, Undisclosed >>> Ben Purrington, 23, LB, Rotherham, Free >>> Tomer Hemed, 32, CF, Brighton, Free >>> Erhan Oztumer, 28, AM, Bolton, Free >>> Adam Matthews, 27, RB, Unattached, Free >>> Joe Ledley, 32, CM, Unattached, Free >>> Josh Cullen, 23, CM, West Ham, Loan >>> Beram Kayal, 31, CM, Brighton, Loan >>> Conor Gallagher, 19, CM, Chelsea, Loan >>> Sam Field, 21, CM, West Brom, Loan >>> Jonathan Leko 20, RW, West Brom, Loan >>>
Summer Outs: Anfernee Dijksteel, 22, RB, Middlesbrough, £1.9m >>> Josh Parker, 28, LW, Wycombe, Free >>> Jamie Mascoll, 22, LB, Wycombe, Free >>> Igor Vetekele, 27, CF, Westerlo (Belgium), Free >>> Joe Aribo, 22, CM, Rangers, Free >>> Mark Marshall, 33, RW, Gillingham, Free >>> Nicky Ajose, 27, CF, Exeter, Free >>> Patrick Bauer, 28, CB, Preston, Free >>> Tariqe Fosu, 22, LW, Oxford, Free >>> Ben Reeves, 27, AM, Released >>> Mikhail Kennedy, 22, CF, Released >>> Albie Morgan, 19, CM, Ebsfleet, Loan
Winter Ins: Aiden McGeady, 34, AM, Sunderland, Loan >>> Andre Green, 21, RW, Villa, Loan >>> Matt Smith, 20, CM, Man City, Loan >>> David Davis, 29, CM, Birmingham, Loan
Winter Outs: Joe Ledley, 32, CM, Newcastle Jets, Free >>> Ashley Maynard-Brewer, 21, GK, Dover, Loan >>> Ben Dempsey, 20, CM, Woking, Loan >>> Taylor Maloney, 21, CM, Concord Rangers, Loan
Much said and written about Matt Southall, and his cars - for those unaware, who is he, what's his involvement, what did he do wrong?
Southall was a bit of a nobody before he was installed as the executive chairman – the front man who would manage the day-to-day running of the business whilst Tahnoon Nimer provided the capital. He wrote plenty of metaphorical cheques that he couldn’t cash – said there would be money to spend in January, earmarked £15m for renovation of the training ground and made a £1m plus bid for Marcus Maddison from Peterborough when we didn’t have the money for any of them. He angered Lee Bowyer by saying his contract negotiations would be put on hold until after the January window, which he then went back on after the manager complained in the press. Lyle Taylor claims Southall offered him an even lower valued contract than the one that was on the table when Duchatelet was still in town. Southall’s alleged extravagant spending on himself out of the club’s funds on the cars and the flat drew headlines when leaked by Nimer, along with reported big money fees paid to himself and sent to a company his wife was the proprietor of. He also suspended long-serving cub secretary Chris Parkes briefly, before also trying to fire other staff members during the boardroom stand-off. Since his departure, Southall did engage in some petty Twitter spats with supporters, whilst a friend he treated to a game in the directors’ box consistently harasses fans and club staff on social media as well. He’s by no means the only guilty party in this whole mess but certainly won’t be welcome at The Valley ever again.
A third set of owners are now in charge, what can you tell us about them?
Not much. New frontman Paul Elliott (sadly not the former footballer or surviving Chuckle brother) is a complete unknown – and it has yet to be revealed who else is in his consortium. The deal was said to be brokered by Chris Farnell, a lawyer who had represented Southall in the past before then taking him to court for lack of payment. Farnell then became Nimer’s lawyer after the dispute with Southall and was then himself brought onto the board of ESI. Some believe this latest sale could have been a mechanism to get Southall out of the way cheaply (he owned 35% of the shares in ESI) before then flipping the club again for a profit. Elliott has yet to pass the EFL O&D test himself although does say that he stumped up for the club wages last month, which had been an ongoing concern for staff. Elliott is also refusing to speak to the press or the supporter’s trust until the EFL tests are passed – so there’s very little indication of what his real plans are for the club. Safe to say that a fair chunk of supporters question his motivations here.
What would be the financial consequences of a relegation, what state would Charlton land in League One in?
The drop from the Championship to League One isn’t anywhere near as dramatic from the Premier League down to the Championship in terms of funding, obviously, but it still reduces your income from TV etc and with the uncertainty surrounding Charlton’s ownership it could still be very uncomfortable.
On the pitch
A great start to the season has faded into a relegation battle, how do you assess the season on the pitch? Has the decline been driven by the off-field stuff, or is there more to it? I remember you had horrendous injury list for the game at ours…
Still under Roland, Charlton had the lowest wage bill going into the season so expectations were always realistic. The superb start was enjoyable and whilst there was a presumption it would tail off; the horrendous injury list saw the Addicks nosedive. Key men like Lyle Taylor and Jonny Williams had lengthy spells on the side-lines. Youngsters were called back from loans at National League sides to play Championship football. The side battled manfully but the rigours of a Championship campaign caught up with them.
Charlton league games so far…
How was the Hull game? Couldn't really have wished for a better opponent...
Comfortable. Hull were awful. Charlton looked sharp at times, albeit wasteful in front of goal. But considering what was at stake, Lee Bowyer was very pleased with the turnout from his side.
Lyle Taylor the highest profile among a few who are refusing to play the summer games, how's that gone down with the fans?
Not well. I think it may well have been a different story if he at least played the three games before his contract expires at the end of the month but many feel he has soured his legacy at the club by not doing so.
Player of the season candidates?
Goalkeeper Dillon Phillips is the standout. Stats show he’s made more saves that anyone else in the division (which isn’t necessarily a good thing!) and has been so dependable. Special mentions as well for centre-half Tom Lockyer, right-back Adam Matthews and youngster Alfie Doughty.
Weak links in the side?
Weak link may be harsh but there are players who still have something to prove – and Tomer Hemed up top is one of those. He’s yet to really have a run of games in which to impress and will have to use his opportunity in the run-in to do so. It’s started promisingly, Hull on Saturday was probably his best game so far.
Charlton’s remaining league games…
Thoughts on Lee Bowyer's strengths and weaknesses and whether he'll stick around - Birmingham are keen I believe?
He’ll stick around. If he hasn’t walked with all the nonsense he’s had thrown at him so far, I see no reason why he’d do so now. Strength wise, he’s tactically astute and also not afraid to make a change early when he gets something wrong (we switched formation with a sub within half-an-hour in our game at the KPFS earlier this season). He’s also a decent man-manager and garners an excellent spirit within the camp. It will sound corny but I think it would be difficult to highlight any weaknesses at the moment. He’s kept his head above water despite everything that has gone on behind the scenes throughout his tenure.
Will you stay up?
Yes, I think so. Lee Bowyer’s side will always fight until the end and I think they will eek out enough results to avoid the drop.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @LouisMend
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