For the Addicks, it has not been a busy month on the pitch (Charlton have only played once following the postponement of the Barnsley game this weekend in addition to Oxford 7 days ago). In fact, one of the issues is that Charlton haven’t really had a pitch to play on. Despite announcing in the week that they foresaw no problems ahead of Barnsley’s visit, the game was postponed just 2 hours before kick off, leaving the travelling fans furious. The Addicks are due to attempt to replay their FA cup clash against Oxford on Tuesday, and even Powell recognised that the pitch is not acceptable for a team playing at Charlton’s level.
Behind the scenes however, months and years of speculation finally culminated in Roland Duchâtelet taking over the club.
Fans have made it clear for a significant period of time that the regime of Slater, Jimenez and Prothero has not been adequate, citing a lack of funds and concern about the future as two of the key reasons their time in charge of Charlton will not be looked at favourably. Having said this, fans must remember that the previous owners were responsible for, amongst other things, employing Powell, who lead the team to the League One title following a summer spending spree, and on to Championship safety last season.
This season has been a different story however. Key players were sold throughout the summer, whilst no significant replacements were brought in. Combine this with contracts of both players and staff expiring in the summer, and the uncertainty around the club has been clear both on and off the pitch. The team has continued to play with a desire and dedication that is to be commended at a difficult time, whilst Powell has shown immense dignity on the sideline, leading his team through what is proving to be a tough season so far.
It was therefore a welcome relief when shortly after the Ipswich game it was announced that Duchâtelet had taken over the club, and within hours he had made some big changes. The pitch, which has been nothing short of dreadful this season, has been covered with a dome to assist with drying it out. Whilst the location of the ground and the amount of rainfall have contributed heavily to the condition, the lack of attention paid by the previous owners combined with news that a damaged drainage system has not been repaired for years indicates that it’s a problem that could have been resolved more effectively. As it is, the dome did force the postponement of the FA Cup game against Oxford and the league game against Barnsley, but now the pitch should limp through until the end of the season.
Duchâtelet, who also owns Standard Liege in Belgium, was not satisfied with simply improving the pitch, and within hours the club had also announced the loan signing of attacking midfielder Astrit Ajdarević from the aforementioned Liege. The owner has also met with Powell in the early stages of his involvement with the club, and has released a statement which indicates his understanding of how the fans want the club to be run.
It’s early days but things look positive for the Duchâtelet era. It is imperative that he keeps Powell, and between them they share their visions for the club. If Powell can keep the club in the Championship this season, and if he is given money in the summer, there is no telling where this club can go. They must get their priorities right however, and signing up Powell and key players onto new contracts is a must before the month is out.
Fans remain torn over Duchâtelet’s takeover. At Liege, he was criticised for selling key players, although the side now sit top of the Belgian league. If he really understands Charlton’s best interests, it could be an exciting time for the Addicks, but if he upsets the apple cart, he could make enemies very quickly. One thing is for certain, he has already communicated more in one week than the previous owners did in three years!
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin