This is the title of an article in today's Times by chief football correspondent Oliver McKay, based on an interview with Chris Powell.
Chris Powell can clearly remember the moment that alarm bells started ringing for him at Charlton Athletic. He had felt vulnerable from the moment Roland Duchâtelet bought the club in early 2014, but now it was time to start planning for the following season. He had prioritised a winger, so he gave the new board a list of targets, one of them a highly rated Premier League youngster whom he was confident he could get on loan if the club moved quickly.
Powell was told not to worry; this was where he would see the beauty of the new ownership structure, which put Charlton in a “network” with Standard Liège, FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Ujpest and Alcorcón. Leave it to us, he was told. A couple of days later a Belgian youngster pitched up at the club’s training ground. Powell was informed that this would be the winger for next season. On the training pitch, he stuck out like a sore thumb. The coaching staff felt the youngster was not ready to play for Charlton’s youth team, let alone the Sky Bet Championship. He did not stick around. “I felt sorry for him,” Powell says. “He said he didn’t know why he was there.”
“People began to work out was going on with regard to team selection. Whenever I picked a team that didn’t have a player from the ‘network’, I would be asked why.
The winger has not exactly gone on to great things since and neither, sad to say, have Charlton under Duchâtelet’s ownership. Two years and five managerial changes later, their stay in the Sky Bet Championship will end this lunchtime with a home match against Burnley — two clubs going in opposite directions, Burnley promoted to the Barclays Premier League, Charlton relegated to League One. The celebrations in the away end will be in stark contrast to the toxic mood among Charlton’s fans, who are planning their fiercest protest yet against a calamitous ownership regime.
What grates most at The Valley is the frustration that their club, for so long a byword for stability and good housekeeping in the Premier League, has been severely undermined by a regime that purports to know all the answers but has made one misguided decision after another. The Championship is full of proud, historic clubs whose position in English football’s hierarchy has been damaged by mismanagement. Charlton are now dropping down to League One, with matches against Shrewsbury Town, Southend United and perhaps Accrington Stanley to look forward to next season.
Nobody, least of all the club’s supporters, could say Charlton were not warned. This has been a relegation waiting to happen. The problems pre-dated Duchâtelet’s arrival — to Powell’s frustration there were serious cutbacks in the summer of 2013, as Tony Jimenez, the previous owner, prepared for a sale — but it is not just results that have suffered since the takeover. The relationship between the club and their fanbase, which Charlton had worked so hard to revitalise and strengthen since returning to The Valley in 1992, has become terribly strained, with the protest group CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet) warning that the regime “threatens the very existence and soul of the club”.