For­get fairy tales, Roland, and get real

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

ANY­ONE who grew up in the 80s will re­mem­ber those Lady­bird books with the lav­ishly il­lus­trated cov­ers. Hansel and Gre­tel, The Sly Fox & the Red Hen; I even had one about Custer’s last stand. But my favourite was al­ways The Magic Por­ridge Pot –a sim­ple tale of an en­chanted caul­dron that pro­duces por­ridge on com­mand. Even at five, I knew this was a fairy story, that chant­ing ‘Cook, Lit­tle Pot Cook’ wouldn’t re­ally save my mother a trip to Gate­way. So why has Charl­ton owner Roland Duchatelet adopted it as a busi­ness model?

Put noth­ing in, say the magic word and POOF! A money-spin­ning Pre­mier League club is yours for the pil­lag­ing.


Like Mas­simo Cellino, the Bel­gian thought he could rock up, sign a few cheap for­eign­ers and stroll straight into the top flight. But, like the un­hinged Ital­ian, he has dis­cov­ered that the Cham­pi­onship deals sav­agely with those who un­der­es­ti­mate it.

And as Guy Lu­zon be­comes the lat­est man­age­rial corpse flung into the Cham­pi­onship char­nel house, the ques­tion must be asked: Does Duchatelet even know what he is try­ing to do?

Fun­da­men­tally, his aims are laud­able. Build an in­fras­truc­ture, bring the kids through, min­imise financial losses. A guy worth £500m knows how to run a com­pany and the fact he res­cued Charl­ton from the brink of ruin should not be for­got­ten.

But none of that means much when the core of your busi­ness – the team – is an un­sta­ble rag­bag un­fit for pur­pose. Duchatelet claims to have spent £8m on play­ers since his ar­rival 20 months ago. Fac­tor in the fees re­ceived

for the likes of Joe Gomez, Diego Poyet and Rhoys Wig­gins and the re­al­ity is some­what more skin­flint. Play­ers have been bought for their youth and sell-on value rather than their suit­abil­ity to English foot­ball. Young­sters pro­moted too soon in the hope of mak­ing a quick buck.

Just this sum­mer, Duchatelet sold his con­trol­ling stake in Stan­dard Liege, stat­ing that “things got com­pli­cated”. In re­al­ity, fans got sick of see­ing star play­ers ush­ered out of the door to the first se­ri­ous bid­der and turned nasty. Sound fa­mil­iar?

Foot­ballers aren’t ex­actly renowned for their fore­sight but Yann Ker­mor­gant neatly cut to the heart of Charl­ton’s prob­lems in an in­ter­view with The FLP shortly af­ter his ac­ri­mo­nious de­par­ture from the Val­ley in 2014.

“I think the only thing Duchatelet wants is to make money,” said the French­man, now in the Pre­mier League with Bournemouth. “He doesn’t want to pull any­thing from his pocket.

“That is why he wants to pro­mote from the academy. When a young English player plays a few games in the Cham­pi­onship, he is worth £1m, £2m. He thinks you can make money eas­ily.

“But at the same time, you will strug­gle to stay in the Cham­pi­onship if you don’t get play­ers ex­pe­ri­enced at that level. And if you want play­ers of that stan­dard, you have to pay.

“When you buy a club, you have to go in think­ing ‘I’m go­ing to lose money’. If you go in with the pur­pose of mak­ing money, I think you will fail.

“At a club like Charl­ton, you can’t make money first and then have suc­cess. You need suc­cess, then you can start mak­ing money. Maybe I am wrong. We will see. But I think I will not be wrong.” So far, he is bang on. Truth is, you can win pro­mo­tion on the cheap. Burn­ley and Bournemouth both showed that good coach­ing and a set­tled sys­tem can beat hard cash.


Yet in can­ning man­agers all over the place (that’s five in 20 months), Duchatelet hasn’t got a hope in hell of em­u­lat­ing those two.

And as for sell­ing su­per­star kids, how does he ex­pect a 17-year-old to be­come a world-class player with sub­stan­dard team-mates and a new boss ev­ery week?

The man­ager has never been the prob­lem.The prob­lem is an owner who badly mis­judged the strength of English foot­ball.

Like Cellino and his pros­per­ous – if short-lived – al­liance with Adam Pear­son, Duchatelet needs an ex­pe­ri­enced di­rec­tor who knows the Cham­pi­onship. Who knows the mar­ket and how to cut a deal.Who will urge him to loosen the purse strings and keep his head when form dips.

Who will stop him chant­ing over that empty pot and tell him that fairy tales be­long in chil­dren’s books. Oth­er­wise, it’s hard to see the Bel­gian tak­ing Charl­ton any­where but League One.

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