SHEFFIELD WED 3
Fletcher 17, 79 Nuhiu 90
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE VALLEYCharlton Athletic fans were in jubilant mood on Saturday, and a football match was never going to change that – regardless of the result.
The Addicks already had their big victory 24 hours earlier when it was revealed that East Street Investments had agreed to buy the club off Roland Duchatelet.
The end is in sight. It just needs the EFL to ratify the deal and there is an expectation on the buyers’ side that the takeover will be completed before Christmas. If that schedule is met then they will be able to flex their financial muscles in the January transfer window.
“We’ve won the lottery,” sang the Covered End at the weekend, but not before a rendition of “we’re f****** rich”.
Abu Dhabi-based businessman Tahnoon Nimer is the one who is bankrolling the takeover move. His exact wealth – and how much he has agreed to pay Duchatelet – has not been made public yet. But the noises coming out of the ESI camp all sound hugely positive.
ESI’s first move will be to put Lee Bowyer and his backroom team on improved and longer terms contracts. Second on their list of priorities is to sign up fans’ favourite Lyle Taylor on a bumper new deal. It’s the kind of proactive approach – guaranteed to generate a feel-good factor – that Duchatelet was so badly lacking at.
Nimer will not be at every match, but he will attend some of them. Duchatelet went to one in six years. His visits to the Valley were restricted to during the week, and even then kept under wraps for fear of reprisals from angry fans.
What ESI offer – and we’ll have to wait and see if they deliver – is hope. A brighter future for a club who had often been viewed as a laughing stock under an absent owner.
Duchatelet got lucky when he named Bowyer as boss. Hugely, hugely lucky.
The appointment of two former Charlton players – Bowyer assisted by Johnnie Jackson – connected supporters with the team again.
Promotion from League One in May, and the way the Addicks set about the early months of this campaign – before being brutally decimated by injuries – showed the potential of what the SE7 outfit can be yet again.
Without that magical day at Wembley, Duchatelet would have hugely struggled to get his asking price.
Instead they are in touching distance of the Premier League – and the fact they are a London club makes them a huge attraction to wealthy businessmen.
Was there ever a chance of mending the bridge between Duchatelet and the fanbase? Not in a million years. The owner never tried to engage. There have been too many PR disasters and wrong moves for things to be restored.
Charlton under Duchatelet were going to be facing a continual battle, at best, to stay in the Championship.
It would have been short-term deals for players and senior management, a vicious cycle of players being sold if they were successful. There are only so many times you can perform miracles on the lowest budget in the division. Money talks at most levels in football, and even the likes of Luton have a bigger playing budget by £2.5million a year. If you want promotion at this level, you need to have deep pockets and be prepared to empty them.
It’s not going to be hard for ESI to be more popular than Duchatelet. They are making all the right noises. There are no plans to move away from The Valley and lines of communication will be open to the supporters. Would-be chairman Matt Southall was in the directors’ box on Saturday and tweeted his thanks for his reception – the former football agent received a standing ovation when he walked through Crossbars before kick off.
One source said that ESI will look to “under-promise and over-deliver” – a sensible approach.
The short-term goal has to be consolidating in the Championship.
Charlton had 14 players missing due to injuries, illness and suspension on Saturday. Two points from a possible 21 have seen them slide to 17th. The Addicks have not kept a clean sheet in a seven-game winless streak and fell behind on 17 minutes when Steven Fletcher beat Naby Sarr to Barry Bannan’s quality inswinging cross.
Fernando Forestieri should have made it 2-0 soon after when Dillon Phillips could only push a Fletcher attempt into his path. That miss looked costly when Macauley Bonne notched his sixth goal of the season – getting a fortuitous deflection off a Wednesday defender after excellent approach play by makeshift left-back Alfie Doughty.
Wednesday had that extra attacking quality and made it tell. Phillips fingertipped a Kadeem Harris strike past his left post before Erhun Oztumer tripped Jacob Murphy in the box. Fletcher made no mistake from the spot.
Atdhe Nuhiu added a third in the 90th minute – only the second time that Charlton have lost by more than a one-goal margin this season.
The Addicks are averaging more than 15.5 shots on their goal per game – only behind Luton (15.7).
Bowyer knows where his squad is short and could be able to address that far better next month with ESI’s backing.
There are supporters who have stayed away, vowing not to return until Duchatelet is gone.
We’re close, so very close, to that becoming a reality.
Charlton (4-4-2): Phillips 7, Doughty 8, Sarr 6, Lockyer 6, Matthews 6, Oshilaja 6, Pratley 7, Morgan 5 (Vennings 61), Oztumer 7 (Davison 81), Leko 6, Bonne 6. Not used: Harness, Solly, Pearce.
Photos: Paul Edwards and Keith Gillard