Saturday, October 25, 2008


Well the last few weeks have been fun haven't they? First we were quids in, now reports suggest we're £20m in hock. But that's just been a sideshow to the team's slide on the pitch. We've been plunging downwards in tandem with the financial markets.

It all came to a head for me today though, with a fan comment included in this BBC report of the Dubai pull-out. I understand the sentiment, but are we really thinking about League 1 with 30 games of the season left?

Where's the fight, where's the belief gone? The team plays like they're stiff with fear. The management seems increasingly desperate and railing against individual players. But what shocks me most is how quickly our support is replaced by raw fury.

A bloke in the upper North on Tuesday night offered 60 minutes (I arrived late) of unceasing abuse of every member of the playing staff. This wasn't banter like we used to rib Robinson and lionise Leaburn's limitations. This was pure venom. He was calling a kid like Youga a "cunt", telling Pardew to "fuck off" and bollocking Lloyd Sam five minutes after his introduction. No one near him stopped his bile. Then enough joined in to really ram home the point.

The club appears to be tearing itself apart internally at a time when it most needs to pull together. The performance I saw on Tuesday was at times absolutely awful. But the boos have got worse then when we fell out of the Premiership, louder and more angry then the jeers that didn't galvanise the team last season.

What's causing this? What do people think they'll achieve? I honestly want to understand. And maybe the new fan's representative will need to. Never mind the prophecy about League 1. Right now we risk losing something much more essential than status or points; the very bond between club and fan.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So, where from now?

I don't even want to look at the table. After tonight's 2-0 defeat to Bristol City, I didn't even want to hang around to the bitter end like I usually do.

There's definitely a sickness surrounding The Valley. And no, it's not the cold I still can't properly shake off. Yes, it's the crowd - who turned as soon as Lee Trundle scored that simple, simple goal - but yes, it's the team too, unable to communicate with each other and becoming much, much less than the sum of their parts.

I've no idea what Alan Pardew's saying to the press right now, but he's got a hell of a lot of explaining to do. I wasn't at Cardiff and didn't see highlights, but chatting after tonight's match, we thought back to the win over Ipswich, and remembered that it didn't feel much like a victory, because it was achieved in such a haphazard manner, yet Pards was talking about having put in "more technical players".

Whatever, it's probably going to be a sleepless night round at chez Pards this evening. If it goes wrong against Burnley, the Valley moaners' prophecies may become self-fulfilling...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don't tell me to dance in the street, but...

So where were you when you first heard about the tentative deal for Zabeel Investments to buy Charlton? I had yesterday off work, had a big night on Thursday, and wandered off for a little siesta at about half-past four before heading out again.

Two-and-a-bit hours later, my phone was full of messages, my upstairs neighbour heard some dazed, sleepy bloke downstairs yell something unprintable, and people I knew were on Sky Sports News (damn! missed my chance!), and a little bit of my world looked like it'd changed forever.

And since then, we've learned all about Zabeel Investments, seen its nice website, and found that it is run by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, poetry-loving son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, and they'd also flirted with Liverpool and Manchester City. Yes, there is serious money here.

But what to make of it? Well, I'm conflicted. Let's be upfront about one thing - I can't leave my personal politics at the turnstile. This is coming out of oil money, and the world's addiction to oil is killing it. Dubai has an appalling record of the treatment of its foreign workers, while its legal system is hardly a shining example of fairness by western standards. Let's get that out of the way.

Secondly, deals like this are killing English football. When Manchester City were bought by investors from Dubai's fellow emirate, Abu Dhabi, earlier this season, I was left wondering what the point of the English professional game was. Years back, when clubs rushed to float themselves on the stock market, satirists drew cartoons of fans cheering share prices. Now they're waving wallets, boasting about who's got the richest clubs.

In terms of the wider picture, no good can come of this. Football is changing for the worse.

But without the deal... what's the future for Charlton? Left behind as clubs are revived by fresh capital from elsewhere, doomed never to fulfil our potential as the media focuses ever more on a smaller number of big clubs? Maybe. Say the positions were reversed, and the oil sheiks had moved in on Crystal Palace? How would we feel then?

If we want to be in with a decent shout of competing in the professional game, we'll need money. Richard Murray's not been in a hurry to sell up - and if he says he's a good deal, I'll trust him on that. He's thrown too much money into this club for him to risk its future. And I'm reassured by news that Murray should remain with the club if the deal goes through.

Of course, we need to be on our guard. What happens if the old guard and the new guard fall out? Would we see a situation along the lines of that at QPR, where the new owners talk of it being a "boutique club"? And... what happens when everyone gets bought by rich Arab owners? Maybe, in a few years time, I'll be disenfranchised and end up pitching up at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday afternoons. But then... what's stopping that happening anyway?

After a rollercoaster 25 years, the continued security of Charlton Athletic is something to be grateful for. But please don't expect me to be dancing on the street or wearing a tea towel on my head when the deal gets done.

Zabeel: What the papers say

THE GUARDIAN: Charlton Athletic were last night the subject of a takeover bid by the Maktoum family in a deal that would seem to end Dubai's interest in Liverpool.

The Valley club's efforts to play down the deal last night by insisting there is "no certainty" that the "indicative" bid will become a formal offer will not restrain unbridled excitement in south-east London. The involvement of Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, through his Zabeel Investments vehicle would make the ascendancy of a club that dropped out of the Premier League with only 34 points in 2007 almost a certainty.

Superficially there would seem to be few motives for taking over a club who lie only 14th in the Championship today. But there was an influential link with Liverpool in that Rothschilds, the investment bank, had represented the five-times European champions and also worked for Charlton.

The Valley club have been scouring the market for fresh investment in recent months but few could have considered that the Dubai ruling caste would be interested in a Championship club. One close observer of Dubai's football negotiations expressed surprise at the deal, saying: "They usually go for the front of the grid."

Buying Charlton may appear a strange choice but their location in London and the fact that they own the freehold on their stadium and training ground makes them attractive. Their manager, Alan Pardew, is understood to be aware of the deal and has already been reassured by the club's board – and the prospective new owners – that his job is safe and that he will receive funds in the January transfer window.

Zabeel is not interested simply in throwing money at football. It is understood to have had talks with Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, but regarded his asking price of £480 million as too steep.

Instead of bidding for an established Barclays Premier League club, it has followed the lead of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, who took over Queens Park Rangers for an investment of £14 million and are looking to take them into the top flight — a more economical way of acquiring a Premier League club, if it comes off.

Charlton are fourteenth in the Championship after losing their Premier League status in 2007 and may not seem an obvious attraction when, for example, Portsmouth are reported to be on the market for a similar amount. However, while the South Coast club are in the Premier League, they cannot match the solid foundations of the London club, who have a modern stadium with good facilities and plans to expand.

THE SUN: After failing with attempts to buy Liverpool and Arsenal, businessman Mohammed Al Hashimi — whose company Zabeel Investments is worth more than £3billion — is poised to take control at The Valley.

Should his offer be accepted by Charlton’s shareholders — and this seems certain — Al Hashimi will also wipe out the club’s debts of £20m.

Current chairman Richard Murray, in charge at the club since 1995, will advise the new owners and remain at the club.

For the time being at least, Alan Pardew’s position as manager seems to be safe.

The Sun's headline? Next it's Valley of the Kings.

Zabeel: Inspector Sands' Facebook feed

Well, someone close to Inspector Sands, anyway...

Charlton fan A fumin, no arabs for charlton please!! fuck off with your dirty oil money! 22:49 Fri

Charlton fan B is wearing a tea towel on his head. Give us your money Dubai! 20.56 Fri

Newcastle fan A is laughing at toon, Mike Ashley has lost another Arab, this time to Charlatan hahahaha. 20:22 Fri

Charlton fan C
is wondering if he should have 8 Gerrard or 9 Rooney on the back of his CAFC shirt next season... 20:08 Fri

Charlton fan D doesn't mind the global economic crash - he's just seen the football news!!! 19:46 Fri

Charlton fan E is cautious about takeovers. 19:45 Fri

Charlton fan F is very sad at the prospect of waving goodbye to a true community club. What's the price of "progress"? 19:28 Fri
- Charlton fan N at 19:33: mate its amazing news!
- Charlton fan F at 20:17: I used to criticise Fulham, Blackburn et al for buying success and was proud of what we achieved purely through good management and on the pitch.
- Charlton fan O at 20:26: exactly =( I honestly refused, and perhaps still am refusing, to believe it because I just feel like part of what charlton is will have died. It's desperately needed, no mistake. But still really sad to see what we can never be proud of again.

Charlton fan G is hoping you Palace, Millwall and West Ham fans are going to fill your cars up this weekend, cause we'll like to buy a few more players. 19:14 Fri
- Palace fan A at 21:06: I'm so glad I don't drive. you'll not get a penny off me. a PENNY!

Charlton fan H
loves the people of dubai , Joe Cole in a red shirt would be nice. 19:13 Fri

Charlton fan I can't believe that Charlton are going to be rich!! 19:12 Fri

Charlton fan J is out on the pub crawl and unsure about the arabs! 19:11 Fri

Charlton fan K is thinking... Dubai group make bid for Charlton. COME ON SON! 18:14 Fri

Charlton fan L is in shock. Dubai is coming to Charlton!!! 17:14 Fri

Charlton fan M is a tad sheikhen up by news from the Valley..... 17:07 Fri

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dubai takeover bid - first, decisive reaction

I really haven't a clue what to make of this.

But oh, my word... it could be an exciting future ahead - but a scary one too.

Anyone else think the rescue boat's pulled up, and we've no choice but to get in it - whatever the risks? Hmmm. More on this later, one I've been to the pub had a proper think...