Twenty years ago, Alan Curbishley walked through the doors at Charlton FC as manager, heralding a new dawn and an end to a period that the club spent in the wilderness. During his spell in charge, Charlton reached the dizzy heights of the Premiership and before long became an established mid table side highlighted in an astonishing 2003-2004 season that saw them finish in 7th. But when Curbishley departed for West Ham in May 2006 so too did Charlton’s confidence and before long relegation back to the Championship was confirmed. Many a manager has tried to bring the confidence back but to no avail with the club slipping further away from the Premiership season after season. In total Charlton has had 8 managers since 2006 but none could match what Curbishley had achieved. Now Charlton are on the hunt again for a manager after the sacking of Bob Peeters. The Dutchman arrived in the summer with high hopes and after a strong start to the season, many Addicks fans began to believe again. However a recent bad run which saw Charlton fail to win in nine matches dropped them down to 14th in the Championship forcing the board to relieve Peeters of his position. Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Brighton was the final straw for owner Roland Duchatelet whose English adventure is turning in to a nightmare.
The arrival of the Belgian billionaire businessman should have been the turning point in the clubs fortunes. As owner of Belgian side Standard Liege, he came with an established business pedigree and a dream of building a footballing dynasty. After purchasing clubs in the lower leagues of Germany, Spain and Hungary, Duchatelet set his sights on Charlton and in January 2014 acquired 100% of the shares from previous owner Richard Murray. His vision for Charlton is to act as part of a group of clubs that shares players and promote the development of youth. Rather than paying astronomical fees for player transfers, Duchatelet would prefer to loan Charlton players from Liege in the hopes that it not only helps with the clubs chances of progression but it also helps with the loan players progression too. It’s an interesting model that is been explored by various wealthy owners like Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group who has bought Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City and Yokahama F Marinos or Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim who owns a collection of Mexican sides and Spanish side Real Oviedo with a view to operating similar models. FIFA has yet to approve or reject such a plan but with the regularity of this increasing and the potential implications of UEFA’s financial fair play rules, they may be forced to act sooner rather than later.
For his plan to be successful, Duchatelet brought in his own team which included sacking the highly respected manager at the time, Charlton legend Chris Powell. Never an easy decision but for Powell the writing was on the wall when star players Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens were sold out from under him. Forced to adapt to the new playing squad at his disposal, which included several new faces from Liege, Powell hung on for a few more weeks before eventually being sacked in favour of former Standard Liege manager and long time friend of Duchatelet, Jose Riga. The Belgian would arrive with a reputation but would only last a few months, bizarrely leaving in the summer of 2014 for a much shorter spell in charge of Blackpool. His replacement was Peeters, another associate of Duchatelet who had fully bought in to the guiding principles enforced by the owner and embraced the squad at his disposal. However it proved to be too hard a challenge for Peeters who will now likely be replaced by yet favourite of Duchatelets, Israeli Guy Luzon. Luzon left Standard Liege in October after 18 months in charge after supporters rioted and demanded he was sacked following the club’s poor start to the season. Before his spell in Belgium, he spent three years as Israel Under-21 boss and he has also managed a number of clubs in Israel. If appointed, he will have one familiar face in his squad after the arrival at Charlton of Scottish striker Tony Watt who transferred from Liege just a few short weeks ago.
Charlton’s current squad is a mixed bag of experienced professionals like former Reading star Andre Bikey and US defender Oguchi Onyewu playing alongside emerging youngsters like Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Joe Gomez. Gomez in particular is an exciting prospect for the club. Despite his age – he is only 17, the England Under 19 star has forced his way into the starting lineup either at right back or in his preferred centre back position. Luzon will be mandated to develop players like Gomez for potential sale further down the road. As a selling club, Charlton have history of allowing their assets to leave when a more than reasonable price has been offered. Players like Scott Parker, Rob Lee and Darren Bent were all sold to larger clubs for healthy fees during peak spells for the club. Gomez and Ahearne-Grant will be no different but it will be interesting to see how long Charlton can hold on to them and what they can achieve in that time. Promotion back to the Premiership is the ultimate goal but before that they need to find consistency both on the field and in the dugout, something that has sadly been lacking at the club for some time now.