Players arrive from owner’s other clubs
7 February ~ As far as strategies to fight relegation go, Charlton’s approach of selling some of their most important players and replacing them with untested talent is certainly a bold one. Despite slipping into the drop zone last month, the Addicks, recently purchased by Belgian businessman Roland Duchâtelet, saw fit to let top scorer Yann Kermorgant, influential playmaker Dale Stephens and goalkeeper Ben Alnwick leave for Bournemouth, Brighton and Leyton Orient respectively.
Kermorgant, a cult hero at The Valley, was loved for his unique combination of clattering physicality and continental craft. Stephens, blessed with vision and composure, had formed an effective midfield partnership with youngster Jordan Cousins. And then Alnwick, seemingly Powell’s first-choice keeper as recently as last Tuesday night, was hurriedly shooed out of the door on Friday.
Six new faces have arrived in their place. Four of them, Astrit Ajdarević, Yohann Thuram-Ulien, Anil Koç and Reza Ghoochannejhad, are from Standard Liège (also owned by Duchâtelet). Loïc Négo joined from Újpest in Hungary (again, owned by Duchâtelet) and young Polish striker Piotr Parzyszek from De Graafschap (surprisingly not owned by Duchâtelet). They come bearing impressive YouTube reels and Wikipedia bios. Ghoochannejhad will go to the World Cup with Iran, while Parzyszek scored 29 goals in 52 games in the Dutch second division. Yet only Ajdarević – five games for Leicester, one for Hereford – has any experience of English football.
Charlton fans can be forgiven for not quite knowing what to make of it all. On the one hand losing integral squad members halfway through a struggle for survival seems somewhat suicidal. But then there are others excited by the Duchâtelet "project". In his brief public statements so far, the football club collector (he owns six of them) has spoken about his desire to build a young squad on sustainable wages. Already academy players Diego Poyet and Harry Lennon have been thrust into the first team.
Youth and stability will always be a crowd-pleasing manifesto, but there are still suspicions to be shaken off. The extent to which Charlton’s popular manager has a say over the ins and outs is chief among them. Kermorgant was a firm Powell favourite, one of the figureheads of his managerial reign. Alnwick went from first choice to expendable within three days. Powell has strongly denied suggestions that he is having this new look squad thrust upon him. “I’ve always wanted to improve the squad and the new boys are talented. It would be silly for us not to use the network because there are a number of talented players out there.” Yet Powell’s contract expires at the end of the season. Until he is given further security in his position, questions will undoubtedly remain as to who exactly is calling the shots. Joe Hall
Roland Duchâtelet’s activities in Belgium are covered in WSC 325, out next week