Having written critically in the past about the negative impact boardroom indifferences have had on our club, I can’t tell you how pleasing it is to write the following words to Messrs Slater, Jiminez and Murray.
Obtaining straight answers and honest assessments from football chiefs has increasingly become akin to interviewing an MP in recent years. Polished and PR perfect, a comforting answer that the listener wants to hear is always around the corner. But we all know that they are hollow words and largely taken with a huge pinch of salt.
Whilst uncertainly and a small degree of suspicion on the medium and long-term strategy of club will always remain whilst the ‘Mysterons’ that allegedly wield the financial power remain in the shadows, there can be no doubting that the short-term approach adopted by the new board since their arrival 16-months ago has been nothing short of faultless. Not just in the actions that have been taken, but that they have been proved true to their word. And as fans, surely that’s all you can ever ask for, isn’t it ?
In January 2011, Michael Slater said:
“Our plan for Charlton is to run the club on a sensible financial footing and develop a commercial plan to ensure we make progress on and off the pitch to meet the expectations of our fans. What we won’t do is create unrealistic pie in the sky expectations. We will always live within our means, and with a sound commercial approach and the run of the ball on the pitch, our aim is to make steady, upward progress and bring success to The Valley”
Immediately, a new manager who showed their vision on how the club should be run was sought, one who would galvanise fans, whilst a proven scorer at this level was acquired for a knock down fee. Off the pitch, the big screen was reintroduced, as was a return to aggressive and market-leading ticketing promotions, and automatically a vibrancy had returned to the club that had been missing for a number of years. The dire run of form that concluded last season clouded this reinvention, but in hindsight proved the true catalyst to rip up the playing side of the squad and start again.
During this period, strong public backing of the manager at what could have been yet another period of uncertainty quickly smothered any real replacement suggestions.
The Hartlepool finale twelve months ago was played amid the most opposite backdrop possible to the one that will play out tomorrow, yet Michael Slater was again clear with his message for supporters:
“A number of clubs in the Football League are at a crossroads right now. We’re fortunate that we are four months down the road and that we are going in the right direction, albeit not at top speed. I’m sure many fans will view this season as an opportunity missed, but that’s not how I see it. I’m in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes – seeing the investment being made in the academy and scouting set up.
“So will this investment alone secure promotion? No. What it will do is create solid foundations so that when we are promoted, we have a strong platform from which we can push on.
“What will bring promotion is building the right squad. This will require more immediate investment, and the process has already begun in earnest.
“As fans, the minimum you should expect from players is commitment. This will be one of the key factors that Chris Powell takes into account when putting together his squad for 2011/12.
“I want to see a squad of players that show the same level of passion and commitment that he exhibited as a player.
“Incoming managers at any club often say that to achieve success, they need to build their own team. I’ve been cynical when I’ve heard that in the past, but, from my privileged vantage point, I don’t doubt the truth of the comment. In fairness to Chris, he hasn’t said that to me, but it’s a fact that he and the board understand.
“This summer will be a very important period for the club. We will start next season with financial security and proper foundations for the future. The last piece in the current jigsaw is a squad that will produce the sort of performances you expect and that should win promotion to the Championship.
“Tony Jiminez and I believe that the team Chris creates should be able to not only win promotion, but compete in the Championship. Norwich have this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Southamption do something similar next term. This has to be our next objective. There is a gulf between the Premier League and the Championship, but only a small gap between the Championship and League One.
“Onwards and Upwards”.
There can be no doubting that ‘the plan’ has been adhered to both meticulously and successfully. Chris Powell was given the resources to rebuild his squad, the investment in the scouting set up clearly paid dividends, and the squad was packed with committed players with the desire to gel as a group, and the will and skill to succeed.
Away from the first team, the acquisition of Paul Hart was a clear indication of the commitment to the academy and it already appears to be paying dividends. Not only did the U18 team complete a much improved season, but the first team is likely to see an ex-academy product as the run-away player of the year. Steady, sound foundations leading to progress.
When I heard that neither of the ‘owners’ were present at Carlisle to see us cap promotion, I was initially a bit disappointed. They have not come into the club as fans, and it’s moments like that final whistle that can really ingrain a club into you.
On reflection, I glad they weren’t there.
These guys are ruling this club coolly with their heads not their hearts, and are so far maintaining their starting principles and continuing to make the right decisions. If I was you, I would pay careful attention to what Mr Slater has to say in tomorrow’s programme.
He is certainly proving worth listening to.
And finally to Mr Murray.
His stewardship of the club proved an amazing rollercoaster of continued highs following but a sharp, devastating crash. From what had been such a successful enterprise had somehow resulted in a complex web of decline that gathered momentum and proved difficult to halt. When things were at their worst, Mr Murray, probably against his better judgement, took the decision to finally put the club into a sounder financial position and released it from its convoluted structure. Many others made financial sacrifices amidst this that should not be forgotten, but My Murray took the major gamble to make this happen. As a result of what has followed, his popularly and legacy of his stewardship of the club remains firmly intact.
Which I suspect was what he really wanted.
Whilst those on the pitch and in the dug out rightly get their names sung to the rafters tomorrow, spare a few moments to remember those in the padded seats that have made this happen. There was a time not very long ago that celebrations at The Valley felt like they may never happen again.
"Onwards and Upwards".