Charlton's Roland Duchatelet: "Throwing money at players is not the plan"

By Rob Virtue on February 26, 2014 12:00 PM |

rolandduchateletvision.jpg

Facing the assembled press last week it was the almost throwaway comments made by Roland Duchatelet which would have given Charlton fans most cause for optimism.

Not long after the Belgian was announced as the Addicks new owner, talk of a tyrannical reign at another of his club's Standard Liege followed him over the Channel.

By the end of the 67-year-old's first season in charge of the European side he sacked the popular manager and shifted out a number of key players.

Demonstrations from supporters followed but - such is the fickle nature of the football fan - soon ceased when success followed and the side now leading the Belgian top flight by 10 points.

So it was almost conceivable that he would go into the press conference at The Valley with an air of arrogance, proclaiming himself a genius in football management, as well as a big hitter in the business world.

duchateletpressconference.jpg

But while he declined to answer any Standard Liege questions - most likely in the face of reports he was planning to sell the club - he allowed a wry smile to creep across his face when asked whether he understood Charlton fans' frustrations in allowing favourites Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens to join Championship rivals during the transfer window.

"I have learned in my life to understand the frustration of fans," was Duchatelet's answer. Short and to the point.

You soon understand, especially in the face of a lack of a 'big' announcement, that was the reason for organising the press conference. It was a bid to dispel some of the mystery around the man who is now a shareholder in five different clubs around Europe.

He also seemed keen to reveal he had little interest in influencing team matters, an accusation made in the stands through nods and winks by Liege goalkeeper Yohann Thuram joining the club and the Addicks' then favoured number one Ben Alnwick hastily heading towards the exit.

"I don't really need to watch games," said Duchatelet, when asked about how often he will be at The Valley. "Other people know football much better than I do. If I come I will come to enjoy the game."

"I think that proves Roland's not picking the team," added Richard Murray, the club's long-time owner and now non-executive chairman, seated alongside Duchatelet.

It was Murray's appointment to the board which gave Charlton fans hope for the future following an era of poor-communication under former owners Tony Jimenez and Michael Slater.

Duchatelet went on to admit what most thought, that the transfer window signings of the likes of Reza Ghoochannejhad and Astrit Ajdarevic - both from Liege - were not manager Chris Powell's choices. But he quickly added the manager was under no pressure to play them.

"Before we took over the club we had analysis done on the players and knew it was important to significantly add to the team," said Duchatelet.

"Of course Chris didn't have time to work with the scouts and had to have a bit of confidence that these were the right choices. Of course he has the option to play them or not to play them but it was clear we needed to bring them in."

duchateletclose.jpg

Perhaps a lack of a big name signing disappointed some at The Valley who hoped a new owner would splash the cash, but Duchatelet said that was not his way.

And for a club that wasted millions upon millions under the disastrous Iain Dowie and Alan Pardew reigns, leaving the club in financial meltdown for a number of years, it was refreshing - if a little underwhelming - that financial stability was key.

It was during this part of the press conference with the owner discussing money that there was the biggest sign that Powell, this week the man who lead the side to an FA Cup quarter final, would get a fair crack of the whip.

"Funds are no problem but it's important for football clubs in general to break even," he said. "I'm strongly in favour of Financial Fair Play because if you look at the statistics of Championship clubs you will see they all make losses, except those with financial parachute payments.

"It's the same in Spain in the second division, even in the first division many make losses and that's because the owners want to win rather than make money.

mainduchatelet.jpg

"That leads us to a situation where Chris is in competition with other clubs who will have more money than he has.

"He will have to be creative. His big merit is he kept this club afloat with a very low investment in place and we're still there. The challenge is combining good results with financial equilibrium."

And he was keen to emphasis the club's youth system was key to this, especially among the system of working with the four sister clubs.

"Each club is a club in its own right," said Duchatelet. "I'm a shareholder in those clubs but they need to care for their own destiny. The manager of this club is responsible.

"But the benefit of the management at this club is they can ask advice off a few friends and maybe they can borrow some players from other countries or send some youngsters there.

"I think a major strength at this club is its academy and to be part of a network of foreign clubs is a big advantage to the younger players. Football is becoming a more European kind of thing.

duchateletpowell.jpg

"You see Spanish coaches coaching German clubs and Italian coaches here in England. If we can give young players, for example an 18-year-old not ready for the first team, experience in other countries then you can compare it to Erasmus, the exchange of nationalities in universities.

"Then they can have some experience abroad with regards to the language but especially with the coaches. For the curriculum of a young player it is a major plus."

Of course, it does ponder the question over whether the likes of exciting youngsters Jordan Cousins and Diego Poyet could ever head to Belgium to help Standard Liege in their quest for glory in European competition, with the Addicks receiving little or no recompense.

Although the obvious protection against that would be the reaction of the fans and the potential break-down in relations between owner and supporter, drawing us back to Duchatelet's earlier statement on supporter frustrations.

But while actions will be judged rather than words, Duchatelet's view of the fanbase, how he saw it growing with his almost idyllic footballing philosophy would give those in the stands' heart, even if it was a little abstract.

"A football club is not just the matter of winning games," said Duchatelet, a thinker who back in Belgium started his own political party.

"I know it's important but if you look at football today it's a huge social event. There's no other gathering of people which attracts such a diverse kind of people - young, old, girls, boys, all sorts of religions, all kinds of political opinions.

"It's incredible. And given a point of time, although they are diverse, they will voice the same opinion be it good or bad.

"Football clubs attract a public which formerly maybe went to church or other places to gather so the function of a football club of a communion where people can talk and gather is important, not just for VIPs but for the public in general.

"Charlton is a club with many fans and a very good history so it's important to try to continue according to this to make sure everyone who comes are made very welcome and feel good when they go back home.

"The basis of lasting success is you work hard with the fans on creating or continuing this community."

And he added it was through this relationship, he wanted to build the club and ultimately make it self-supporting, initially cutting out excesses and ultimately through gaining promotion.

"You don't build a tall building on small foundations," he said. "There are many things good already at Charlton but you must strengthen the foundations, then, if we get to the Premier League - which we definitely want to - then you also have a better chance of staying there.

"Going there and getting relegated all the time is not desirable from the fans' standpoint. Foundations based on the community is the major thing for us to do and the network of clubs will help the management of this club. Throwing money at players is not the plan for this club."

Leave a comment


Type the characters you see in the picture above.

The Wharf The Wharf

Read The Wharf's

E-Editions