Monsieur Salut writes: first things first: Richard Wiseman*, our Charlton Athletic volunteer for the first ‘Who are You?’ of the new season wants to say hello to two London-based Sunderland supporters he knows but hasn’t seen in a while. Step forward Mick Coad and Alan Walsh (or anyone reading this who is in touch with them). Ian Todd, founder and membership secretary of the London and SE branch of SAFCSA reports that Mick is back in the North East while Alan, ‘never been seen in anything but shorts’, is still in London and travels fairly regularly to home games.
Richard is chairman of the Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust (CAST – I’ve added the apostrophe), which is home to a lot of disgruntled Addicks fans, people who love their club somewhat more than they love their owner, the Belgian millionaire Roland Duchatelet. He bought Charlton in 2014, supposedly as a feeder club for other teams he owned on the Continent. In 2016, he publicly accused some fans of wanting the club to fail. Opposition centres on CARD (Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet) and it’s vitriolic.
Our interview covers the controversy but also the prospects for each of our clubs …
Salut! Sunderland: Charlton’s off-the-field woes – which we’ll return to – do not appear to have stopped people tipping you for a good season. Do you foresee a strong challenge for promotion?
Richard Wiseman: at the moment there is precious little reason for optimism. We just about made it into the play-offs last season but the current squad looks much thinner and more reliant on young players stepping up. We have no chief executive, no chief finance officer and our manager is only a caretaker. We can’t help but contrast this with the stability of the 2011/12 season when Chris Powell – along with CEO Peter Varney and chief scout Phil Chapple -assembled a squad which, without costing a fortune, ran away with the league and compiled 101 points.
And of course, you’ll have Lyle Taylor and we won’t! London is always a pull for players compared with the far north, but what is your honest assessment of why he chose you?
I’ve no idea but I do remember Freddie Kanoute turning down a move from West Ham to Manchester United on the grounds that “up north it is always raining and they live in small ‘ouses”.
Is Lee Bowyer the right man for the job on a permanent basis?
Bowyer is a controversial figure and as far as I know, he has never apologised for the racism of his younger days. Personally, I’d much prefer a figure like Chris Powell. What Bowyer did manage in the last 10 games of last season was to get some steel and resilience into the team. He was a relief after Karl Robinson who was full of enthusiasm and superlatives but who never knew how to end a sentence and was wedded to a 4-5-1 set up. I can’t believe we can kick off the season with a caretaker manager so I assume that, in the absence of a sale of the club, he will be permanently appointed by August 4.
How far, realistically, can Charlton go?
There is no reason why, with the right ownership and management, Charlton could not return to the Premier League but most fans would settle at the moment for being a challenging Championship club.
Now CARD, the controversy over Roland Dichatelet’s ownership that won’t go away. People still talk of boycotts – what, in a nutshell are the key issues and how do you see it being resolved?
Duchatelet’s ownership has been a disaster. He is a deluded self-proclaimed visionary whose arrogance and ignorance have made the club a laughing stock and driven away thousands of previously loyal fans.
According to the club a “group of investors linked to the Australian Football Consortium” have agreed a deal to purchase the club but have yet to provide sufficient information to satisfy the EFL’s owners and directors test. If this is true I can only assume that it has something to do with the complexity of the consortium or with one or two of the individuals involved in it.
Some don’t believe this and think that there must still be issues to resolve between buyer and seller but in reality nobody knows. There is also meant to be a second group interested but if so, they have stayed well in the shadows.
Some fans have boycotted ever since the reality of Duchatelet’s ownership became clear and I really admire them for the sacrifice they have made. I would stay away if I was really convinced it would speed a sale but at the moment, with the principle of a sale agreed, I am reluctant to give up something I have enjoyed for nearly sixty years.
We had to get used to unfamiliar Championship players last season so League One will be another learning curve for us. Apart from Taylor, who else in your squad will cause problems for other teams and where are you in need of strengthening?
Our squad is thin and on the whole is made up of workmanlike professionals. Tariqe Fosu is perhaps the only player with the flair to turn a game but it is likely that he will be missing the game on August 4 because of a hamstring problem.
The squad needs overall strengthening and at present we have no goalkeeping back up to Dillon Phillips who has only played a handful of games.
What have been your best and worst moments as a Charlton supporter?
Best moment – hard to choose between Clive Mendonca’s brilliant Wembley goals so I’ll go for Michael Gray’s penalty. That game in 2003 when you gave us three own goals in seven minutes was pretty good too.
The protests in the last two years have been memorable too. So much ingenuity and comradeship. I was proud to lead the funeral procession in March 2016.
Worst moments – the week in January 2016 when we lost 1-2 to Colchester in the FA Cup followed by 0-5 at Huddersfield on Tuesday and 0-6 at Hull. This was under the management of Karel Fraeye whose previous experience was in the Belgian third division.
And the best players you’ve seen represent your club?
Stuart Leary back in the 1960s (also played cricket for Kent). Clive Mendonca of course. Scott Parker and Claus Jensen were a wonderful midfield.
On the flip side, who should have been allowed nowhere near the Valley (apart from Duchatelet!)?
Roger Johnson and El Hadji Ba (who you might recall)
I recall seeing Boy George before a Charlton game at Sunderland – is he still an active supporter and who else famous follows the Addicks?
I’ve never been aware of Boy George being an active supporter although he was born locally. We tend to keep quiet about celebrity supporters as our best known one is Jim Davison.
Our Wembley playoff final, Sunderland-born Mendonca and all, was as remarkable a game as I’ve seen. Were you there too and whether or not you were, what are your memories of the event?
Yes, I was there. My main memory is of how exhausting it was to watch. When it was 5-5 on penalties I turned to the guy next to me and said “I don’t care who wins” – I just wanted it to end. The other thing that sticks in my mind is singing Walking on Sunshine during the after match celebrations but I suspect you might have slipped away by then.
Our squad is an ever-changing feast but is there anyone in it you’d like to see in your colours?
I thought Maguire looked very useful for Oxford against us the season before last. It’s a pity Rodwell isn’t Belgian or we might have taken him off your hands.
Have you been surprised by our sharp decline or did you see it coming?
I wouldn’t say I saw it coming but it isn’t unprecedented. Although to be honest I’ve been more focused on our decline in the last few seasons.
Any other thoughts about Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Jack Ross?
I think that going through the 1998 Wembley experience did create a sort of bond between our supporters and yours. On the day there certainly seemed to be a lot of mutual respect and I think Charlton fans were too drained to gloat. And, of course, 12 months later we were relegated and you were promoted so maybe it wasn’t so significant after all.
I am always pleased when a club appoints a manager who has performed well in lower leagues rather than a big-name ex player or a fashionable foreigner so I wish Jack Ross well. But it will be a big culture shock at Sunderland after St Mirren and expectations (I assume) will be very high.
Hand on heart, where will our clubs finish this season?
Sunderland really ought to win this division. If Wigan, Blackburn and Rotherham can bounce straight back then so should you lot. If there is no imminent sale of our club I suspect we will be top half but no better. That will mean our longest stay at the third level since we left it in 1929. Thank you Mr Duchatelet.
The Neymar question: can more be done to stop diving, feigning injury and other forms of cheating or do we just have to accept it as part of the modern game?
We shouldn’t accept it. Greater scrutiny (eg VAR) should help and I think ridicule is the best antidote.
Your quick thoughts on the World Cup?
I’m much more interested in domestic club football than international and I always think I won’t get enthusiastic about the World Cup, but I loved it. I didn’t think England could ever realistically beat France or Belgium but they might have seen off Croatia. And I did enjoy Southgate despite him being Palace.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
No, I’ll be watching in The White Swan in Charlton Village. I’m desperately hoping for 0-0.
* Richard Wiseman on himself: I’ve supported Charlton since my first game on Boxing Day 1961 when we beat Sunderland (with Brian Clough at centre forward) 2-0 at The Valley. I haven’t missed many home games since then.I joined the board of Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust (CAST) when it was formed six years ago and have been in the chair for the last two years. Most of that time has been spent in opposition. I’m really looking forward to when we have owners who have some ambition, some humility and some respect for fans and the history of the club. Then we can work with them to rebuild the club.
I used to know two London based Sunderland supporters – Alan Walsh and Mick Coad. But I haven’t seen them for years. If they are reading this, ‘hello -and maybe see you at The Valley in January’
Interview: Colin Randall