Wednesday v Charlton: contrasting stories of foreign ownership


Roland Duchatelet –

There is a negative stigma attached to foreign owners in football, and given the disgraceful manner in which Roland Duchatelet has run Charlton Athletic, it is not difficult to see why. Businessmen from abroad may be less knowledgeable about football, less culturally in tune and more likely to prioritize personal financial interests over the long-term interests of their club.

Travel 180 miles north of The Valley to Owlerton, however, as ardent Charlton fans plan to do on Saturday, and there is evidence to the contrary. Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri has showed a willingness to listen to the fans and he has provided the club with much-needed leadership and transparency at boardroom level, making him a popular figure in South Yorkshire.

It is reasonable to suggest that Chansiri has roughly as much money as Duchatelet. The difference is that he has brought in players the head coach wants, rather than ones that are convenient to sign. One of the players the Thai businessman has invested in to great success is Fernando Forestieri.

The Italian’s absence might have had something to do with a brief dip in form from the Owls, who went three games without a goal. Although the small Italian did not add to his 12 goal tally at Nottingham Forest, he made a massive impact on his return, helping the team to a 3-0 win.

Forestieri chased down the Forest defence and his work rate motivated the likes of Kieran Lee and Barry Bannan to follow his lead, culminating in an intensive away performance. Bannan’s red card looked harsh, yet the Football League have chosen not to overturn his ban, which seems dubious. The Aston Villa academy graduate will be a loss for Wednesday in the next three games, but the team is well-stocked in midfield. For example, Lewis McGugan might have been regarded as a key first teamer a year ago, yet now he is the one providing back-up.

The team clearly has quality with the ball but we are also seeing them be cohesive without it. At Forest, the team looked to win possession high up the pitch and attack in the transitional phases of play. That helped them create chances quickly and, indirectly, their aggressive approach served as a protection for the defence, which had little work to do at the City Ground.

Carlos Carvalhal is not a character that will get too carried away with his team’s performances, but internally, he must believe that he has a side with the capacity to play in the Premier League. While Wednesday dream of a visit to Old Trafford next season, Charlton look set for a trip to Northampton. Statistics suggest they will need 46 points to survive and therefore 14 points from their last nine games, a return that they have not managed all season.

If and when the Addicks do go down, their main challenge will be keeping hold of Johann Berg Gudmundsson. The Icelander has been one of the team’s more vibrant performers this term and with his energetic creativity, he would be an asset in League One, especially in his favoured central midfield position.

Gudmundsson is a rare exception to the rule, however, in terms of Charlton’s otherwise failed recruitment policy. The club have brought in numerous foreign players who had had limited success abroad. To settle in England, those players would need to be given time, which they were not granted due to the scattergun nature of the club’s transfer business.

Charlton have made 49 signings since Duchatelet’s arrival in January 2014, only seven of which have been permanent deals for English players from English clubs. This means that 86% of the players coming in have either needed to move to a new country, live away from their native country, or know they would most likely not be at Charlton for the long haul. As a result, it is almost impossible to create a settled squad capable of performing above the sum of its parts.

Unsurprisingly, Jose Riga’s side have the worst defensive record in the Championship and have conceded three or more goals on twelve occasions. After the team has faced arguably the most creative side in the Championship, that number could be thirteen.

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