Palace to do a Charlton? And should we be worried??

As interim chair of CAS Trust I sometimes get asked to do the odd radio phone-in. I guess they think “we need a Charlton supporter” and hey presto I get the job, the bonus being we get to promote the Trust. Anyway on one occasion I recall there were two particular topics of discussion I had to cover (blag my way through) before I was allowed to give an update on what we were doing lately. The first was something about Peterborough's 'bombing' fullbacks a la Barcelona (the presenters words not mine), and the second to do with Charlton and promotion in 2012-13. Well we all know how both of those ended this year don't we..

Peterborough played nice football or tried to, but suffered the reality of Championship football. My point to the presenter was something like: that's all nice (somewhat bemused by the Barcelona comparison) but what happens if/when the reality of finding yourselves at the bottom of the league bites? You have to change and start trying to grind out results - although to be fair to Peterborough the league remained very open until the last few weeks.

So then the conversation drifted back to Charlton, are we really ready for promotion if we managed it somehow this year, like Norwich and co? I think they expected me to say no, but I actually said why not? We weren't ‘ready’ back in '98 but it did us no harm, we put the money to good use, spent a year in the top league, kept that team together except for Mills, and ‘buried’ the Championship the following year. So who cares if you're ready with the present day total at £60-120 million!? The Championship play off final remains the biggest game in the world, it is simply enormous, and just gets bigger and bigger.

cavscpSo what do we think of our friendly neighbours down at Selhurst being this year's recipients? It was tough at first to even talk about it for some, myself included – all the gloating, and the prospect of having to see them on Match of the Day next year (for 30 seconds or so except when they play the top six), etc… But after a few days I began to take stock. On reflection there were a fair number of apparent favourites who in the end were far less deserving candidates, and some of whom were very far off the mark indeed when the season ended. Brighton were one team that I thought might have sneaked in there, and with great support, good manager, excellent ground, really on the up, sadly for them no deal. As for Palace, well you can't deny they've produced some talent, and sold Zaha only to handily keep him on loan til the end of the season - a very shrew piece of business. They even managed to get past having two managers this season, shame about their ground..

Apparently though, that is all about to change - according to Wednesday’s Evening Standard. A revamped, 40 thousand all-seater Selhurst Park, financed by their newly found success. No splashing the cash like QPR do - They will adopt a more sustainable Swansea style model. All sounds very sensible and somewhat familiar, and much like what Charlton did - at least in the early years after promotion doesn't it? So we're still a model club it seems.

So now to the question at hand should we be worried? In my view the answer is Yes, but not yet. Palace's attendances are less than ours on average - odd since they have been towards the top of the division for most of the last season.  It will take a long time for them to consolidate any new found support, particularly if they come down next season. They are however right on our doorstep, this means potentially that we will have Westham (2016) and Palace (2015? If it goes ahead) heavily discounting tickets on large partly empty stadiums to a similar market to ours, although what division either club will be in by then is a question. Millwall seem to be in terminal decline, and then there's this new investment in Ebbsfleet. I'm not sure they will be much to worry about, but you never know, their support base is nothing like the other aforementioned teams, and we really don't understand yet what the Kuwaitis want out of the arrangement. The issue at hand is the waverers, the newbies, the plastics, that if clubs can capture them will be the next generation, and a big part of the future of our clubs.

Of course the other big worry is the impact that Financial Fair Play (FFP) will have.  Clubs not benefiting from the recently hugely inflated parachute payments, will find themselves straight-jacketed by the new regulations and unable to compete with those yo-yo clubs. Although the evidence of clubs like Wolves and Blackburn, and even ourselves to an extent have shown that downward direction of travel can be hard to correct despite huge budgets.

What can Charlton do now? One refreshing thing about FFP is that it presents an opportunity for youth - new big money players will become less available to clubs, and with investment in academies exempt there must surely be more opportunities for fresh new talent; development of existing players, and 'hidden gems' among the out of contract players, those who can come good - this of course increases the need for good management, and an eye for a deal (that rules out Alan Pardew then). Could this also mean a reversal of the sacking culture to give Managers a real chance to show their talents? Possibly as it costs so much to sack them, perhaps though that could mean ever shorter rolling contracts, for Managers and players, and inevitably it may have an impact on player wages?

In summary, Palace's success is just a local reminder of the issues at stake in the game today. We need to ensure as a club we are doing everything we can and more, to develop and bring on talent, and somehow keep most of it; and just as importantly sell out our ground. Brighton have managed it so why not us? Clubs who cannot do this will soon find themselves propping up League 1 or worse. Perhaps if HM Gov really want to intervene in football for the better they should invest in football infrastructure so that more clubs can have big multi-use community based grounds like West Ham at low cost.