At the Club Fun Day on August 3rd Katrien Meire and Richard Murray took part in a question and answer session with supporters. A video of the session is available on Charlton Player (it can also be seen on Charlton Life). For anyone who is unable to access the video here is a brief summary of what was said:
Q: Any plans to extend the Valley ?
RM: No current plans to extend the Valley. It would only be considered if there was a waiting list for season tickets. But there has been expenditure on the pitch, the seats and the carpets after years of not having the money to invest in this way.
Q: Can we be competitive this season ?
KM: We are reasonably confident we can be competitive in the Championship this season. We have made eight new signings and these are signings we wanted to make. We have offered some players 4/5 year contracts. But we still have one of the lowest budgets in the Championship.
RM: We played really well against Peterborough and Portsmouth, and Igor and Johann are really exciting players. I think we have a better squad than last year but how much better is hard to say.
Q: What is the current transfer policy ?
KM: Our transfer policy is to acquire good young players but to mix them with experience. We will make use of European talent and will continue to develop the training ground and academy to bring players through. The holy grail is the Premier League but every club is seeking that. We know what a difficult league the Championship is.
Q: How come we've got another new manager ?
RM: Jose Riga wasn’t sacked. He was hired to do a seven week job which he did very successfully. Once the job was completed the owner then interviewed potential candidates for the longer term. He and I are getting on in years – he doesn’t have twenty years to make his mark, so he needs to carefully pick who he believes will do the best job. His intentions are good but he isn’t a prophet.
KM: I said to the owner that, if we appoint a new manager, people may not understand. He said that he has worked with many people over the years and we should trust him.
RM: I think Bob will win you over. He is a live wire and he likes to play good football on the grass. The long ball game is not his style and you’ll notice that our key forward is not very tall (although he does have a good leap). Bob is a very motivational guy, full of energy. He has a good balance of banter with the players but they know who is boss.
KM: He is tough on me – always asking where his new players are !
Q: Any more signings on the way ?
KM: We don’t share information about possible new players as it might jeapordise the move. Overall we are happy with the squad but we think we could be stronger in one or two positions. We have one or two targets but I do not promise that anything will happen. We can use the loan system although on the whole we want to reduce loans as much as possible.
RM: There will be more foreign players than in the past mainly because we now have the benefit of a scouting system through the network bringing us players we never would have heard of. Note that our two biggest signings are not from Liege (Igor and Johann). Buyens is of a quality above what we might expect. Yes, last season we did bring in players some of whom weren’t good enough but that was because needs must.
RM: All of Roland’s clubs have passionate fans and therefore he has to be extremely careful about what he says. He would be slaughtered if he was seen to favour one club. What I would say is that the opportunities for Charlton are probably bigger than for the other clubs and that gives me confidence that we will be a high priority. KM – And it is our job to remind him of that.
Q: How can you improve attendances ?
KM: It is a challenge to increase attendances. We aim to be a family club with a good environment for children. We will work closely with the Community Trust because they reach out to so many young people. We have appointed a Club Development Officer to encourage more young people to come.
RM - It was Katrien who persuaded Roland to reduce season ticket prices so we are now the cheapest club to watch in London.
KM: I understand that there is still some scepticism about the ownership of the club so I still have to convince people.
Q: What is the process for acquiring new players and deciding who plays ?
KM: I work closely with Phil Chapple. If he recommends a player who fits in with our budget then it is double checked by other scouts in the network. If it is YES/YES we ask the manager if he would like the player for his team. It also works the other way round. If European scouts recommend a player we will get Phil Chapple’s view.
RM – Let me remove a myth. Roland did not pick the team. But when Chris Powell asked for reinforcements Roland would ask “what about the guys I sent over ? Why are you not playing them? “ I accept that some of them weren’t good enough, but it was hard for Chris to be robust about this when he wasn’t winning games. Roland wasn’t picking the team. He was questioning afterwards why we didn’t win.
Q: How are we going to hang on to our young players ?
RM – The previous owners should have signed up Diego Poyet on a long term deal. We will at least get a percentage of a sell-on fee when he decides that West Ham is not the place for passing football. Now, however, all the young players who we want to keep are on long deals, even though Gomes is only two years.
KM: We tried our best to persuade Diego to stay but I don’t really think he was ever going to. We try to convince all our young players, their parents and agents of the Charlton story and the opportunities for them. Some we will win, some we will lose. I don’t want to hinder the progress of a young player. It would not be fair to stand in the way of a young player if he decides Charlton is too small for him.