Local author and CAST member Paul Breen celebrates the arrival of Thomas Sandgaard and hopes that The Valley will be rocking again in the near future.
HOW THOMAS SANDGAARD HAS CHANGED THE SCRIPT AND SOUNDTRACK AT CHARLTON – Paul Breen @CharltonMen
‘You’re not the new Messiah
More like Monty Python’s naughty boy
Surrounded by puppets, fools and liars
This football club is more than just a toy.’
(Lyrics from ‘More than just a toy’ by The 2percent– Charlton Athletic protest song against Roland Duchâtelet’s ownership.)
NOT so long ago, these were typical lyrics blasting out across the Charlton sound system. For many fans, Valley Floyd Road was as far away and out of bounds as The Mull of Kintyre. Some protested. Some sought accommodation. Some lost faith entirely. Quite a few of the fan base anticipated an ending like that of Bury, crashing out of league football into the basements beyond even the level of Welling and Dartford. Or perhaps at best a rebranding akin to that of Glasgow Rangers, somehow resurrected from the ashes with history and trophy holdings half intact.
As summer passed and the season approached, everything started to feel like the penultimate episode of a Netflix or HBO series; where the protagonists are trapped in a hopeless situation and there’s no conceivable way out. At least in those shows, everything’s going to be left open for continuation at the end. Awful as the ending might have been for Game of Thrones fans, the dragons didn’t burn Westeros to the ground. In the real world of football, such a fate was possible. The shady characters passing through Charlton’s life story in recent times might well have enacted a scorched earth policy if they had got away with it.
They almost did because after our relationship with Roland and his consorts, many of us were like the person on Tinder so badly damaged by past experience we’d have taken anybody who was just a little bit nice to us. A few sweet words and we were anybody’s. And they did sweet-talk us. Even if we had doubts to begin with, everybody wanted to believe these were the ones – stayers, carers and stabilisers, not just another pack of waste men seeking a one night stand, before leaving with the deeds in the morning. Gradually we came to see what they were like, by which time it appeared as if they were about to get their hands on everything from the front door keys to the family silverware. Then we had the brief joy of Lauren Kreamer’s greatest victory for a Charlton Lady since promotion to the Women’s FA Championship – before the systems designed to protect snake oil salesmen kicked into force again. Once more, the show seemed destined for a shit ending like in films where the bad guy rises up afresh even after he looked to be fatally knocked down a minute ago.
Thankfully, as the proverb of possible Irish origin says, ‘night is darkest just before the dawn.’ Like many people, I genuinely thought that this season could be the last in the box set – the one where the script writers do more than just get rid of a few ephemeral characters by sending them to Nottingham. I thought this could be the end of the whole show, the scene where a chandelier came crashing down on the opera of Charlton’s history. And then hope emerged on the horizon the way that if you look out from the north coast of Ireland you can sometimes see the shadows of Scotland and The Mull of Kintyre. Echoes of Valley Floyd Road again began to filter through the soundtrack of doom.
Though Thomas Sandgaard has never portrayed himself in the role of Messiah, he has brought us back hope, faith and salvation. The involvement of shadowy Mancunians won’t even be remembered as the penultimate episode in Charlton’s story. It was just one tiny part of a bigger show. Very soon, after Covid and the scars of these past few years have healed, The Valley’s going to be rocking again. Thomas Sandgaard has re-awakened the music of belief in better times. And part of the reason that he has achieved this is that he has struck a deep chord with the fan base.
After several years of dealing with charlatans who are only in with us for what they can get out of us, it’s a pleasant surprise to see somebody who comes across as a man, not just a businessman. Probably one of the reasons we have warmed so much to our new owner is in his love of music. We’re a club steeped in a very deep history and one that has a very diverse fan base too. But one of the great things about Charlton is that we seem to be a club that likes to see people giving back as much as they take. This is why most of us felt distaste for the snake oil sales folk of recent times. Supporting Charlton, I’ve come to see that so many people associated with the club give so much of themselves for no return other than the betterment of the club. That was very true of our recently departed Supporters Trust colleague Steve Clarke and true of all those who have been involved in the fight for better times over these past few years from CARD to The 2percent. Thankfully, the lyric of protest is changing to one of expectation.
I think that in seeing our new owner’s love of music and his approachability, many of us see his character reflecting that of the fan base in general. This club is like a family, even if many of us have very different opinions on life, politics, music and so on. Because we give so much to the club in terms of emotional investment alongside time and money, we like to feel that this is replicated by those who are custodians of the club. And I think with our new owner we’ve got this. Amongst his early actions, he’s already appeared in the commentary box alongside the Valley Pass team and met with representatives of Greenwich Council. These are small gestures in themselves but they bring hope that things are changing for the better at Charlton. It’s sad that many such as Steve Clarke, Seb Lewis and others won’t be here to see these dreams come to fruition but their spirit is part of this story.
Here’s to The Valley rocking again in the very near future.