CAST Chair Heather McKinlay reports on CAFC’s balancing act following a recent telephone conversation with Thomas Sandgaard:
I had the opportunity to speak at some length with Thomas this week. He is now back in Colorado but still working on London time. He is as committed as ever to making a success of things with Charlton, maybe with a bit of a reality check of how much there is to be done: “100 things on the football side and 100 on the non-football side”. He was not as bullish as earlier regarding the time it is likely to take to move up the leagues and he is quite aware of the financial implications of that: “We’ll be sensible and not do a Derby.”
While focused on the long-term goals, the need had come for short-term action, hence the departure of Nigel Adkins. Thomas believes that the summer recruitment got a lot right. “We have a very good squad - perhaps with one or two additions/ replacements - but for whatever reason there was a mismatch with Adkins". Thomas is keen to see Johnnie Jackson succeed but not ready to make a firm decision on the manager yet, saying he will “keep his options open”. I talked positively about Jacko and his leadership qualities.
As a result of the very poor start to the season, the owner now intends to become more closely involved on the football side. Thomas speaks regularly with and respects the views of Curbs, Minto and Browny and feels this provides him with a strong connection into English football. One of Thomas’ sons is presently based in London and will keep close to Sparrows Lane while Thomas is in the USA.
Thomas mentioned that he spoke with George Dobson on the day before the Sunderland match, acknowledging how much he knew it meant to him to do well against his old club. “I told him not to get a red but that I fully expected he would get a yellow!” The combative midfielder lived up to such expectations, getting booked just before half-time but then seeing out the full ninety as a strong contender for man of the match.
Off the pitch Thomas wants “a big push to fill the stadium and expand the international fanbase”. He reiterated that this is not about short-term profit but about building the fanbase, including Charlton being more known and connected in the local community. We talked about the importance of balancing recognition of long-term loyalty with the need to bring in more supporters. Alongside Wayne Mumford, Thomas is also bringing in business people from the US to work directly with the operations and commercial teams at The Valley. In general he openly admitted that it is early days and that he is “still working out the right fights to pick” and “what to keep and what to change”. While initiatives such as matchday catering and Valley Express are all part of the experience, building up the attendance is key. I offered the analogy that first and foremost a hotel needs to fill its rooms.
I’ve spoken several times now with Thomas and he always remains true to his word. He is thick-skinned – and needs to be given some recent social media comments, which he shrugs off as “all part of it”. By his own admission, he is determined, stubborn and a winner. The track record is there at Zynex. As with any business owner, he knows his own mind and has the courage of his own convictions.
Charlton Athletic, including the non-football side, is still feeling the effects of the best part of ten years of neglect and turmoil. Thomas is fully aware that it will take time to get things back on track. The best we can do as fans is to stay patient regarding the long term. In the short term, let’s get ourselves (and friends and family) along to The Valley and loudly support Jacko and the boys.
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