Charlton Athletic 2022/23 Season Review: Ownership uncertainty sees another campaign of frustrated stagnation

4 min

Having dismissed club legend Johnnie Jackson at the end of the previous season for not conforming to his possession-based ideology, Charlton Athletic owner Thomas Sandgaard underlined his intentions early for the 2022/23 campaign.

Swindon Town’s Ben Garner was duly appointed as manager and swiftly set about laying the foundations for the team to become more effective at winning the ball back and getting it quickly to Charlton’s most skillful players.

Off the field, free transfers and loan deals bolstered the squad but a failure to sign a centre-forward before the summer transfer window closed would prove costly as the side lacked consistency in front of goal to get the most out of Garner’s system.

Nevertheless, Charlton started the season in impressive fashion, recording an excellent win over Derby County as well as a 5-1 demolition of eventual champions Plymouth Argyle.

An eight game winless run followed though, highlighting the shortcomings at both ends of the pitch with Garner responding by changing formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.

That led to just one defeat in eight, a run which included an extraordinary 4-4 draw with Ipswich before another poor patch of five games without a win ultimately cost Garner his job – just six months into the role and with the club lying 17th in the table.

Further ignominy ensued as the side were then dumped out of the FA Cup by League Two side Stockport County as the fanbase increasingly lost patience with Sandgaard, vocally calling for him to sell the club.

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Sandgaard seemed to have had enough by the end of the year as well, signing an exclusivity agreement with a consortium led by former Sunderland director Charlie Methven to negotiate the club’s sale.

This agreement even went as far as the incoming consortium appointing their own executive staff as well as Garner’s replacement, former Bristol City manager Dean Holden, on a deal until the end of the season.

As the January transfer window opened, it was seen as an exercise in reducing the wage bill to facilitate the upcoming takeover with senior players such as Jayden Stockley departing permanently while others were sent out on loan.

In terms of arrivals, the majority were loans or short-term deals with only Michael Hector making any meaningful contribution to proceedings on the pitch.

Unfortunately the takeover fell through in early February, with all the executives appointed subsequently departing – although Holden remained as boss, going on to sign a permanent three-year contract a month later.

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So far Holden hasn’t deviated massively from Garner’s foundations, merely trying to introduce some sort of resilience and gamesmanship into the squad while simultaneously being less outspoken and critical of Sandgaard than his predecessor.

The 43-year-old has also made continued attempts to ingratiate himself with a Charlton faithful who had increasingly become disillusioned with the instability swirling around The Valley.

While a tenth place finish, 15 points off the Play-Off places is bitterly disappointing, there were a few positives for the club in an otherwise sorry season – not least the club’s academy continuing to bear fruit.

Miles Leaburn, son of former Charlton striker Carl, scored 13 goals in all competitions in his debut season while Tyreece Campbell impressed on the wings and Lucas Ness proved himself to be an assured presence at the back after being abruptly recalled from a loan spell at Torquay. 

Charlton also reached the League Cup Quarter-Finals, upsetting the likes of QPR and Brighton along the way to earn a glamour tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United which was more competitive than the 3-0 scoreline suggested.

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Although the club reportedly remains up for sale, a large stumbling block for any interested party appears to be Sandgaard’s ever changing demands – a conundrum made even more difficult by the fact Charlton’s stadium and training ground are still owned by former owner Roland Duchatelet.

With a number of key players out of contract in the summer and another rebuild on the horizon, Charlton’s long-term ownership needs to be addressed if a squad worthy of League One promotion is to be built.

Failure to do so will see the club remain in the agonising purgatory and dysfunctionality in which it has endured for the past two seasons.

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