When you think you’ve hit rock-bottom usually you haven’t – but aren’t far off. Fourth consecutive season in the third flight for the first time in my lifetime, a pantomime cast of owners over more than the past decade (including leaving the club no longer as owners of The Valley), nobody below us in the Football League we would consider a peer or ‘bigger than us’, making us the major underachievers, and a regular succession of managers failing to turn the proverbial sow’s ear into silk purse, the latest being thanked for helping us to avoid relegation and made the first manager of the season to lose his job. We’re not a laughing stock, but here too we’re not far off.
Just how can things have turned to such an extent in less than a month? The new owners may not have set our pulses racing, given their baggage and doubts about real plans and the depth of their pockets, but at least there was an end to the protracted takeover saga. Some time for a manager - who everyone liked and who’s honesty and openness were appreciated by the fans, and who’d done a decent job with limited resources having taken over Garner’s squad – to get in players he liked and shape the team to his liking. It may have been an unconvincing win in the first game so long ago in early August, but it was a win. If you’d said to anyone then Holden would be sacked before the month was out you really would have been considered to have lost your senses.
I’ve no idea what the mood in the dressing room and across the club has been like of late, we can only guess. But surely you have to factor in the injury list, which has had a massive impact, and the club’s failure to date to move on all those who seem not to fit into plans and get in some replacements, even though there have been plenty of ins and outs, with no time allowed for players to get used to each other. On that basis allowing more time – especially with the transfer window yet to close and more movement expected – would have been entirely justified.
So on balance, given our limited information and understanding, I’d say the sacking of Holden is a poor decision. Of course we hope it proves to be the right one. Whether it was a case of the new owners never really liking him/wanting their own guy in, or just like other weak people trying to pretend to be strong, even that the mood had turned so sour a change had to be made, only time (and informed leaks) may tell. That he leaves with all our best wishes is a given.
Just as Garner’s selection, appointment, and subsequent failure was something that Sandgaard really couldn’t distance himself from, the choice of Holden’s replacement will be tied firmly to the owners. It is a big gamble by them. Just a quick glance at the initial odds shows how wide a potential field there is, although so far there’s no mention of the option that I know other Addicks have had, that of Curbs and Brownie being asked to take over. I doubt that the new club management is strong enough to deal with that.
Fact is a new guy will be coming in to take on a squad which was being shaped by somebody else. He will have his own preferences, for players and style of football, and little or no chance to influence his options before we go again in January. It is too soon to be writing off a season before the first month is out, but just thinking this way is indicative of how far our pre-season hopes have been deflated – and how more deflated they are by the news of Holden’s sacking.