Charlton Athletic has always been known as a team who never stands down even in the darkest of times. The Addicks have endured hugely tiring times in their 114-year history from losing The Valley to Roland Duchatlet’s ownership of the club, but Charlton never gave up.
The South-London outfit is once again suffering at the hands of rogue owners, this time in the form of ESI after shamed ex-chairman Matt Southall lied to the fans about the hopes for a better future when things at Charlton seemed to be going no other way than up.
The fans were promised Premier League football, marquee signings, a state of the art training facility with not one, not two, but three floors which was an extra on top of the two-story complex Duchatelet was originally going to build when he started his disaster reign at the club.
With facilities such as these being promised to Charlton we were all thinking that the reds were certainly going up again, the top flight was on the horizon for this proud club once again!
ESI’s first game under their ownership carved out a fantastic atmosphere that The Valley had not seen since the play off semi-final against Doncaster, the Charlton fans were all singing Matt Southall and Tahnoon Nimer’s names and there was a feeling of real hope and excitement for the future of the club under ESI.
However, not just two months later everything fell apart at the seams when Charlton released a statement saying that majority shareholder Tahnoon Nimer had withdrawn his funding from the club.
The events that followed were truly shocking for any football club to be involved in, let alone Charlton who had been under an awful regime for the last six years. The EFL was to blame for all this going on at Charlton, once again they had let wolfs into The Valley.
After the Bury situation, you would have thought they would be taking more care in their club’s futures, but that was not the case at all. The EFL let ESI take ownership of the club before they had even shown proof of funds after buying the football club for a pound, which is exactly how Bury went on the road to liquidation and eventually lost everything as they were expelled from the football league.
Now Charlton seems to be on that same road that Bury unfortunately took. If nothing is done by owner Tahnoon Nimer in terms of injecting funds into the club then The Addicks will go under, there is no doubt about it, the money is running out fast and we could indeed lose everything as we are now under EFL investigation surrounding the takeover of the club.
The reasons for The EFL investigation are like something no other football club has had to experience, the first set of events accused Matt Southall of lying to the club and Tahnoon Nimer had not actually withdrawn his funding, however, Matt Southall brought out another statement saying that Nimer had not put any money in the club since it was taken over and also on Twitter he accused Nimer of being a fraud and that he ‘pretends he has money’.
But the drama was not over yet Tahnoon Nimer then released documents stating that Matt Southall has misused club funds which included a set of Range Rovers for Southall and his cronies.
That was not all, Southall also had a flat in central London that was £12,500 a month and consultancy fees for himself under club expenses, it was clear at this point Southall had to go.
Nimer also released Southall’s home address which was a reckless move from him, it resulted in a fan turning up, but being ejected as soon as he got in the lobby of the London apartment block.
TalkSport was involved in a few interviews with Tahnoon Nimer and his lawyer Chris Farnell and that’s when tensions truly peaked at the club.
I was at the training ground on the 12th of March doing a bit of work before reviewing the U23s and I managed to speak to Tahnoon Nimer earlier on in the day via Instagram and I asked him about Matt Southall’s statement saying that the club runs out of money in December and Nimer sent me these messages
“Funny the financial controller tells us we run out of money in March which is all in writing but Matt tells everyone last night the club is okay until December.
“I am supporting the club forever.
“We have much evidence.
I then asked him how much evidence he has on Southall, apologies for the bad English from Nimer on this one
“A lot, many mail proved by his personal mail and the financial guy to someone.
“Blaming each other and how they will cover the money they spend.
“Whatever it had been saying by Matt it’s wrong.
“We have all the evidence which will be in the court.”
So what I did with this information is show it to the media team at Charlton just before Nimer was due to go on Talksport and we listened to his interview together where he insisted that he will ‘never walk away from Charlton’ and that he wants to invest, but just wants the money in the right hands.
Anyway, we all walked away from this interview not quite sure what to think, however, we got on with our days. Just 20-minutes before the U23s kicked off against Cardiff City I spoke to someone who I won’t name, but he asked me if I did anything with the information I got from Nimer and I said to him I made an article on it earlier on in the day, he then said to me that something was going to get leaked tomorrow (March 13) but he never told me what it was and I was not ready for what was about to come.
Later on in the night, I was just sitting at my home thinking it was going to be any normal evening until news broke that Club Journalist Olly Groome, Player Liaison Officer Tracey Leaburn and Safety Officer Mick Everett had all been sacked by Matt Southall after they attempted to remove him from The Valley, which immediately sparked outrage from the fans and club staff.
However, as the night got darker, the events at The Valley got a little bit lighter when the Police turned up and removed Southall from the premises, he was filmed leaving The Valley by Charlton Live host Louis Mendez where he repeatedly asked the shamed chairman “What’s going on with our club Matt?” to which he got no reply as he drove off in that famous white Range Rover that was paid for out of clubs money.
It then came out that Southall was the one who was removed from his position and not all those precious members of staff who have served the club through thick and thin did not lose their jobs, which was great to hear.
They are true heroes in Charlton and they did everything in their efforts to save this fantastic football, but we still remain under ESI ownership with no funds being produced as of today.
Charlton are still in this situation of guessing what’s going to happen next, but it doesn’t look good for this once proud club, however, we have to remember where we come from and what the fans have done to keep this club intact.
We have lost our ground in some of the worst ownership in Charlton’s history after signing Barcelona player Allan Simonsen, this led to The Valley’s demise.
After signing such a player in the second division I’m sure most Charlton fans back then were questioning it, but also rejoicing it at the same time because when he got bought he was one of the best players in the world previously winning European Footballer of The Year in 1977(Ballon d’Or).
Charlton moved to Crystal Palace’s ground Selhurst Park and eventually to West Ham’s Upton Park as a result of the club not being able to afford Simonsen and he was eventually sold.
Charlton lost a lot of fans during this time, most of them hated the idea of watching home games in local rivals stadiums and I completely agree with them, it was heartbreaking leaving the sentimental home of The Valley after all these years, but the fans that were left didn’t let this terrible situation stop them from fighting for a return home which lasted a long 7 years.
December 5th, 1992 was a tremendous day to be a Charlton fan, we finally returned home and the atmosphere was electric unfortunately I only experienced it on videotape when I was a kid, but I have watched it so much that I felt like I was there.
We won 1-0 against Portsmouth on that day with Colin Walsh slotting in the deciding goal on the 7th minute which coincidentally marked the 7 years away from The Valley coming to an end, the return of Charlton Athletic was on.
After hard graft in the second division 6 years after that magical day at The Valley, it was Charlton’s time to taste the Premier League in a spectacular day at the old Wembley Stadium, which produced probably the best game of football Wembley had ever seen, Clive Mendonca scored a hattrick and Richard Rufus scored his first goal for Charlton as we drew with Sunderland 4-4, with the game ending 7-6 to Charlton on penalties, Charlton fans were all on cloud 9 after the best day in the club’s footballing history since we won the FA Cup in 1947.
Sasa Illic was the hero saving Michael Gray’s penalty and sending Charlton into paradise as the players, management, and staff bundled on top of the keeper in joyous scenes that I still look back on and get goosebumps from, it really was a truly glorious day that will go down in Charlton history.
If there are any Charlton fans out there that think we won’t survive ESI, you are wrong, we will beat this and go on to better things in the future I’m sure of it, Charlton is not a team that goes down easy. It has a rigorous fan base who will also never give up, that has been proved time and time again.
Charlton’s story is far from over yet, they are the club who will fight till the very end.
This article is written by Kieran Keogh. Follow him on Twitter at @VitalCharlton