Charlton Athletic might have missed out on a League One play-off place on goal difference, but Scott Minto believes the future is bright under Thomas Sandgaard.
The Addicks lost out on sixth spot in the table to Oxford United despite recording back-to-back Valley victories over high-flying Lincoln and champions Hull City.
But Minto, who has hosted Charlton TV since December, reckons the real victory is still having a football club.
The Addicks were on the brink of administration before US-based Dane Sandgaard acquired the club in late September and agreed an extension on the leases of the stadium and training ground with Roland Duchatelet.
“If you look at where Charlton was 12 months ago then just to be in existence is fantastic,” said Minto, who made his debut for the South Londoners as a fresh-faced left-back in 1988. “What has gone at at Charlton in the previous few years has been ridiculous.
“They were my first club. I grew up here. I went through the academy, reserves and into the first-team at 17. Charlton has a really special place in my heart. What has gone on in recent years has been nothing short of disgraceful.
“So the most important thing for me is for the club to be in good hands. For the first time in a long time we seem to have an owner who cares. He has got money. Whether he has money or not is not irrelevant, but what is important is having an owner who can take the club forward – that doesn’t necessarily need to be the Premier League. I know Thomas has talked about getting there, which is fantastic.”
Court injunctions obtained by Manchester businessman Paul Elliott delayed Sandgaard’s takeover. And even when he did seize power, Charlton were both running out of time in the transfer window and dealing with a salary cap which had been voted in – only to be discarded in February.
“I don’t mean any disrespect to the players but they were scratching around then to see what was left,” said Minto, who joined Chelsea for £875,000 in 1994. “Charlton did well with that, they got good honest pros.
“But even in January the salary cap was there and somehow disappeared a week or two after the window closed. So I think it was maybe a plan B or a plan C.
“I felt for Bow [Lee Bowyer]. I know every club was in the same boat but not everyone was in the same boat as Lee Bowyer in what he had to deal with [a transfer embargo in place at the start of 2020 before Sandgaard obtained EFL approval for his takeover].
“I tweeted out something a few days ago, that I feel I should be gutted we missed out on the play-offs by goal difference and yet it always felt like it was a little bit out of reach.
“We got closer than perhaps we thought we would, and a couple of weeks earlier we were in the top six. Then you thought it was in our hands. But we are at the start of a journey. Promotion would have been the icing on the cake.
“You just have to look at the away record versus the home one. Charlton went nine games conceding two or more goals at home, you can’t keep needing to score three to win a match.”
Minto is also confident that it will be easier for Nigel Adkins, Bowyer’s successor, to not chop and change his personnel so heavily next season.
A return to the campaign kicking off in August should majorly reduce the amount of midweek fixtures.
“It’s about consistency in selection and Bow felt he could never do that,” said Minto. “Because of the injury history [in the 2019-20] season he didn’t want to go down that route again. So while he had some good names on paper in the squad, it was difficult to find a rhythm.
“Someone like Chuks [Aneke] was not able to play 90 minutes, so he was having to rotate.
“I’m not in any way criticising Bow, he made the right decisions based on the information he had. The games won’t come so thick and fast, Nigel will be able to have a much more settled side.”
Adkins has won five and drawn four of his 10 matches as Charlton manager. He has won promotion from League One three times previously – twice with Scunthorpe United and also back-to-back as he took Southampton into the top flight.
“I’m very optimistic about next season,” said Minto. “First and foremost because of Thomas. Charlton have an owner who wants to put money in and not just do as little as possible.
“And, secondly, we have got a manager who knows how to get teams out of this division. From a man-management point of view he is a fantastic person to be around. Psychology in sports is more important than ever and tactically he is very good.
“I almost said to Nigel when he first came in that this is almost a free hit. The fans aren’t necessarily expecting to get to the play-offs but you’re going to get to know the players, and what you do and don’t need for next season.
“Recruitment will be so important to get done early and not wait until the last minute, whether that means paying a little bit more. If Sunderland don’t get up they will do what they can financially and Ipswich will go a bit bigger as well. We’ll see where Sheffield Wednesday are financially.
“I think there might be teams who have to pay Championship wages for players to get out of League One. If there is no salary cap then there is no reason Charlton can’t do that. Then you have almost got a Championship-ready team anyway.
“You have to make sure you pick the right team to get out of the division in the first place, but there is no reason you can’t get good Championship players who get their head down and work hard in League One.
“Chris Gunter is an example of that. I was impressed with his attitude. He didn’t have to give it his all, but he certainly did in every single game I saw him play in.”
Minto will host Charlton TV’s End Of Season Show on Tuesday at 7pm. He will be joined by Alan Curbishley and Steve Brown. The club’s Young Player of the Year will be announced along with Charlton Athletic Community Trust’s Player of the Year and also Charlton Women’s Player of the Year.
“I’ve loved it, absolutely loved it,” said Minto, when asked about presenting Charlton TV. “I like to think I tick the boxes in that I’m a presenter now who played for football, but I’m also a presenter who played football for Charlton.
“Apart from the games, my most enjoyable parts are the memory lane especially if I’m alongside a Carl Leaburn, a Paul Mortimer or a Steve Brown – where I’ve been part of it. It has been absolutely superb. In terms of fun, this has been the most fun I’ve had as a presenter.
“Charlton have given me the license to go to the point I want to go with it, to have a bit of fun with it, and go over certain topics if I think they will be good chats.
“Being back at The Valley, I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed being a player at Charlton. Towards the end not only did I ring Keith Peacock up, who I was very close to when I was at Charlton – he actually did my deal to Chelsea – but also I’d stick on 80s music and pretend I was back at Charlton mark 1 as it where, and all the memories that brought.”
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