Dave and Blackheath Addick have already given their accounts of last night, and I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. However, with the benefit of a night's sleep and a few hours mulling it over today I think I might be able to add a few things that the other two left out.
I'm not going to break any confidences - it wasn't one of those meetings, but I have, perhaps, had a little longer to think about how I might phrase some of the things differently rather than leave them out all together.
For those of you that have seen Richard do one of these you will know how open he can be, sometimes too much. This was evident again last night, but there was a feeling that something was different. One significant thing that I did pick up on was that Richard mentioned several times that he has been the Chairman for fifteen years. If I wasn't already starting to think that he was dropping hints that he is off soon he, towards the end of the evening, said that just in case he doesn't get the chance again he would like to thank the fans for all their support over the years.
I'm not sure if that was just because there is a chance a take over will happen at some point, or because the moment took over, but it is was clear that Richard believes that it may well be time for him to "pass on the baton". In truth, in terms of league position, we are not in as good a position as we were when he took over, but the club infrastructure is much better.
There is another thing that we should do when looking at Richard's legacy. Even if one were to conclude that we are in a worse off position now than we were fifteen years ago (something I don't, by the way) we have to consider the following (which I think Richard was trying to say):
We are, probably, a decent size Championship club. We can expect to be aiming for the top six (playoffs) each season, and we have as good a chance of promotion (based on the size of the club) as most of the Championship clubs. We are not, however, an established Premier League club. We do not have a huge stadium, we do not have a history of winning trophies.
Richard described our Premier League seasons (eight of them) as "Punching above our weight." Thus I think the legacy that Richard leaves is the memories of a great time that we may not see again for a long while. This on top of the fact that he was involved in our move back to The Valley - something that we (certainly I) take for granted these days. It was a continuing dream of mine to see us play at The Valley again in the late eighties and early nineties. If that was all Richard had been involved in he would have been a hero anyway.
The Premier League seasons, which have cost us quite dear since we were relegated in 2007, were just fantastic. We all have different memories of those times - I have loads. What that time did was build up the support to make us a much bigger club than the one that I started watching in 1980 at a dilapidated Valley.
We all take gambles, some more risky than others, but if you'd asked me in 1990 if I'd have traded a season or two in the third division in exchange for moving back to The Valley, developing it into a 27,000 all seater stadium, and held our own for at least five seasons in the top division (The Premier League wasn't formed in 1990), including beating the current European Champions (Liverpool), Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Everton both home and away, and making the Quarter Final in both the domestic cups I would have literally ripped your hand off. In fact, as it would have sounded too good to be true I would probably have ripped your arm off and hit you over the head with the other end.
If someone offered you the chance to trade all the equity in your house and end up having to sell it to buy something smaller (responsibilities for your family aside) in exchange for the chance to live out some dream you have had for years would you do it? More's to the point would you begrudge paying for it after it had all finished. That is what life is all about - living. Richard Murray should be remembered for being part of the team that gave thousands of Charlton fans that dream.
Anyway, moving on to what was said last night:
Financially we are secure for the rest of the season. The Daily Mirror article that suggested we need to sell players was rubbish. Richard said that he made no attempt to deny it as he said that unless you are Alex Ferguson any attempt to challenge the press ends up with your comments being twisted into something else. He confirmed, as is right, that we will sell if we are made a good offer for a player. He also suggested that the Mirror could just be extrapolating on the fact that we have made it known that we are trying to offload one of our strikers. He did say which one, but I think I'll leave that to your imagination.
If we are not promoted this season then we will be selling three or more players next summer. We also have fourteen players in the last year of their contract. Some of that will be due to players we have signed on one year deals (Daily, Sam Sodje, McKenzie) and some will be players that have been here a long time and have existing contracts. One of these players (which Richard refused to name) has been outstanding this season and it is thought that keeping him playing for a new contract might just be a factor in his improvements.
This led to a question from a fan about Darren Ambrose and Jerome Thomas. The feeling in the room was that both of these players failed to 'fear' for their futures when they had long term contracts on salaries that make the current squad look like paupers. I don't think it will be unfair to tell you that Richard thought that their improvement in performance (effort) since they left us could just be because they realised that they might not be professional footballers for much longer if they didn't improve. Jerome Thomas, for example was offered, by he's agent, to all and sundry but ended up with a trial at West Brom. Ambrose, Richard told us, asked if he was going to be offered a new contract and we just said no thanks.
On the subject of loan players, Richard hinted that all those we have had this season actually wanted to join us permanently. I think that has made a big difference in their attitudes and their performances. Both Mooney and Sodje would be welcome but we need to see how finances are and this will depend on potential sales. Richard said that he asked Lennie Lawrence if he'd made a decision about Chris Dickson. Apparently that decision will be made right at the last minute. Richard did say, with a laugh, that perhaps Lennie was negotiating with him, but I think that Dickson's future, along with that of another of our strikers, that Pardew signed, will determine who we can keep and/or sign in January.
As Dave has said it is clear that Parkinson is the man as far as the board are concerned. despite saying that we can judge him and them at the end of the season if we don't go up, I got the feeling that if necessary he will be the man tasked with getting us promoted next season if we fail this time. Richard also said that anything less than top two was unacceptable. Can't disagree with him there.
There was a discussion about Sullivan and the Gold brothers. Richard made it clear that they would be acceptable purchasers of the club. He believes (and is almost certainly right) that they would make the club successful. We might not, ultimately, like their methods (Birmingham fans didn't) but we should remember where they (Birmingham) are. I wouldn't mind paying a little more for another Premier League adventure. One thing to note was that Richard gave his rationale for who they might buy, we are clearly on that list, but said that he won't approach them. If they want to buy the club they will have to approach us. This gave away that they hadn't been in touch yet!
He also talked about why Palace might not be high on that list - they don't own their own ground. Richard got one of the biggest laughs of the night by questioning whether that would make you "Happy or Sad!" He went on to explain that there is much investment required at Selhurst Park and I'm sure that is what he really meant!
Richard also confirmed that they would not sell to a consortium headed up by Dennis Wise.
In fact, it was clear that they are willing and able to keep running the club for as long as it takes to find the type of buyer that they want to entrust our club to. What this means is that we can be an established Championship club with aspirations, not unlike Hull, Burnley, West Brom and Wolves. If we really want to push on for the Premier League we need new investment.
There was talk of Dowie. Richard was, I thought, very good on the subject. He gave us a story, that I'd heard most of before, about the Wigan game - that turned out to be his last. Allegedly he had the coach driver drop him off at home with his family on the way up to the game the day before (something that none of the players or management staff knew was going to happen). He suggested that he would meat up with the team the following morning. Allegedly he turned up at 2:30 pm, after the pre-match meal and team talk. We lost 3-2, and that was his last game. There were a number of other incidents that will only be made public if this actually goes to court - they weren't shared last night. Why I think Richard was good about this is that he is happy to give Dowie something for 'his trouble' but not very much. I agree with that.
I trust that I haven't said anything I shouldn't have done. Richard did ask that bloggers don't share things that would cause him to be more careful in the future - something that Dave and I found rather amusing, but that we both respect.
On the whole another enjoyable evening in the company of Richard Murray. Nothing very new, but informative, all the same.
Up the Addicks!