Saturday, March 11, 2006

Smerts departure rekindles ambition theme

Chelsea's Alexei Smertin has ended his loan period at Charlton by signing for Dinamo Moscow, saying that the choice for him was between London and Moscow and he wanted to return home. Fair enough.

What has interested some people is his apparent comment that 'I like the ambition of the Dinamo board. I saw a lack of that at Charlton after winning so often at Chelsea.'

Quite what does it mean for a club to be ambitious? One can go around saying one is ambitious and some of the ambitions that are proclaimed verge on the ludicrous, especially in the lower levels of football. So one has to walk the walk as well as talking the talk and that means money.

Despite all the successful efforts to bring in more fans over the years, the years of exile at Selhurst and Upton Park did mean that we didn't secure the loyalty of a generation of fans. In the 1950s attendances at The Valley fluctuated according to whether Arsenal were at home and the Islington club remain strong in South-East London. And next year it will be easier to get tickets in the new stadium to watch top class football (at a price). While the problem for Charlton is that performance has reached a plateau while the expectations of fans grow to unsustainable levels.

The one thing that could transform the club, but possibly in the wrong direction, is a massive foreign investment. This could come from the United States or, in the longer run, it could come from China. Sooner or later a wealthy businessman from China is going to buy a Premiership club, reflecting the country's emergence as a major world economic power. So we might have the Rickshaw bringing in the fans to watch the Red Dragons.

More likely, however, things will continue much as they are. For a medium-sized club, mid-table Premiership is as good as it gets. But a Cup run would hearten the fans.


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