EXCLUSIVE: The inside story behind Guy Luzon’s appointment as head coach

Roland Duchatelet

Revealed! The inside scoop of how Guy Luzon was appointed*:

The Valley sat deathly still and silent on a cold January night in South London. Darkness enveloped the stadium, save for one small window were a soft glow continued to burn into the black.

Katrien Meire and Roland Duchatelet had been in that boardroom since dawn, yet even though the night was getting old, they had no intention of leaving. There was still work to do.

Scrunched up coffee cups and half-eaten takeaways littered the cluttered tabletop. Documents, printouts, folders – all were strewn across the room after being passed through numerous hands and subjected to intense scrutiny.

The support team had long gone, leaving behind their laptops and notes for their bosses to pour over one final time. But Roland and Katrien carried on. Charlton needed a new head coach, but they still hadn’t found their man.

The football world had been scoured, pros and cons weighed up, available candidates brought to interview, enquiries been made about the availability of possible names.

And still, nothing. The right coach for Charlton Athletic had not been found.

“Have you checked those?”, said Roland pointing to a stack of CVs piled up on the corner of the table.

“Yes,” Katrien replied wearily, “Twice. None of them are the right man for this great club.”

Roland, who had until that point been pacing around the room for most of the night, suddenly slumped into a chair. His shoulders dropped. He looked a man defeated.

“I’m stumped Katrien. I don’t know where to turn.”

“Listen, are you sure about Curbishley? The fans seem desperate to have him…”, said Katrien.

“Oh I’ve already spoken to that Alec Cabuchey”, Roland replied irritably with a brusque, dismissive wave of the hand. “He kept going on about how he’d brought this club from nothing to the cusp of European football or something like that. Not bad I guess, but he just wouldn’t accept that he’d have to make do with that striker from Újpest in the transfer window.”

Katrien rolled her eyes. She knew who the player her boss was referring to.

“You mean the – “

“Yes, the kid with 2 goals in 35 appearances,” Roland interacted, “But my people promise me he has the attributes to be a success in England.”

No reply. It was approaching 3am. Katrien began to wonder if it was worth just postponing it another day. Dealing with the Sky Sports scrum and fans’ impatience for one more day. Perhaps after a night’s sleep they’d see things differently.

“Wait!”, said Roland, unnecessarily loud for the quietness of the room and jarringly interrupting Katrien’s thoughts, “I have an idea.”

“Yes?”

“What about the guy who was here when we arrived?”

“You mean Chris Powell?”

“Yes. I’m told he’s turned around the fortunes of Hartlefield or someone like that.”

Katrien wondered if he was being serious.

It appeared he was.

“He has. They’re level on points with us. But Roland, that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Roland shrugged. “Why not? I’ve hired coaches I’ve fired before.”

“Roland, you insisted in public you had respect for the man, before forcing him to pick players from the network and firing him in brutal fashion”, Katrien reminded him.

“Oh I’m sure if we just explained that – “

“He once had to play Nego and Thuram…In the same game!”

Roland looked across the table at Katrien. For a moment, neither uttered a word.

“Fair point”, he finally said.

The pair settled back into silence. The Belgian chairman rested his forehead in his hands. The grinding of his teeth crunched through the quiet.

Katrien flicked through CVs. It was pointless. The carefully calculated decision to fire Bob Peeters was almost regrettable – who knew finding a replacement would be this hard?

In fact, who knew Peeters wouldn’t work out? His record at Waasland-Beveren seemed perfect for a role in the second tier of English football. His history in South-East London seemed certain to endear him to the local fans.

She was beginning to feel sorry for herself when a small detail on one of the many CVs caught her eye.

Katrien snatched at the sheet. Read it over. Then read it over again. It couldn’t be, how had they missed this?

“Surely not,” she whispered.

“Huh?”, Roland perked up. “What’s that?”

“Roland,” Katrien said cautiously, afraid it was to good to be true, “Roland, I think we’ve missed the right candidate.”

“Let me see”, he replied before snatching the sheet of paper out of her hand.

“Pfft. This is Guy Luzon! I know I don’t mind firing and re-hiring, but this guy’s another matter. His long ball football instigated a riot at Standard Liege!”

“Just read it.”

Roland did. And slowly the smirk left his face. After five minutes, his face turned serious.

“Oh my God. This is it. Luzon has all the required credentials we were looking for for a team in the Championship. He’s Charlton’s perfect head coach,” his eyes lit up. He was on his feet.

“Of all the head coaches in the world! Of all the candidates we’ve looked at. It turns out the perfect man was right under our noses all along. You couldn’t make it up!”

The Belgian was almost bouncing with excitement. “This is such grea –  wait. What’s wrong?”

Katrien was not sharing his enthusiasm.

“It’s another network hire”, she said forlornly, “the fans will just think we appointed him because he was cheap and easy.

“And I know how much you care about the fans.”

Roland sat back down. She was right. This was not going to go down well.

“Bollocks. The whole reason I do all this is for them. I want to make Charlton supporters happy. I want to make them dream.

“If I hire Luzon they’ll think we’re a laughing stock. That we haven’t taken this seriously.”

“Well,” replied Katrien, “we’ll just have to keep looking.”

She waited for a response but none came. Roland seemed deep in thought, his brow furrowed. A heaviness weighed upon him. Finally, he rose to his feet and slowly walked over to the window and looked down upon his creation.

There it stood, in all its glory. His new pitch glistening green. Every blade seared onto the fans’ imagination.

“They can blame me,” said Roland, “I’ll take the blame.”

“No! – “

“Yes. Yes Katrien. I love this club. I’ve only been to see them play twice, but I love this club. I’m prepared to take the criticism, the barbs, the jibes. If it means making the right decision, I’ll do it.”

Katrien looked over at Roland. There stood he stood at the window: Statuesque, hands behind his back, eyes staring into the stadium he called his own.

Neither said anything for a long while.

Finally, he span back round and switched into action.

“Get Guy on the phone,” ordered Roland.

“Oh, and don’t forget to follow up with Arsenal about that Jordan Cousins – Alcorcón could do with that extra £2m.”

*None of this whatsoever actually took place.

About Joe Hall

Editor of Valley Talk
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