Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard: Our promotion hopes look ‘rough’ but my vision for the club is the same

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 (Getty Images)
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Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard has admitted their League One promotion hopes already look “rough” but says his bold vision for the club remains unchanged.

Sandgaard, who last month celebrated a year since his takeover saved the Addicks from administration, has frequently talked up a return to the Premier League within five to ten years but Nigel Adkins’ side have taken just nine points from their first 11 matches of the season.

Speaking from Colorado, the Dane insists Charlton – who last night thrashed a Southampton Under-21 side 4-1 in the EFL Trophy – still have a promotion in their sights but says one of his biggest surprises in the job has been the competitiveness of League One.

“It’s going to be rough to get promoted this year with this start but we’re going to give our all, obviously, to get there,” Sandgaard told Standard Sport. "It’s still an option.

"Last season we saw how even the entire League was. Getting into it, my perception was there were a few very serious contenders who were big clubs, including Charlton. What we saw last season is any team can beat any other team in the League. It’s surprised me.

"Absolutely, I’m still very confident we’ll get there," he added of his grand plans to return the club to the top flight and European football. "My mission is still the same. Nothing has changed. I spent a lot of time at the training ground when I’m in England and everything I see points to us getting there."

Sandgaard is taking inspiration from Premier League newcomers Brentford, who are widely regarded as one of the most innovative and best run clubs in the country.

He says he is in regular contact with the Bees but stressed there is one major difference between the clubs’ approach, with Charlton keen to grow their academy and benefit from the surfeit of young talent in south London.

Brentford opted to close their academy in 2016, reasoning that an annual investment of around £2million was unlikely to pay-off given the fierce competition in the capital.

"I’m very frequently in touch with their director of football, Rasmus Ankersen," Sandgaard said. "It helps that we’re both from Denmark.

"We have a different geographical backyard and therefore we’re developing our academy rather than shut it down. I understand why they did it but we’re going in the opposite direction.

"They’ve done a lot of smart things, they’ve applied a lot of common sense. It goes a long way. That’s one of the things I’m dealing with, not only on the football side but on the business side of Charlton: getting rid of some of those things that are just like, ‘That’s how we do it in English football’."

One of the things Sandgaard wants to change is the pervasive influence of agents in the transfer market and he says Charlton now have a recruitment structure in place to be more efficient at signing players.

"There’s some very specific agents we’re simply going to avoid even if it means we’re not going to get a player in future. Because they’re worse than vultures," he said.

"But with the new recruiting system we’ve put in place, we’re more in the diving seat compared to previous seasons.

"I’d still like to see the changes from a higher level being implemented so that agents are not able to take advantage of players’ difficult situations or clubs’ difficult situations. We’ll definitely be supporting measures to try to minimise their influence.

"But we’re less dependent on being in a situation where at the end of the transfer window we’re told about a ‘good lad who you better recruit now’. And we go, ‘OK let’s do it’, because we need someone in that position.

“Now, we have the names identified by position and the No1 and No2 targets etc. We already know who’ll be good enough in each position.

"Maybe not the next transfer window or the next one but I hope very soon we’ll just be recruiting two or three players to the team and developing young players, rather than switching up the entire team. That’s obviously not healthy for building a club and a playing style."

Ultimately, Sandgaard believes the sheer number of new players recruited in the summer – 12 in total – is the reason for Charlton’s difficult start to the season but says Adkins should now have all the pieces to make a success of the job.

"A lot of it has to do with how many new players we brought in," he said. "We spent the last half of last season analysing what style of play we’d like to adopt because I think it was perfectly clear a year ago when I bought the club that there was [an attitude of] ‘You’re good footballers, just get on it with it’.

"If you look at the 12 players we ended up signing, most of them fit a new, much more fluid playing style rather than the long balls. It’s taken a while to click.

"The team’s got all the raw materials now," he added. "With that, he [Adkins] should be able to get results. Naturally it’s been difficult because it’s the first year and they’re not used to playing together."

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