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23 November 2015

What's gone wrong?

The breaking news that Tony Watt is off on loan to Cardiff puzzled a lot of fans last night. While there's a general feeling that his performances haven't been great lately, his early appearances were a ray of sunshine last winter. Surely that player is still there, just wanting the right kind of management to bring him out. So it seems odd to give a rival team that potential opportunity.

Gradually, though, the consensus decided that there must have been a falling out between Watt and Karel Fraeye. Rumours of Watt's difficult personality have followed him around Europe, to the extent that he denied them in some detail. My impression is that he's quite immature, even for his age, and probably a delight to work with when things are going well ... It's sad that his career is stuttering, and I hope for his sake the move does reignite his undoubted talent.

But, if the decision to send him away is justified, what does it say about the decision to buy him? Let's look at the history.

He joined Standard from Celtic in July 2014 for a "seven figure sum", which I've seen quoted as £1.25million, on a five year contract. At that time, Standard was still owned by Duchatelet, and Guy Luzon was the head coach. He seems to have played well initially but after Luzon was replaced by Ivan Vukomanovic in October, Watt's appearances were limited. He had become an expensive luxury for Standard.

Watt joined Charlton for the usual undisclosed fee in January 2015, shortly before Guy Luzon became head coach. It's hard to resist the conclusion that Luzon's name was already pencilled in when the Watt deal was made. It must have seemed as if Luzon was the right kind of management for this expensive asset. Perhaps there was still a chance to get some return on the investment.

Let's assume that Charlton paid £1.25million for him. That amounts to a transfer of that money from one Duchatelet club to another: value that Duchatelet cashed in when he sold Standard in June this year. If Watt is sold for less than that - which seems likely - it means that Charlton's finances have paid for what appears to have been a bad decision by Standard in July 2014.

A lot of speculation, of course, but it's  basically the same story as with the head coaches: if the decision to sack them is correct, then there must have been something wrong with the decision to hire them. Or vice versa. Either way, it's still more evidence of the bad football judgement of the Duchatelet setup.

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