Thomas Sandgaard explained the Addicks are set to head into the 2022/23 season in much better position than they started the 2021/22 campaign.
The Charlton Owner and CEO was speaking to supporter representatives at Thursday’s Fans’ Forum at The Valley.
During the meeting Sandgaard was asked about new men’s first-team Manager, Ben Garner, recruitment and improvements to the medical team. Details on these topics can be found below.
He explained that the attacking style of football that Charlton want to play will help the Addicks with their recruitment: “Ben Garner is really smart, he really knows his stuff. It is up to us as a team to assist with the recruiting, so we get the players that fit better and better. There were actually a few players, which I think you noticed, especially loan players, that didn’t work out last season. Loan players can, if they are right, actually have a big impact – we’ll try to do much better on that.
“Already, with Ben, we’ve had many, many hours of recruiting discussions. We can already tell that there are players that are more interested in coming to play for us, to a higher degree than we’ve seen before. We’ve seen some of the bigger clubs, talking loans, specifically contacting us now, because of the hiring of Ben Garner, so it has had a positive impact on that front too.”
The club’s recruiting is done by Garner, Sandgaard, Director of Recruiting, Steve Gallen, and Director of Analytics, Martin Sandgaard, with a range of scouts and analysts supporting them.
Sandgaard was asked if Garner has final say on a player coming into the club. He explained: “We are looking for a number of players for each position. We all agree on the names and then Steve Gallen picks up the phone and calls the agent. Steve doesn’t even call the agent unless we all agree.
“It's still my money, so I’m still involved. We have to agree and if Ben Garner doesn’t agree on a player then obviously we are not getting him. It has got to be players that fit into the team. We have some obvious spots that we need to fill now, especially defensively which is an area of focus.
“Our targets have been worked on for many months, that list of players are ones that fit the playing style we want. Ben Garner has brought a few additional names to it, and there has been very positive input from him – it is that whole pool of names that we are looking at and negotiating with. Some are in early stages, some are further along.
“We are close on several players, sometimes those are the ones that take the longest to get across the line.”
When asked how he was feeling with the appointment of Garner, he replied: “I am confident. There are 23 other clubs as we know but what I am excited about is that, in Ben Garner, we have a manager that fits the criteria of the playing style we’d like to play here – a style consistent with the playing style they are being taught in the academy, which is something I wanted to get to. It has taken a few steps to get to this. I’m confident in terms of playing style and how we are developing our players. We are doing much more to develop the individual players we have. Ben Garner and the individual performance coaches will help on improving the quality.”
Sandgaard was asked about Charlton’s injury record in recent years. He explained it was a problem he had identified and further improvements were being made.
He said: “It was one of the most obvious things that stood out when I bought the club. We made some changes to the physio side of things that helped a little bit but we still had too many injuries. One of the things that we have done is made contact to one of the best sports medicine clinics in the country. We have a couple of players that we are now running through that for evaluation and can significantly improve their training regimen."
Sandgaard added that the club are looking at getting players into a better training schedule, similar to Premier League teams, which is something Garner had been pushing and added: “It’s a lot of little things, better physios, the best professional knowledge to give the players better training programmes and a better training schedule.”
Supporter representatives in the meeting said that the season started badly last term and asked if it would be the same this season.
Sandgaard responded: “We will be much more ready for the start of this season than we were last season. That was probably as bad as it could possibly get. We got some decent signings in but some were after the start of the season. We showed up for pre-season games with primarily academy players. There was a big gap between the recruiting model we had back then and what we do now.
“We were in the relegation zone quickly last season and we don’t want to be there again. We are doing everything we can, working with the agents as much as we can to get players in, the sooner the better.
“We are doing everything we can, without vastly overpaying [on wages] which would put us in difficult long-term position.
“We are all on it. From Monday when the players come in and get tested, they each have a programme and then they go to Spain [on the Saturday] – it is all laid out. It is a whole different club when it comes to that, compared to last summer.
“In terms of preparation it was not ideal last season, and under ESI it was even worse right before I got into it. It is a whole different preparation now.”
Sandgaard explained that the signings made this summer would be a combination of loan and permanent signings.
Asked about rumours of there being a sell-on fee should Burnley sell Nick Pope this summer, he confirmed that the club would benefit if Pope was sold.
He said because of the size of the stadium he wants to drive revenue and getting as many paying supporters in the stadium as possible can only help with that. He said the club have much better sponsorship revenue than when he took over which is helpful.
Sandgaard added that the club had the third or fourth largest player budget in League One last season and he is going to keep it pretty much at the same amount which, he said, “will give us a chance to get to where we want to be”.