Chris Powell’s first summer as a manager has filled the vast majority of Charlton fans with an optimism we have not seen in a long time, and has struck fear into other teams across League One. Powell has really put his own stamp on the squad, releasing the majority of players and bringing in new found quality to try to finally push us back to where we belong.
It’s important to remember what the club, and fans, have been through over the last few years. Since the departure of Alan Curbishley, we have seen successive managers come and go with little success. Alan Pardew gave us some optimism whilst in the Premiership, and most fans were happy to keep him as manager when relegated, however he was unable to produce the goods required. Money was thrown around for players who were not good enough for Charlton (or their new price tag), and ultimately Pardew joined the quickly growing list of departed managers.
Phil Parkinson was promoted to manager in what was a largely unpopular choice, although the deep financial problems at the club meant we could not afford a whole new management structure. Quite a few fans sympathised with Parkinson and were not that happy to see him leave. We were not playing well but were keeping our head above water and in the play off places. However with the new owners finally in place and giving the cautious optimism for our future (following what can only be described as heroic work and financial commitment by Mr Murray to keep the club afloat), they understandably wanted to move the club forward and have their own man in the hot seat. Cue Chris Powell.
Powell started his reign positively – with four wins on the spin and the shrewd purchase of Bradley Wright-Phillips, one of the few high points in a largely unentertaining season. However the now familiar feeling of “too good to last” at Charlton reared its ugly head once again, and we went on an impressive run of two wins in our last 19 games of the season.
For me, a lot of the reason for this was to do with the lack of quality and depth in the squad. With the loss of Jackson due to injury and Martin being recalled from his loan, we lost two of the best creative sparks in the squad and were unable to replace them. Eccleston showed bags of potential and promise, however was not given enough of a chance, seemingly unable to work sufficiently well with Wright-Phillips. Couple all of this with Powell trying to play a better quality of football, and unfortunately we couldn’t push forward as we had hoped.
I think most fans, deep down, would not have been that surprised to see Powell depart following such a shocking run of form in his first attempt at management. Equally, I think most fans were thrilled that the owners seemed to really understand the ‘Charlton way’, and have not only stuck with Powell, but given him the backing in the transfer market to bring in his own squad of players.
I said ‘I think’ most fans are happy with Powell being given the opportunity he has been afforded by the new owners. Well, I’m sure the vast majority are thrilled with not only the investment in the squad, but the way Powell has gone about restructuring the squad and club. Players have been moved on, and Powell has really asserted his authority. The likes of Racon, Abbot, Sodje and fans favourite Semedo have all been shown the door, and have been replaced almost exclusively for players of equal or better ability.
I think my favourite piece of work by Powell so far however is how he has treated Christian Dailly. As much as I enjoyed Dailly’s performances in the 2009/2010 season, he finally succumbed to his age last year with poor performances, the loss of positioning and being beaten regularly for pace. This culminated in three red cards. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for Dailly, and the only reason for his poor performances were his age, and injuries to other players meant he was forced to play a lot more than he should have.
Powell has offered Dailly a new contract on reduced terms to compensate for the fact that he will be back up this season – which is exactly what he should be. Powell has acted properly throughout, offered the correct contract, and left it to Dailly to decide what is best for him.
Along side these decisions by Powell have been clever movements in the transfer market. We have paid fees for some players, but a lot of first team players for the upcoming season have been brought in on a free transfer. Given our position in League One, I strongly believe this speaks volumes for how well Powell has sold the club, and the genuine ethos Powell and the new owners have brought to the club.
Highly sought after Bournemouth midfielder Danny Hollands made the decision to join us over signing a new contract at AFCB, or signing elsewhere. Powell moved very quickly to snap up the centre midfielder and I strongly believe he’ll play a big role this season and in the future. Paul Hayes has also come into the squad, from the Championship and on a free transfer, and allegedly rejected Championship clubs to join us. Others such as ex–Arsenal youngsters Cedric Evina, Mikel Alonso (Xabi’s older brother), and Matt Taylor from Exeter have all moved to SE7 on free transfers, and I believe all have improved the squad.
Powell has supplemented the free transfers with several ‘fee commanding’ players, most impressively Danny Green – a promising winger with a great cross (something we missed last year) and Rhoys Wiggins to fill the troublesome left back position.
Others have come in, and whilst I could go into detail on each player to show the depth of transfers made by Powell, the truth is this is now his squad, his promises, and his to deliver on. Our saviour Chris Powell will be under the spotlight for a lot of this season, with the fans and owners expecting promotion given the new squad. The media are circling for Powell already given his poor run last season, making him one of the favourites for the ‘first sacking of the season’.
For me, unless Powell and the squad go drastically wrong, I don’t think that will happen. The owners have shown us they are smart, ambitious and most of all appear to be football men – and hopefully will give Powell and the squad time to get where we need to be.
All the fans seem to be optimistic for the new season. More impressive however is that fans of other clubs appear to already fear Charlton and the team Powell has built. For the first time in a long time we have had a real reason to look forward to the new season. Come 6th August, it will be interesting to see how many fans are there, and whether any of those 12,000 plus fans that left following our demise have been tempted to come back. Ultimately the squad that has been assembled cannot afford to fail. The CAFC faithful have strongly put their backing behind Sir Chrissy P and the new owners. Lets all hope they live up to their promise and have a season to remember.
Written by Sunny Seabrooke, We Are Going Up’s Charlton Athletic Blogger
Sunny tweets at @sunnyseabrooke