Sunday, 16 January 2011

A New Era

I always liked Chris Powell. When we signed him in 1998 he was, from memory, our most expensive signing for a day or two before we signed Neil Redfearn. History suggests that Chris was a much better deal.

He was the first Charlton player to play for England in my life time, and I, like so many others, was so proud of that achievement. He actually went on to give a good enough account of himself that he played a total of five times for England and was only squeezed out in the end by the emergence of Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge. The latter of this two was a very competent left back, who has, in my view, swapped money for playing time, otherwise he would be coming to the end of his career with much more reputation. Ashley Cole is possibly the best left back of his generation - in the world. On that basis it was no shame that Chris Powell lost his place in the England Squad.

In my view Chis had probably lost his pace to the point that his place in the side was under threat when he left us the first time. It was a shame to see him go, but I was very disappointed to see John Humphrey made to look slow when he came back to us - a game on the TV at Birmingham springs to mind. Humphrey was a magnificent right back, and was one of my heroes so to have memories of him past his best was upsetting. To be fair I have managed to purge them from my memory now, but Chris avoided that by moving on when he did.

He came back, of course, and I was a little worried, but to be fair he was more than enough for us in that Championship season, even though he was not signed to play every game.

One of my favourite memories of a Charlton match was seeing Chris score that goal against Coventry. I don't know quiet what it was that made that game special, we won 4-1, the goals from Varney and Gray gave us the impression that the next season offered hope, but it was the fairy tale ending for Powell, the last real survivor of our Premier League dream. It was apparent that he would get to do his tunnel celebration when we were 3-1 up, but his goal made the game for me. It also enabled us all to go home happy after what was the worst season we had experienced for over a decade - we didn't know it was going to get much, much worse.

It was suspected that he would go on to be a coach, and then a manager. There were many that wished for a return one day. I think that when he left we all thought that we would stay in the Premier League and it would be after a spell as a manager elsewhere that he came back to us. However, we have to accept that as a Third Division club we are that 'elsewhere' for coaches to make their first break into management.

It is always a risk to appoint someone without experience, but it is also a risk to appoint someone with experience these days. Dowie and Pardew were experienced and failed miserably to achieve the targets that were expected of them. The jury is still out on Parkinson - I believe that he failed, but I also accept that he had significantly less resources than the two I have already mentioned.

Chris Powell represents a big gamble - something that I thought the new owners had enough money to avoid having to take, but it is looking increasingly like they do not.

Chris may well be a success as a manager, but we just don't know. Where he will be an asset is with the unconditional support that he will be given by the fans for quite a while. Pardew was a former player, and had been successful with West Ham and came in when we were desperate. The support he was given lasted until it became apparent that we were going to miss the automatic promotion after spending £12.5m in the Championship.

Powell will be given every opportunity to find his feet by the fans, and sometimes that can make all the difference. Just how much time he'll be given by the board remains to be seen - although if they are, as I now fear, expecting to get us promoted by tweaking here and there and hoping increases in attendance will fund player acquisitions then he may well be under pressure sooner rather than later.

The three and a half year deal looks like the board have confidence in his ability, either that or Powell would't commit to a shorter contract (guaranteed income for three plus years) but can we expect to see Chris still in post if we fail to win promotion this season or next?

Sometimes all a club needs is a short boost, and the results that come from it increase confidence and performances to the point that the corner is turned. I think we have some decent players in our squad and it is more balanced that last season, but we have lost the quality that I believe won us so many points towards our forth placed finish.

In truth I have no idea if we will be successful or not. I believe that Kinsella's involvement with Parkinson has removed some of the shine on his association with us from those golden years. I really hope that doesn't happen with Chris. Sadly I can't see how we can manage any other outcome in the long term. I know that sounds pessimistic but realistically anything less than promotion and a serious run at another one will undermine his achievements as a player. I think the odds are against that happening personally, but I could be proved wrong - I do hope so.

Anyway, all that will become apparent in the months and years to come. For now I would like to join other bloggers in welcoming Chris back, and he really is welcome.

The game at Sheffield Wednesday was acceptable - well the result was, I wasn't there. To lose a 2-0 half time lead is not ideal, but I'd have ripped your arm off for a point and two goals before kick off, so I'll take that. We are now further behind all but Southampton, and Chris starts his managership outside of the playoffs, so we could finish sixth and fail to go up and he would have lifted us from where he found us.

The rest of the month is, actually, going to be more about transfers than results, but we should see some more interest in our home games during this time, at least.

Despite the massive overkill on Charlton Life about the return of whom some insist on calling 'Sir Chris', I actually feel a little underwhelmed about the events that have transpired since New Year's Eve. The new owners clearly have less money that we all hoped, the recruitment of a new manager has been dramatic, but we have, in effect appointed a first team coach from Leicester with mo managerial experience. We are half way through the transfer window and we have signed a 20 year old on loan from Liverpool reserves.

Kap from 'From The Hill to the Valley' asked me the question as to how happy the fans would be with an inexperienced coach from Leicester if he wasn't Chris Powell?

I do hope we have a good crowd on Saturday, and I hope we get off to a winning start under our new manager, but right now I feel a little less than enthusiastic. In fact I think I'm about as unexcited about Charlton as I have been for a very long time. I hope I'm on my own with this feeling, as it doesn't bode well if the new owners are hoping that increased attendances are going to push us on to success.

Good Luck Chris, I fear you might need it.

Up the Addicks!

No comments: