ADKINS IS BACK: HOW LONG IS TOO LONG OUT OF THE GAME?
Even as an avid Charlton fan, I was surprised when Lee Bowyer suddenly announced his departure from his childhood club late last week.
While results haven’t gone his way, the new management under Thomas Sandgaard had given Bowyer time to turn luck around. There had been rumours circulating that he may be forced out but, after what seemed the worst patch of his short career, the chopping block hadn’t come out and he remained in charge. This faith and/or patience seemed to suggest Bowyer would remain Charlton top dog until the end of the season. Yet, suddenly he upped and left sticks for Birmingham city.
There are many rumours why he decided to leave. Was it that he was leaving while his pedigree was high, was it that the certainty of Championship football was an attractive proposition (at least in the short term) or was he simply jumping before he was pushed? We don’t know the answers to these questions yet but the result was the same. Charlton were managerless.
While the dip in form and perceived jadedness somewhat tainted Bowyer’s legacy, his shoes were still big ones to fill. Bowyer had started his career as a youth at Charlton and had managed to get them promoted during a Duchatelet reign and was a point off surviving relegation when Charlton seemed like they wouldn’t exist anymore. Whoever came next would have to deal with the hangover of that.
Johnnie Jackson, an even more beloved Charlton hero, took charge in the short term. Looking dapper on the touchline he managed to overturn a 2-0 deficit to Bristol Rovers to come out winners 3-2. It was an inspiring team performance and it made many fans look at the possibility of him leading the club forward.
It was Sandgaard’s first real decision since becoming owner and he quickly stated he wanted to make an encouraging long term appointment within the week. This got the theorists racing and the bookies followed suit.
Johnnie Jackson had put his name on the shortlist it seemed. He certainly had helped the team as assistant over the last few years and was a Charlton man in and out. There were some of the usual names that get thrown about including Alan Curbishley. While somewhat a meme for any management job, for Charlton he is much more a likely candidate. He had managed the team for its glory years in the Premiership (as it was called then) after getting the team there in the first place. Straight after his 15 years at The Valley, Charlton were relegated, proving beyond doubt that he had the Golden touch for this South-East London club. He is so loved that he is a permanent fixture in Charlton’s premium match-day coverage providing punditry with former players and hosted by (another former player) Scott Minto.
Chris Powell was another name mentioned. Another member of the Chalron Alumni and previous manager who managed to restore the club to the Championship before with a campaign where he won 101 points. His time was subsequently cut short due to behind the scenes interference.
In the case of Curbs and Powell. Both have been out of management for a fair whack. While Powell is still in coaching with England, Curbishley has nearly a decade without a club. Both seemed to be a bit rusty for the main role in SE7. Where Jacko had no experience. None of these frontrunners seemed to fit the bill for an immediate, long term solution announced within the week.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Nigel Adkins appeared on the scene and was announced as the successor to Bowyer.
This was a man who had been out of the game for two years and for many, seemed a little odd. And it seemed like Johnnie Jackson would leave to join Bowyer.
Yet just looking at his CV will make for encouraging reading, four promotions, three from Charlton’s current league is nothing to be sniffed at. Many Addicks fans' heads were turned when treated to a few inspiring interviews, Minbe was turned while watching the match day coverage for Adkins first game against AFC Wimbledon by the enthusiastic backing of Adkins from Matt Le Tissier based on his time at Southampton. What’s more is that Adkins has kept Johnnie on as his assistant.
Aitken’s enthusiasm and belief earnt a draw against their fellow South Londoners but only time will tell if two years will be too long out of the game. Or whether Aitkens has a fourth promotion in him out of League One.