Saturday’s heart-breaking defeat to Wigan Athletic forced Charlton fans into a frenzy of fiery words towards their previously untouchable boss.
In the eyes of some, a minority but still too many, Chris Powell’s time was up. Not only was the defeat his fault, but this season had been nothing short of a disgrace. A failure, no matter what context you wrap it up in.
However, support for Powell is still strong. Most are at least willing to give him a chance to turn things around; many want him here for years to come.
Chris Powell is still the right man for Charlton Athletic.
1) Saturday wasn’t his fault
“It’s your tactics, Powell!” was the shout from the away end on Saturday after Marc-Antoine Fortune and Jordi Gomez cruelly stole the three points away from the Addicks.
But it wasn’t. It was little, if nothing, to do with Powell’s Tactics.
Of course, not everyone is impressed by the notion of sitting deep. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather see 90 minutes of fast paced, flowing, attacking football.
Going forward also limits the opposition’s opportunities; the best form of defence is attack.
But, in some situations, it purely isn’t possible to take the game to the opposition. A situation in which the opposition have quality attacking players, especially down the wings, up against an inexperienced and weak side is one of those situations.
Powell set his team up perfectly to defend against such force. Diego Poyet’s role in front of the back four crucial, the tracking back of his three central midfield comrades equally so.
Come the final 20 minutes, it was clear certain individuals were tiring. Powell’s decision to bring on the energetic Bradley Pritchard in place of hard working Marvin Sordell was an excellent change that many criticised originally.
Sordell had ran the channels superbly all the game, and had little left to give. Pritchard’s energy immediately saw him chase, get tight to his men and assist Loic Nego in holding off the impressive James McLean.
The decision to bring on Dorian Dervite, for makeshift forward Astrit Adjaveric, has also been criticised. But Wigan were pilling on the pressure, and an extra man with a significant presence in the air was needed. It worked against Blackburn, Birmingham and to hold onto a point against Bolton; why shouldn’t it have worked then?
The two goals, one from a defensive lapse in concentration and the other poor ‘keeping, had little to do with Powell’s tactics.
Had Michael Morrison not allowed a through ball to pass him and Thuram possessed basic goalkeeping qualities, Powell would have been deemed a genius.
2) He’s gelled a team together before
It was the impossible task. Gelling 19 new signings together for a promotion push.
But Powell did it; Powell did it with style. 101 points, and 30 wins, later and Charlton had clinched the League One title and gained promotion to the second tier.
Powell’s side were classy at times, but always effective. The players pulled in from far and wide connected straight away.
This time, Powell has a solid core to build his side from. A spine remains, Ben Hamer, Morrison and Johnnie Jackson, in addition to Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins. That base is crucial, given that the boss has days, not weeks, to put a side together.
Fitting in the foreigners will be hard, but, on first sighting, there is some exceptional talent in there. Should they take on board Powell’s way of thinking, the team will be improved by their presence.
And, if Saturday is anything to go by, he’s already got his new side ticking.
I have no doubt that Chris Powell’s Charlton 2.0 will be just as effective as Chris Powell’s Charlton.
3) He can inspire a cardboard box to run a marathon
Think of some of Powell’s greatest results as Charlton boss. What qualities define those games?
It’s almost always determination, grit and a will to win that knows no limits.
The Cardiff 5-4, the Bolton 3-2, the Ipswich 1-1; in every game the Addicks have looked beaten and fought back against the odds to get a well-earned result.
From that, is the perfect metaphor for this season.
The Addicks look down and out after losing their player of the season, their talismanic figure and having the luck of an expert bee keeper who becomes allergic to honey.
But, if any man is going to inspire this side to safety, it’s Chris Powell.
Even Saturday’s defeat showed signs of the trademark Powell inspired determination and fight. A makeshift side of Charlton nobodies and Standard Liege rejects competed with Wigan for so long, and deserved the victory purely for that.
When your luck is out, and you’re down the bottom, inspiration is as important as skill. There is no other manager who can greater inspire than Chris Powell.
4) He’s an organiser – he doesn’t need to be a master tactician
One of those famous qualities of Chris Powell’s Charlton is grit; grit they acquire from Powell’s excellent organisation.
Powell isn’t a tactical genius, he isn’t going to play a 3-1-2-4 formation with a libero and a false-nine (whatever they are), but his side will be set up to a job, a job they have achieved more often than not over the past three years.
Even this season, Powell’s organisation has been very good. Individual mistakes, poor finishing and bad luck are Charlton’s main problems, not Powell’s tactics. The fact, when we lose, we rarely lose by more than one shows that.
And our wins, especially those against Blackburn and Bolton, have been based around that outstanding organisation and shape Powell gives his team.
Unlike some would like to believe, Powell knows what he’s doing.
5) The players respect him
Dale Stephens suggested doubts around Powell’s long-term future was a huge factor in his decision to move to Brighton; Yann Kermorgant’s failure to sign a contract was rumoured to be linked to Powell’s failure to do likewise.
It’s obvious the players have an incredible amount of respect for their boss. They are Chris Powell players. They weren’t attracted to Charlton by Charlton Athletic Football Club; they were attracted to Charlton by vision instilled in them by Chris Powell.
Not only does that theory work in attracting and keeping players, it works in getting the best out of them.
Several players, such as Morrison and Kermorgant, have arrived in SE7 on the back of a difficult time in their career and become Valley heroes. Several others, such as Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins, have had their careers pushed on by Powell.
Stephens’ desire to work with Powell clearly shows his upturn in form this season has some link to his manager; the boss will no doubt be working desperately had to rekindle Marvin Sordell’s spark.
These aren’t the best players in the world, and it certainly isn’t the best squad, the respect and admiration they have for the gaffer adds an extra 10% to their ability.
6) He’s the perfect man to nurture the youngsters
It’s clear that Duchatelet loves the idea of a side full of home grown players, and it’s clear the Addicks will need to rely on some of the club’s academy graduates for the remainder of the season.
The perfect man for Duchatelet’s aims is already on his payroll.
Powell is the man who gave Solly a chance, and the full-back hasn’t looked back since. He’s also given debuts to six academy graduates during his time in charge, and gave Carl Jenkinson the bulk of his appearances in a Charlton shirt.
Much like the senior pros respect Powell, it’s apparent the youngsters have a desire to do well for their boss. Who else would you want nurturing the development of the club’s future, and present?
Poyet, Jordan Cousins and Harry Lennon were superb on Saturday, and they will continue to be so under Powell’s stewardship.
7) He can say no
With most still dubious about Roland Duchatelet and friends, can you really trust him to appoint a manager?
Surely any managerial change would just see the Belgium appoint a ‘yes’ man; a puppet in the dressing room of his plans.
Powell is his own man and a man of integrity. If he feels the need to, he’ll say no.
If Powell stays, he’ll be in control and Duchatelet, with his signings, will assist. If Powell goes, Duchatelet will all but take charge.
8) He deserves a chance to put things right
Quite simply, Powell is the best thing to happen to this football club in quite some time.
To discard of him after a tough spell would be sickening.
Powell has worked wonders, even during this season. The squad isn’t good enough. It’s arguably the worst in the division with almost every other side improving. The target this season was always to stay up, and, had it not been for some rotten luck, Charlton would be at least a few points clear of the drop zone.
In this world of knee-jerk sackings and selling club legends for peanuts, patience from the board and every Addick is needed.
Powell will keep us up; Powell deserves the chance to attempt to lead us to greater things.