Charlton have had four managers since 2021 and are about to embark on appointing manager number five. With such instability at the club, it is almost impossible to build solid foundations and is demoralising for the players who find themselves rated by some managers and not by others.
George Dobson is currently regarded by most Charlton fans as the best player in the team but under Nigel Adkins could not hold down a starting berth. Albie Morgan was a favourite of Ben Garner but not of the managers who went before him, and so it goes on. Formation-wise, we have seen different tactical systems deployed by the various managers and consequently the team has no identity or consistency in terms of playing style.
I have written many times about the importance of the culture you build at a football club on and off the pitch and I found it interesting to hear the latest managerial casualty, Ben Garner, say that the culture of the club is flawed and that you can keep changing the manager, but until you
change the culture nothing material will change. He made no secret of the fact that he felt unsupported in terms of player recruitment, and it is never good when that is aired in public for all concerned as it only ever has one outcome – the sack! Just look at Scott Parker at Bournemouth, let alone Garner.
Many fans have openly said that they believe this is the worst team they have watched in their time supporting the club and sadly many are now voting with their feet. In my time in football, there have been low times too but I have been fortunate to oversee four promotions and two championship successes, so I think I have an understanding of what structures and strategies work and what don’t. If you look back at the state of the club on and off the pitch in 2011, there were some serious challenges, but they were met head on. Chris Powell was appointed manager and the club and the playing squad was reconstructed, resulting in the team winning League One with a record 101 points and then finishing ninth in the Championship. That experience alone should have encouraged the owner to seek to share that experience as it is the same league, if only by a few meetings, an invite to the boardroom, or an exchange of emails. But I quickly realised and was told by third parties that the owner felt that seeking advice was not necessary as ‘football is easy’.
That is his prerogative as the owner but then he went on to publicly criticise the way the club was run in the Premier League years and made comparisons with the mismanagement at Derby County, which is grossly unfair and completely out of context with a club building a Premier League squad and rebuilding its stadium at the same time. Trust me, that was some challenge, and a lot of people worked very hard with long hours and total commitment. The financial support of the board at that time and particularly Richard Murray, Bob Whitehand, Derek Chappell, David Sumners and the late Sir Maurice Hatter deserves better. I am not sure what making that criticism publicly achieved. Having accessibility to people around you with firm opinions should not be viewed as a challenge to your authority but rather a basis for good decision making.
The next few weeks will be crucial for the club as they are edging closer to the relegation places and cannot afford to keep losing matches to teams around them in the table. I understand the frustration fans are feeling as I share their pain, but what the team needs for the forthcoming three home fixtures is the support of the fans. My instincts tell me we are moving ever closer to a period of vocal protests but above all it is important we all do what we can to be part of a solution and not part of a problem.