Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pardew Gone - Who Should Be Next?

As Charlton fans, we are not used to this degree of managerial turnover. But as of this evening, the Board will begin to draw up a shortlist of candidates for the role as Charlton's fifth first team manager since May 2006.

Alan Pardew's career as Charlton manager had begun promisingly, but since the end of 2007 it has degenerated almost into a farce of poor results, abysmal performances, illogical team selection and questionable transfer decisions.

If he were an easier man to like on a personal level, I would feel more sympathy since after all, his long-term managerial career looks challenged at this point.

Whilst his very visible self-confidence was welcome after it was clear Les Reed was embarrssingly out of his depth, he has been revealed as being all media spin, yet with no end product.

At another club he may prosper again since surely his decent record at Reading (especially) and West Ham, was not down merely to good fortune. However having tried countless players and team selections, it is clear he has lost the ability to motivate the squad.

Once he also patently lost the fans after the Barnsley game, it was curtains for him, and fairly obviously so too. It is thus rather confusing that the Board waited until this final Valley humiliation to wield their axe, and one has to hope these wasted three weeks have not done irreversible damage to our hopes of staying up.

Now the club finds itself in an almost identical position to the one it found itself in almost two years ago. Pardew arrived after 19 games of 2006/7 when the team had accumulated just 12 points.

After 18 games of 2008/9 and having picked up only 16 points, the Board faces another vital managerial decision. In fairness to Pards, he only had 19 games to get it right - the new man will have perhaps 26, assuming no decision is made before next weekend.

I think the club must choose (quickly) between either opting for a short-term 'emergency' appointment with the sole aim of survival, or a true long-term appointment which importantly acknowledges that relegation is today a very real possibility, regardless of who steps in.

Whichever option they choose, our precarious finances may steer us towards the 'promising but cheap' rather than the 'accomplished but expensive'.

If the club goes down the long-term route, it's vital for fans in my view to accept that we need a manager that we would want beginning 2009/10 in either the Championship or League One, and not merely the former. It is Pardew and his players that have got us into this mess; we should not view our continued presence in this division with any sense of 'entitlement'.

Moreover, most fans (me certainly included) welcomed Pardew's appointment enthusiastically, but have since watched our hopes for him dashed. Hence let's not rush to judgment if the next appointment doesn't initially set our pulses racing. After all, when Curbs was handed sole charge of the team in the mid-1990s, many argued the Board had jettisoned the wrong one.

Having set out the context above, I think one can reasonably divide the likely candidates into three buckets:

1. Charlton-related appointments: someone from the existing coaching staff, former players or (dare one say it?) former managers. However given the last two managers would fall into this category, and neither worked out, does it suggest an outsider might be warranted this time?

2. Out-of-work managers: some would be far more speculative than others (are they even looking for work?). Others may be so-called 'big names' particularly attracted to a possible short-term appointment, Joe Kinnear style.

3. Currently employed managers or coaches: given Charlton are currently 42nd on the League ladder, we are a less appealing prospect than we once were. However, with still reasonable crowds and (yes) a half-decent squad, we may be more appealing to certain Championship managers than we realise, and certainly to those below.

In the first category, the names inevitably high up the shortlist would include Phil Parkinson (now in caretaker charge), Mark Kinsella, Chris Powell and of course, Alan Curbishley.

Whilst I would understand the logic of appointing Curbs, especially on a six-month contract, this would be far from my first choice. Just because we have so far failed to find a replacement of his calibre, does not imply it is right to go running back to him.

But from his perspective, I'd imagine it's getting surprisingly interesting again. He is viewed (unfairly) in many quarters as having failed at West Ham, and I don't see an attractive opening for him elsewhere in the near-term (and certainly none that would let him remain in his Essex house).

I would be vociferously against the appointment of any of Kinsella, Powell or say Mark Robson. This is no time for such speculative gambles, especially sentimental ones. I feel strongly that some of our current predicament is a function of too much appointment 'from within'. If it means Kinsella has to accept a P45, then so be it; we're not a charity.

Phil Parkinson would be an easy and seamless choice, but he is surely tainted by association, and whilst a sensible caretaker option, he ought not be considered seriously for the role.

His most recent managerial role at Hull was a failure, and only if the senior players championed his cause, would I be comfortable with his appointment. Then again, most of our senior players have as much credibility as Pards at this point.

Other unlikely options with Charlton connections include Mark Bowen (a well-regarded assistant to Mark Hughes), Ronnie Moore, Jorge Costa, Keith Peacock and perhaps Paolo di Canio.

Bowen might be a surprisingly interesting choice, and he may well view negative rumours about the future of Hughes at Man City as likely to jeopardise his own position, encouraging him to consider a new challenge.

Ronnie Moore (who many Charlton fans including me 'helped to buy' in the 1980s), meanwhile has a solid lower division managerial record at several clubs. However at 55 years old, the club might be better served opting for a younger hungrier manager. Few currently attending the Valley regularly would remember his long blond locks anyhow.

As for the others mentioned, they would be appointments firmly from the heart not the head, and a rather irregularly beating one too.

All of which brings us to the second category, namely out-of-work managers. Sam Allardcye was very public in today's Times newspaper about his availability, and was clearly an unqualified success at Bolton, but was treated abysmally by Newcastle.

An advocate of a 'scientific' approach to the game, his methods might not be welcomed by all, but we'd certainly be considerably harder to beat. Whilst keen for work, would he really consider Charlton and could we afford him anyhow? And if he took us down, can you really see him managing in League One?

For Billy Davies meanwhile, it could be second time lucky for the wee Scot since he was offered the job before Iain Dowie. Like Allardyce, he has a admirable record and was treated poorly by his last club. He would be cheaper too, and is clearly one of the front-runners. His feisty but honest style would be most welcome at a time like this.

I suggested after the Barnsley game that Glenn Hoddle might be an interesting albeit controversial choice. Although he attended the same school of self-aggrandizement as Pards, he was somewhat more worthy of it than our former manager. When you've been the most gifted midfielder of your generation, and managed Spurs, Chelsea and England, you will at least command respect. We would begin to play with some panache too.

Lawrie Sanchez would be an interesting choice. Intelligent but irreverent, he carved out a reputation at Wycombe before performing minor-miracles as Northern Ireland manager. Jettisoned without good reason by Fulham, they almost received their comeuppance before Roy Hodgson's late late intervention. He might even persuade David Healy to join on loan.

Aidy Boothroyd was sacrificed just two weeks ago, and his and Pardew's paths have now taken another uncannily similar turn. Their respective club's form began to unravel at virtually the same time, although the Hornets fans were certainly not demonstrating for Boothroyd's head. A thoughtful student of the game, and at just 37 years old is both young and experienced, a rare combination. His Watford side was renowned for the long ball, but did he merely mould the tactics to suit the players he had rather than the other way around?

At a time of such distress, Ian Holloway's humour would be most welcome. His impressive record at three clubs was rather ruined by relegation at Leicester, although it should be noted he was not their manager for the whole season. Unquestionably passionate and instantly likeable, he would be a realistic choice and one with experience of winning promotion from League One.

Some high-profile options rather out of leftfield might for example include Graeme Souness, David O'Leary, Joe Royle or George Graham. Each would surely only make sense on a short-term deal (with Graham perhaps the pick of the bunch).

Whilst it's inevitable that the club will look at currently employed managers/coaches for possible candidates, there is a financial compensation aspect which the club can probably ill-afford at this point. Nonetheless, there are certainly plenty of interesting managers who would bring the appropriate amount of fresh ideas, enthusiasm and prior record of achievement.

Within the Championship, one has to inject a sad amount of realism into proceedings. After all, despite his Millwall connections, Mick McCarthy was a genuine Charlton candidate before Dowie was appointed, yet he would hardly leave Wolves now to rebuild the mess at Charlton.

The same is doubtless true of any existing Championship manager with some genuine promotion ambitions this season, unless they are operating on a ludicrously tight budget.

Amongst the more realistic and potentially attractive candidates however would be Gary Johnson, Simon Davey, Roberto Martinez, Chris Coleman, and Brian Laws.

With his neat Bristol City side slowly losing the impressive momentum built up over the past two seasons, this may be an opportune time to take a good look at Gary Johnson. He has a consistently impressive record at both City and Yeovil, preceded by an odd but presumably insightful spell as Latvia's coach. Known as a motivator, and with clear 'form' in both the Championship and League One, he must surely be near the top of any Charlton director's shortlist.

This type of challenge may have come a little early for both Davey and Martinez, but both (especially the latter) are carving out reputations as some of the most promising young managers around.

Anyone who saw Swansea pass the ball around us on the opening day, will not be surprised to see them in clear play-off contention having walked League One last season. Martinez would be a brave choice, but one I would welcome for its audacity. Foreign managers have a mixed reputation, but if he were British, I dare say Messrs Murray and Chappell would be driving down the M4 as we speak.

Barnsley were impressive at the Valley three weeks ago, and showed our fans how an organised and drilled side is meant to play. Davey took them to the FA Cup semi-final, but is yet to prove he can build a side to compete in the Championship, and it may be premature to champion his skills at this point.

Chris Coleman is operating under an austere budget at Coventry, yet just a couple of years ago was one of the most exciting young managerial prospects in the country. Fulham have gone backwards since he left, whilst a short spell at Real Sociedad will have been as they say, an 'experience'. However after Dowie and Pardew, surely the club has tired of anyone that arrives with strong ex-Palace connections? And like Pardew, he has indulges in a little too much self-love for my liking.

Brian Laws performed miracles at Scunthorpe, but has had a mixed record at Sheffield Wednesday. However like Martin O'Neill, he played for many years under perhaps the greatest manager of them all (Clough), and like the Irishman has a reputation as someone not to be messed with. However successfully ensconced at another Championship club with 20,000+ crowds, would he be tempted away?

There are several interesting managers operating below the Championship. By definition, regardless of the relative stability of their current role, at least Charlton would be a clear 'step up' in their career. Some interesting candidates would include Danny Wilson, Steve Tilson, Darren Ferguson, Nigel Adkins, Peter Taylor, and Mike Newell. Each would represent a highly conservative appointment, one with financial constraints and the realism of our potential relegation firmly at the fore (but none the worse for it necessarily).

Wilson is only 48 yet he feels like the forgotten man of management having guided Barnsley to the Premiership in 1997. After stuttering at Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and MK Dons, he has found his feet again at Hartlepool winning promotion and securing a solid mid-table League One berth.

Tilson meanwhile has performed admirably on the seaside in Southend, securing two promotions on a limited budget (witness our steal of Nicky Bailey for example), whilst ensuring some stability following their inevitable subsequent relegation. The archetypal 'Essex man', he would surely jump at the chance to rejoin his former midfielder at the Valley.

Darren Ferguson certainly has the managerial genes, and whilst one might declare 'nepotism', his record at Peterborough suggests his achievements are on merit. At just 36 years of age, he would bring youth and presumably outstanding contacts, but a recent conviction for assault (on his wife) would put question marks against his character.

For those sick of Pardew's arrogance, the arrival of Nigel Adkins and his refreshingly self-deprecating approach would be most welcome. A failure to put up a decent Championship survival battle last season would count against him, but his ability to immediately launch another promotion battle suggests he has built the type of stability at Scunthorpe that we are now sorely lacking.

Like the aforementioned Hoddle, Peter Taylor has both Spurs and England connections. However despite his reputation as one of the game's best coaches, his managerial record is mixed suggesting that his understated personality is not best-suited to the hot seat. Leicester fans would argue that their current predicament can be traced directly back meanwhile to his disastrous brief reign there.

Mike Newell has recently joined Grimsby after a spell out of the game, but his sides earned a reputation for success playing good football. Not one to suffer fools gladly (and very publicly so), he would demand respect even if the Board might fear another faux pas. Given that he was touted by some (including me) as a candidate back in the summer of 2006, nothing has happened since which should make him any less so today.

It's my day job to select managers of another kind, so I trust you'll excuse my extravagantly wordy assessment of the Board's realistic options as I see them.

There is clearly no single outstanding candidate that ticks all of our boxes. I hope they do not go for the 'easy option' of Parkinson in the name of stability, because stability in our current situation implies relegation.

I would not be surprised if the club opts for a short-term fix, and then makes a more informed decision in the summer, hopefully whilst still in the Championship. If they go running back to Curbs then so be it, but at some point we need to get his successor right so let's move on. It'd be the equivalent of comfort sex with your ex-wife.

In order to summarise where I think we stand today, this is how I would price up a book on our next 'permanent' manager:

Davies 3/1
Parkinson 7/2
Curbishley 4/1
Johnson 15/2
Sanchez 9/1
Boothroyd 12/1
Martinez 12/1
Taylor 16/1
Newell 16/1
Holloway 16/1
Coleman 16/1
Allardyce 16/1
Laws 20/1
Bowen 20/1
Tilson 20/1
Adkins 25/1
Davey 25/1
Kinsella 25/1
Graham 33/1
Hoddle 33/1
Royle 33/1
Wilson 33/1
50/1 Bar

And after much consideration, I am pleased to declare the following:

NY Addick endorses Lawrie Sanchez, Roberto Martinez, Gary Johnson or Billy Davies.


At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Toronto Addick said...

Wow NYA, a real 'buffet' choice here, but out of your list which ones are really available (or as you mentioned, who out of them would want to venture into SE7?). I would be called too much of an romantic if I was to suggest that Curbishley would return to the Valley, and to be honest I think he had a spleen-full of CAFC during his last venture. My only real question is, can the Charlton board really convince a decent calibre of manager to come and manage what has been under-acheiving group of playters thus far?

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous graham said...

i would like to see perhaps peter reid

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking of posting a resume' of the Pardew years, followed by a 'who next' speculative piece. As you seem to have done it all for me and in great depth. I'll say just this.
My first choice has been for some time, Sam Allardyce. I know he's not everyone's 'cup of tea' but remember his achievements at Bolton. Plus he is the right type of character to kick some life into our undeachieving squad. Will he come to Charlton? i doubt it.
So plan 'b' ask Curbs. to come in until the end of this season. His brief, keep us in the Championship. At the season's end, review the situation again. He could stay on, providing he achieves his brief. He could go 'upstairs' to oversee a new manager. Or he could leave.
Parkinson must not get the job permanently. He has been with us for almost all of Pardew's tenure. He is part of the problem.
As someone who has unashamedly booed (at the end of the game)I ask now that we all get behind the team and support them. We've got rid of the big problem holding us back, it's over. A fresh start at QPR and more importantly at home to Southampton.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine SAP taking advice or asking for it, so I do not think Parkinson cupable as most fans do.
Bowen was an interesting speculation.
Billy Davies-he entirely engineered his exit from Derby so he would'nt get labelled with taking them down.That makes him shifty, untrustworthy and contemptable-excellent credentials in football management but not here thanks.

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll back Sanchez. Unless Nigel Clough is bored at Burton Albion...?

Allardyce would be wrong - he'd use us as a stepping stone; [perhaps all we're good for at the moment,] but would like someone with our long term future [and hopefully success] at heart. Having said that, I don't think Allardyce is a short term type manager - he is successful when given a side he can build over time. That was the problem with the impatient Newcastle "fans". In the meantime, he'd bankrupt us!!! [And bore us!!!]
If we had a slightly worse squad, we should perhaps be thinking real short term panic [Micky Adams, Dave Bassett] - but I don't think we're doomed yet.
I also wonder if Joe Kinnear might fancy a secure long term job, even though it's further away from his native Dublin (?!!!).
But I'm still happy backing Sanchez...

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Dublin Addick said...

Please no, not G. Hoddle or D. O'Leary haven't Charlton fans suffered enough......?

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Stefco said...

Please! Not Sanchez!

His club record is pitiful(except Wycombes' cup run. I admire his record in his tenure as N.Ireland boss, but for me, he blew potential legend status by hopping into the big bucks of the Top Flight. I understand why he took the job though.

For me, an under-rated boss who I think would do a great job for us would be Simon Grayson. He has done wonders at Blackpool since taking over the reigns there. Took them up, kept them up last year, & in good style, & they are doing well now too. All of that has been on a very tight budget, & they play good, well, organised football. Dark horse maybe?

Peter Reid would be an interesting outsider!

Great piece NYA!

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Stefco said...

Please! Not Sanchez!

His club record is pitiful(except Wycombes' cup run. I admire his record in his tenure as N.Ireland boss, but for me, he blew potential legend status by hopping into the big bucks of the Top Flight. I understand why he took the job though.

For me, an under-rated boss who I think would do a great job for us would be Simon Grayson. He has done wonders at Blackpool since taking over the reigns there. Took them up, kept them up last year, & in good style, & they are doing well now too. All of that has been on a very tight budget, & they play good, well, organised football. Dark horse maybe?

Peter Reid would be an interesting outsider!

Great piece NYA!

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Stefco said...

Doh! Apologies, I didn't mean to post that twice. Dodgy mouse!

At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this blog ! Read it every day.

Re the odds you posted, Curbs is listed as fave, then Boothroyd.

Worryingly Dowie is at 50/1 !

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Nug said...

Gary Johnson would be my wish, but realistically can't see it happening, compensation? Also we really that much more attractive than Bristol at the moment, we have a look of Leicester/Southampton/Coventry about us. I'm not usually negative but I am worried, would really like to see Curbs back till the end of the season and take it from there.

At 6:10 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Excellent review, but please not Sanchez! He has a very short fuse for no good reason as I observed at Rushden v. Wycombe. The ref sent him to the stands, rightly so, and he had to be restrained there.

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron Atkinson? George Graham?


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