If not Lee Bowyer, then who?

Charlton are in a slump, and many fans are calling for Lee Bowyer’s head. But is there realistically anybody better equipped to secure promotion back to The Championship?

Less than two weeks ago we made the fairly bold prediction that Charlton would not get promoted this season. Following a lucky point against Fleetwood Town and a shocking defeat at home to bottom of the table Burton Albion, that prediction looks much less bold and more and more like Charlton’s reality this season. 

The Addicks now sit in ninth in League One, five points adrift of the play-off places having played at least two more games than their four closest rivals for sixth spot. There’s been no home win since mid-December. To say Charlton have a mountain to climb would be an understatement.

Tuesday’s defeat was met with outrage by fans on social media. There have been calls for Thomas Sandgaard to replace Bowyer for the remainder of the season before it is too late and any chance of promotion becomes impossible. Fans have also been very forthcoming with who they believe should replace Bowyer, with the names of numerous unemployed managers doing the rounds. 

Let’s start by discounting some of the more ludicrous suggestions I’ve seen. I’m afraid to say that Frank Lampard will not be gracing the home dugout at The Valley with his presence any time soon. Lampard was managing in the Champions League this very season, so the prospect of him dropping to the depths of League One seems slim at the very best. The ex-Chelsea boss would also demand astronomical wages, which Sandgaard won’t be paying. 

The same can be said for John Terry. Granted, Lampard’s former teammate is yet to have his managerial break, but he has been hugely successful as Aston Villa’s assistant head coach, overseeing their return to the Premier League where it looks like they’re set to stay. I’d imagine he has his sights set a little higher than England’s third tier for his first job as the main man. 

Slightly less unrealistic, but still not going to happen, is Eddie Howe. Howe left Bournemouth after eight years at the club following their relegation from the Premier League last summer. His role as architect of Bournemouth’s incredible rise to the top flight has been well documented, and as such he is one of the most sought after managers in the country. Howe has been linked with the vacant Celtic job, but is reportedly holding out for a Premier League role instead. Anyone turning down guaranteed European football every year is unlikely to accept Charlton’s advances, no matter how much you like a project. 

So what of the more likely candidates? Paul Cook has perhaps the best pedigree of any potential replacement. The 53-year-old has previously achieved promotion from League Two with both Chesterfield and Portsmouth, winning the title on both occasions. Cook then won the League One title with Wigan Athletic, keeping them in The Championship until the side were relegated along with Charlton last season. They would have survived too, if it wasn’t for a 12-point deduction due to the club entering administration. 

The Cowley brothers have also had their names thrown into the ring by Charlton supporters. After much success in non-league football, Danny and his brother-turned-assistant Nicky took over at Lincoln City and led the side from the National League to League One in the space of three seasons, winning two league titles and the EFL Trophy along the way. The brothers then moved to Huddersfield Town where they lasted just one season despite keeping the club in The Championship. The Cowley’s undoubtedly have great pedigree, but after recently taking charge of a second tier side, would they see Charlton as a backwards step?

Then there’s those that fall into the ‘Charlton legend’ category. Johnnie Jackson is a huge fan-favourite and definitely deserves his chance at the helm of a club soon, but as somebody who has worked so closely with Bowyer for a number of years now, would he have anything new to offer? Jason Euell is another one who is doing all the right things and has had some real success with Charlton’s under-23s in recent years. But it is a massive step up from under-23 football to the Football League, and it would be a huge risk. 

In terms of a stacked managerial CV, look no further than Alan Curbishley. Curbs has recently got back involved with the club thanks to his work on Valley Pass Live which has led to fans suggesting he take the reins until the end of the season. He has been out of the game since 2015 though, and who’s to say that he has any interest at all in re-entering the limelight. Regardless, I don’t think a short-term hire would do this team any good. This season is over, and Sandgaard needs to decide who he sees as the man to guide Charlton to The Championship and beyond not this season, but next. 

So what of the current man in charge? Bowyer already has a promotion from the third tier under his belt, and came seconds away from keeping Charlton up last season despite what can only be described as absolute turmoil behind the scenes. This campaign hasn’t gone to plan, but this is a team put together in a rush. There is some quality in the side, but it’s not a patch on what Bowyer had to work with in 2018/19. What he would do for a midfield trio of Krystian Bielik, Josh Cullen and Joe Aribo this time round. 

Charlton fans are completely justified in their outrage at recent performances and the current run of form. As manager, Bowyer has to take the brunt of that frustration, that’s the way it works in football. There are options aplenty if Sandgaard does decide it’s time for a change, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and he needs to have a long, hard think about who is going to help achieve his lofty five-year ambitions. 

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