GALLEN: “LEE IS DESPERATE TO STAY”

We are very grateful indeed to Steve Gallen for coming to our AGM last week and answering our questions so candidly. This is a summary of what he said:

Q. How are you finding the new role of club Director?

[Smiles] First of all, it gives Jacko the opportunity to mention it at least once every day. He gives me a bit of stick about it but he fully respects the role too.

At first I thought I was being offered the Director of Football role so I was a bit surprised when it was explained that Roland wanted me to become a club Director. To be honest, it hasn't made a great deal of difference to the things I do day to day but it has made a big difference in how effective I can be in getting things done. Being a club Director has helped massively in negotiations with agents and managers who respond to me much more quickly when I use the title of Director rather than Head of Recruitment.

Q:  Can you give us any insight into the contract situation of the management team?

Lee's contract is up in the summer and he needs to be given a longer contract. He needs to be given some type of stability. We're desperate for it. Lee really wants that.

Roland is aware of this and he is no fool. But he feels that potential buyers might stall if they want to bring in their own people and see that it will cost them a lot to get the current team out. But I agree with the fans that Lee must be given a longer contract. We need to stop planning window to window and start thinking longer term.

Being a Director has helped me as an influencer within the club and I think Roland is beginning to trust me on a lot of things. For example, if I said in the summer that I wanted to buy a certain player, it pretty much got done whereas when I first arrived two and a half years ago it didn't.

We cannot have the situation of last summer again with all the confusion about whether Lee had left or not. There was probably some cat and mouse going on between Lee and Roland calling each other's bluff but Lee was very calm about it.

Q: What can you tell us about the injury situation?

We reflect on injuries a lot internally and I arrange meetings with the head physio, the head of sports science, me, Lee and Jacko to look at what we can do to improve the situation. My experience is that when we go Saturday to Saturday (or even Saturday to Tuesday to Saturday) we are all right but as soon as we miss a game it seems to upset the balance and we pick up more injuries after breaks. Lee has addressed that and they had a couple of days off last week and then back into full training leading into the Cardiff game.

Lyle Taylor and Jonny Williams being out has been a massive blow to us. Lyle and Jonny would have made a big difference last Saturday. How many free kicks would Jonny Williams have won last week? But what an opportunity it has given to Macauley Bonne. He took his opportunity and he's done brilliantly. When he arrived he was a little bit nervous about coming from the Conference but his confidence has grown since he arrived and Lee has been really good with him behind the scenes and done extra training with him. His finishing is great. What about his volley at Millwall? It's come over his shoulder and he's hit it so well. If he had mishit it, he might have scored.

We are hopeful that Lyle will be involved against Cardiff. We have five games coming up in thirteen days. Lee is very good at listening to the physio's advice  - which not all managers are. Jonny is doing well. George Lapslie is back involved again now and we've missed his energy and enthusiasm. Jake Foster-Caskey is another one who filled in superbly against Fulham.

We all have our doubts but the one person who never seems to have any doubts is Lee. He is so optimistic and I've said to him: "Never change". He was disappointed we didn't win at West Brom.

Q: Loan players all seem to be contributing far more than in the past. What are you doing that makes the difference?

I don’t know how it was before my time. When I joined the club two and a half years ago I was blissfully unaware of what was going on. I didn't know about the fans being unhappy with Roland and chucking items on the pitch because I was so focused on my previous job.

I was talking to Joe Francis (Head of Education and Welfare) -  he's a great bloke and I love him - and he is so welcoming to all new players. And that is what we do. When anyone walks through the door it is massively important to me that they see welcoming people. Hands out, arms round. We make sure they are well looked after. We have a lady called Tracey Leaburn who is player liaison officer and she does a great job looking after the players and helping them settle. So making sure they feel welcome is important.

We do our homework. We don't just watch them. We are on the phone asking about people. Lee doesn't want people who will jog around. If he sees that on a video they don't get to the club.

I watched Ben Purrington so many times and he is just so consistent. If you watch him scoring at Wembley he doesn't know what to do. He's very unassuming. It was important to me that we signed him on a three-year contract.

Bielik and Cullen were brilliant and Josh is playing tonight for Ireland, it's the first Ireland game I've missed for twenty years, I'm going over to Dublin on Monday and I'll let him know I'm there. I texted Naby yesterday to wish him all the best playing for Senegal.

Josh Cullen is very unassuming. He doesn't expect to be playing for West Ham although he wants to. I thought he and Conor were outstanding against West Brom - against players who I know are on ten times the wages. I rang Mick McCarthy and said Josh must to be playing for Ireland on Monday against Denmark. For two reasons:  One, I want Ireland to win. Two - I want Josh to realise that he can be recognised at that level while he is playing for us. I got a message back from Mick saying he was aware (that Josh is doing well).

Q  What is the role of Thomas Driessen ? Do you have to go through him to recommend players?

If I want a player and Thomas doesn't believe in that player, I won't get that player. I learned that early on. That was frustrating for me and Lee but we’re in a much better place now. Thomas works directly for Roland. He doesn't work for Charlton. I get on with him and I like him and I respect his relationship with Roland. When I first started I probably thought similar things to what you guys thought but I've gone way beyond that. We are in a good place with him now and he trusts us. He's seen the players we've brought in – Cullen, Bielik and Taylor. Lyle Taylor is the best signing we've made. The second signing was Darren Pratley, who at 34 is getting better.

I don't really know what Thomas's background is but a lot of analysts are not ex-professional footballers. Brett Shaw is our head analyst and he's very good. Just because Brett didn’t play professionally that doesn't mean he can't be a good judge of tactics, systems and players.

Q:  With what happened between Sterling and Gomez, how often do fights break out on the training ground?

I can't remember the last time this happened with us. Jason Pearce doesn't change how he tackles in training from how he tackles in matches and there has been some argy-bargy but what that means to me is that it is competitive and training should be competitive. Lee has got the players in a good place now. There's not much mucking about.

Q:  Did Roland's "choice" statements on the website have any impact on you or the players?

No, because it got dealt with the next day. Every single agent I spoke to in the summer said they loved the club and they loved Lee and the football we played but were worried that Lee might leave.

We signed three players in one day last summer and we met them and their agents in a local hotel. I asked Lee to be there because I knew we had to get him in front of them. He postponed his France fishing trip by one day to be there. I could see as we sat there by the way Tom Lockyer was looking at Lee that we'd got him. Other teams wanted him as well as us and would probably pay him more than we do.

Q:  What is your relationship with the other London clubs?

Pretty good. I went to a Chelsea U23s game a year ago and I asked what our chances were of loaning any of those players and was told "zero". Conor Gallagher was playing. Getting promoted made a big difference.

Arsenal weren't keen on sending a player out to League One but we got Krystian Bielik because he hadn't played many games. I knew he would be good for us. I was hoping to get Eddie Nketiah this year but Leeds paid a large amount of money to Arsenal to get him. We had a good look at Joe Willock last year and now he's now playing for Arsenal's first team so you can see we're on the lines of the right type of players.

Arsenal and West Ham will consider us because of what we've done with their players. They can see that going to Charlton will help develop their players. Conor doing so well with us makes it much easier for me to go back to Chelsea for somebody else. Especially with Conor going back and telling everyone how much he likes it here.

I'm not going to say that I knew Conor was going to be so good. What I did know was that he could play and he had a bit of fight. I watched his brother Jake play for Aldershot for years and I knew he had that attitude so, as soon as I realised they were brothers, I knew he was from good stock.

Q:  What did you see that Darren Pratley would bring to the club?

Firstly, experience. There are a lot of kids in our squad. He's athletic. He's a winner. He's played at a higher level and all I had ever heard was what a great bloke he is. The lads - people like George Lapslie - really love him. I think Darren's s playing better now in The Championship than in League One.

Q: Why do you think Lyle Taylor has never played at a higher level?

Have a look at Lyle's stats. He's played for a lot of clubs. When I see that I think someone keeps wanting him so he can't be bad. Everyone has always seen something in him. I wonder whether at times his discipline was an issue. Lyle loves Lee and respects him enormously.

Those last few days of the window in August were unbelievably tough, with the well-publicised interest from elsewhere, and Lee handled it superbly.

Q:  Can you and Lee trade as you wish as long as you stay within budget?

Pretty much yes. We sold Anfernee (Dijksteel to Middlesbrough) after to discussing with Roland, as we felt that we could cover that position (right back) and we could use the some of the money from the sale to bring in another striker and he agreed. 

Lee and I are interested in winning and putting a good team out. We can wheel and deal on wages. We have the lowest budget in The Championship but look at where we are. It just shows that you can do well if you have the right sort of players. I think we will get a little bit of support in January.

Q:  How do you integrate players from The Academy?

We had hoped to get Albie Morgan out to league football. I had to convince him to go to Ebbsfleet. I told him it was a good thing for him - he needed to go to somewhere like Crawley but that wasn't possible. He loves it at Ebbsfleet. He's playing regularly. Kevin Watson (Ebbsfleet manager) is a good coach and he loves Albie. Look at Karlan. He went to Crawley and within a few months he's playing in the Premier League.

These lads need to get out of the comfort zone of the under 23s. Toby Stephenson is at Dagenham. Alfie Doughty is at Bromley. Taylor Maloney at Newport. Brendan Wiredo at Colchester. I'm proud that we've got lads playing at that level. It is trying to help these boys with their careers. I'm delighted when I see former academy graduates like Regan Charles-Cook, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and Brandon Hanlon playing regular football after leaving the club.

Q:  Will we be signing players in the January transfer window?

First and foremost we want to keep the group together. Sam Field will be coming back to us. Conor Gallagher could go back to Chelsea although I don't think he will. Claude Makalele and Carlo Cudicini came in to the training ground last week to see their player in the same way that Grant Basey has been to Newport and Colchester, to sit down with their managers and get some feedback.

We want to keep the group together and build from there.

Q:  What, if anything, can we as supporters do to persuade Roland to offer the management team longer contracts?

I do worry about Lee leaving sometimes. I speak to him about it and I know he doesn't want to go anywhere. I don't really know what you can do apart from voice it, maybe at games. Roland watches the games and if the fans are singing things - in a dignified and positive way - it will get heard.

Lee is desperate to stay and extend and then we can focus on looking forward to the next few years and not six months at a time.

Q:  Would it be an idea to hold a protest march before the Cardiff game or boycott games?

It's not what I'm going to suggest. I understand you want to make your point and get your voice heard but how will Roland hear that? He might hear - I don't know this for a fact - but he might hear there's some people protesting about me again. Is that actually going to make Roland feel he should be helping these guys? It might put him on the back foot. I think we need to figure out a different way to do it to get it heard.

In terms of boycott - I get why people are doing it. I get that they don't like Roland and that they feel strongly, but they are missing out. The football is good and the atmosphere is brilliant.

The crowd are so important. During the Rochdale game I was at Southend. I texted Grant Basey and told him Portsmouth were drawing. I said: "Do you know if we win by four goals we can finish third?" I said "Tell Lee". See how professional this is?

Q:  It is so frustrating when we lose by last minute goals. Why does it happen so often?

It is frustrating but we beat Sunderland in the last minute and that was pretty frustrating for them. And don't forget West Brom and Barnsley. If you look at the stats so many goals are scored late on - maybe because of tiredness; maybe because managers are gambling or fans are willing the team on. At the end of the day it was an individual mistake that cost us the goal on Saturday. But let me say this about Matt Smith. He is the best in the country at doing what he did. He's six foot five and eighteen stone and when he jumps it is like an exocet missile. In my opinion Matt Smith committed a foul but, if that is called a foul, then so should Patrick Bauer at Wembley.

I went down to the changing room and it was like a morgue. Not one person said a word for half an hour. They knew. It is up to us to put that right.