Nigel Adkins must be the first Charlton manager with his own website (www.nigeladkins.com) and it makes interesting reading. In his press conference with Thomas Sandgaard, talking about the work that’s ahead, he said “we can’t waste a single minute”, and on that website he quotes Charles Darwin: “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."
That might have applied to any of us that watched the stream of our home capitulation to Blackpool, but to be fair to Lee Bowyer, performances since then had begun to improve and it’s very rare for a club to change management after a four game unbeaten run. But behind the scenes a change was being prepared for, as in that same press conference, Thomas revealed that he’d been looking at options six to eight weeks ago.
We’ll never know the exact chain of events, but that preparatory work enabled an offer to be made to Adkins as soon as Bowyer had confirmed his intention to leave, giving “a few hours’ notice”. So, what are we to expect from the fifty-six year old ex-goalie and ex-physio who some say looks more like a bank manager than a football manager?
His track record speaks for itself: four promotions, including the consecutive successes that took Southampton to the Premier League while giving debuts to the likes of Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse. At Reading he blooded ten academy products in less than two seasons. That ability to develop and promote youth is clearly one of skills that attracted Thomas. We’ll be “integrating younger players more than before” he said, and referred to “personal development plans” for the youngsters, things that those of us in the normal world of work might be more familiar with.
Our Academy has been great at developing talent for other clubs but, now we have an owner prepared to invest the resources to keep those we want to keep, we can be more optimistic about seeing our own play for Charlton, rather than the Meire/Duchatelet model of being a farm for bigger teams. And hopefully the business acumen that grew those financial resources will be applied to writing player contracts that protect the club as much as they do the player (which should apply to management contracts too!)
Adkins’ footballing career started at Liverpool as an Associate Schoolboy but he soon moved on to Tranmere Rovers where he made his debut as a 17-year old. Wigan followed. His goalkeeping career was blighted by a list of injuries, and already at age 28 he started to look beyond his playing days, joining Bangor City as player/manager. There was immediate success, giving Bangor the opportunity to play in Europe.
In 1996 he joined Scunthorpe as physio. Ten years later he became manager, hence the “Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio” chant. Six months later came the first of his promotions to The Championship. Immediate relegation followed; then promotion via the play-offs. Could history repeat itself?
In 2010 he joined Southampton, and the rest is history. It’s true that his record since leaving Southampton isn’t anywhere near as glorious, but if we look at the circumstances at each club since, there doesn’t seem too much to worry about. At least, that seems to be the view of the majority of us fans; there is almost a universal welcome and a good amount of optimism that we’ve got the right man for our current circumstances. The retention of Johnnie Jackson has certainly helped the positive mood.
He is certainly well-qualified too; the requisite UEFA A and Pro Licenses, an Honours Degree, a Diploma in Sports Psychology and a Cert in Applied Management. The psychological know-how comes through in his reputation for positivity, which he’s demonstrated in his statements and interviews to date. There’s a feeling that there’ll be more space for players to express themselves and make mistakes than under Lee. Can we have Jonnie Williams back now, please?
Having watched the Bristol Rovers stream, it was notable that he referred to Pearcey’s “warrior spirit”. Our skipper has certainly stepped up in the last few matches, and, though he might not be first choice when everyone is fit, that’s that spirit we’re going to need if we’re going to do something remarkable over the remainder of the season.
The play-offs are surely still a long shot, but as Adkins said “you get some strange results in the last ten games of the season” and what would be stranger than us turning over most of the leading contenders and making sixth place, after the doom and gloom towards the end of Bowyer’s reign? That positivity that Adkins exudes is exactly what we need right now, for the staff, the players and us, the fans, who he also called out when saying that we’re the ones that give the players a purpose.
It’s interesting to speculate if the absence of fans has affected some clubs more than others. Does everyone in our squad remember that it’s a ”privilege”, as Adkins says, to play professional football for Charlton when we’re not there to remind them, and encourage them? Obviously he’s got the rest of the season to see for himself which of the current squad he wants to retain. Steve Gallen, with input from Thomas and Ged Roddy, must already have a list of targets (probably two lists, one for League 1 and one for the Championship), and getting Adkins in now means he has the opportunity to influence who those targets will be.
In the meantime, the Wimbledon game came too soon to give any kind of indication of what’s going to be different under our new boss. Something that seems to be unchanged is our luck with injuries! Thanks to the international break, he’s now got a couple of weeks to provide some new insights and fresh impetus to the campaign. One down and nine to go.
If we’re in for another League One season, which seems the most likely outcome, with an Adkins/Jackson leadership, there are a lot of reasons for optimism. Welcome to The Valley, Nigel, and the very best of luck for a successful tenure in the Charlton hot seat.