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Tuesday, November 14, 2006
ESPNsoccernet: November 15, 9:33 AM UK
Dowie fate sealed all too soon

Dale Johnson

Alan Curbishley's departure from Charlton was always going to leave a huge void in the club's organisation and structure. Spending 15 years under the stewardship of the same regime brings about familiarities which are difficult to cast aside.

Whoever stepped into Curbishley's shoes over the summer faced the daunting task of transforming a club from the old to the new. The transition was never likely to be short-term but in the modern game, where money dictates policy far more than professional intelligence, the longer term is often neglected.

Step forward Iain Dowie, a promising young manager who had proved his potential and ability during spells with Oldham Athletic and most recently Crystal Palace. Though Dowie was furnished with an 11.2million transfer kitty he was not allowed the time to mould those players with Charlton's old guard.

Charlton chairman Richard Murray, so often a staunch and loyal supporter of his manager in the days of Curbishley, had seen enough after just 12 Premiership matches and three Carling Cup ties. The fear of losing the Premiership's new cash windfall next season may have seemed far more important that allowing the man he appointed the opportunity to succeed.

Though the Addicks prop up the table their position is not quite desperate and far from terminal as they sit just two points from the safety zone. Only last week Dowie insisted things were 'coming together' - four days later the axe fell. Murray, however, clearly felt the latter loomed large.

Just two victories in the league so far in 2006/07 would seem to lend support to Dowie's sacking but, importantly, Charlton have improved markedly in recent weeks. A record of five matches unbeaten having kept four clean sheets and booked a Carling Cup quarter-final date with Wycombe Wanderers at The Valley does not suggest things were going from bad to worse.

However, the weekend defeat to a resurgent Wigan Athletic - it was the Lancastrians fourth win on the bounce - prompted the Addicks board to act.

Expecting a new manager to completely rebuild a football club with new ideals, methods, training plans and merging that into performances on a Saturday afternoon within a dozen matches is lunacy. It takes time for a manager to impose his own thinking on any team, but a seamless transition is virtually impossible when the previous boss has been ingrained into the foundation of the football club for so long.

It has been suggested that team morale had dipped significantly and the players were struggling to adapt to Dowie's way of working, which would fit in with the Charlton board's announcement that his sacking followed an internal review of the club's performance. There was also increasing supporter unrest over form and results.

Dowie's cause was not helped by his apparent failure to spend the 11.2million transfer budget wisely. It brought the club's wage structure to its highest ever level but those players brought in have largely proved to be either ineffective of injury prone.

Of the new faces only Scott Carson, a season-long loan signing from Liverpool, has impressed. Souleymane Diawara, purchased for 3.7million from French side Sochaux, has looked an expensive mistake and was culpable in letting the ball bounce for Lee McCulloch's 13th-minute opener in the defeat at Wigan.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was heralded as the perfect partner for Darren Bent up front but the Dutchman now looks past his best and has found the net just once in the league. The combined total of 7million spent on Andy Reid, Djimi Traore and Amdy Faye has hardly been value for money with only the latter able to hold down a gain a regular place and Traore making just three league starts due to injury and suspension.

It's the first time Dowie has had the luxury of a notable transfer fund and though he seems to have bought badly again he can raise the question of the time they have had to adapt.

However, for a club such as Charlton the riches of the Premiership remain central to their hopes of progression. Without those millions the benefits of stadium expansion at The Valley will not be realised.

Added to that, the rewards for being in the Premiership in 2007/08 will be far greater as the new TV deal with BSkyB and Setanta kicks in - worth 66 per cent more per season than the current contract with BSkyB paying around 4.8m per game and Setanta 2.8m. Murray clearly feels that this financial boost must be secured and the only way to achieve that security is through change.

However, the names on the shortlist hardly set the pulses racing. Murray has already installed former FA acting technical director and coaching guru Les Reed, who was Dowie's assistant, as Head Coach alongside Mark Robson.

Murray was quick to hail Reed as an 'exceptional coach' but that does not make a competent manager. There are countless examples of clubs promoting from within without success. Southampton have been major culprits in the past with the disastrous tenures of Stuart Gray and Steve Wigley.

It seems strange to speak so highly of a coach who was an integral part of a set-up which Murray felt was failing. The chairman clearly has more belief in Reed's methods if the pair were at loggerheads.

Though the chairman has indicated Charlton will look to bring in a third person to join the management team it is difficult to see how he will fit in - unless of course that appointment has already been planned in advance. It seems more likely he would come in at a lower level.

It seems far more plausible that Reed will continue as manager in all but name for the foreseeable future.

With Curbishley ruling himself out of an immediate return the bookies installed Glenn Hoddle as the early favourite, but the former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss comes with plenty of baggage and remains tarnished by previous failures with England and Tottenham Hotspur.

Dave Jones appeared to be a more realistic prospect but would probably want to be his own man rather than part of a three-pronged deal of which two parts are already in place. And with Cardiff clear at the top of the Championship and in the process of building a brand new state-of-the art stadium, then remaining in Wales may appear to have more prospects.

The other names in the frame would hardly have brought the kind of experience which may be required to turn things around in south London. Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd is in only his second season, Billy Davies has had short-term success with Preston and Derby while Paul Simpson has spent just fourth months in the Championship with Preston. They may, however, be more suited to the role Charlton are looking to fill.

Reed should find a team capable of pulling out of the mire with something to spare. For Dowie, however, there was no time to win such plaudits.

• Email Dale Johnson with your thoughts.


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