Opinion: Lee Bowyer deserves huge credit for Charlton resurgence

The casual observer might be tempted to look at Charlton this season and feel they’re only doing what is expected of them. They’re currently fourth in the table, just three points behind Luton Town.

For a club who had seven seasons in the top flight not so long ago, the neutral fan might think they should be challenging Sunderland and Portsmouth at the top of the table. after all, they’re surely a bigger side than Accrington, who they beat 1-0 yesterday.

However, the cursory glance at their position this season does not tell the whole story. Manager Lee Bowyer never intended to take over when he picked up the reigns last season. he’d been managing a carp lake in France, but came back to help coach at his first club and eventually found himself in the hot seat after Karl Robinson resigned.

When he took the job permanently it might have been seen as a cheap option, but that wouldn’t be unusual at Charlton. He was only afforded the luxury of bringing in two permanent signings in the summer, Lyle Taylor on a free transfer from Wimbledon and Darren Pratley, a veritable veteran at 33 and a former Bolton schemer.

It wasn’t the ideal preparation, not when Sunderland were taking £1m Charlie Wyke and even Luton Town were picking up players such as Sonny Bradley. Under owner Roland Duchatelet the club have withered away, cut backs saw staff leave, bonuses go unpaid and even youth team players go without water. The fact Bowyer has achieved anything other than a relegation battle is truly an achievement.

He’s done far more than that. In promoting Karlan Grant he’s shown a keen eye for youth development, he’s brought Pratley back to life and a number of their other players have thrived too. Krystian Bielik came in on loan from Arsenal and has been excellent and just this month he attracted Johnny Williams to the club to cover for Joe Aribo, another youth player linked with a big move away.

Bowyer wasn’t a player people found it easy to like, whether he was in court or fighting team mates, controversy dogged him. he could, and maybe should have played more for England as he was a fine midfielder on his day, harder than a bag of old cement and yet with a certain style that often contradicted his rough and ready personality. His best years were at Leeds, ended by the events of 2001.

He stayed for two more years but never quite achieved his potential. It seems that only now, with the wisdom age brings and perhaps the serenity that a spell away from football developed, he’s proving to be much more than the character many had him pegged for.

His Charlton side are resilient and dogged, shown perfectly yesterday as they fought to that 1-0 win. They’re slick at times, devastating at others. behind it all is a manager whom many expected to flop, yet he’s remaining focused and keeps out of the limelight. If you didn’t know better, you’d say it was a different Lee Bowyer.

He’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but credit has to be given where it is due. Charlton could easily have collapsed by now, when Robinson left they were in disarray and to a degree, they still are. However, with the calming influence of Bowyer clearly bringing the side along, they could well be back in the Championship before too long.

Who knows, maybe the one-time bad boy could even become a top Premier League manager one day. Stranger things have happened.

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