Across the EFL, teams will have one eye on next season. Even those with something to play for will be focused partly on the task in hand, but also on what is to come.
Scouts will be looking at players, backroom staff will be changing and evolving and managers will be formulating plans to change their playing staff.
Charlton Athletic may be one club who buck that trend because at this moment in time, there’s little that Lee Bowyer can do. He hasn’t been offered a decent new contract, instead having something put to him which he described, rather eloquently, as different.
Basically, it wasn’t viable.
That’s meant that he could still be poached by QPR, who have been sniffing around for a Steve McClaren replacement. Why not? Bowyer has done a terrific job at Charlton this season. They’re within touching distance of the top five, a huge achievement when you consider their situation.
Portsmouth, Luton, Barnsley and Sunderland all have the means by which to mount a promotion challenge. All were able to add to their squads in the January window and behind the scenes, all have owners wanting success.
Quite how Charlton have competed is incredible. Their owner, the despised Roland Duchatelet, hasn’t been to a game this season. He’s even asked the EFL to take them over and has essentially left them rudderless. Backroom staff have been trimmed and youth team players must provide their own water.
Key players, such as Joe Aribo and Patrick Bauer, haven’t signed new deals and when they did find a gem in their academy, he was sold. Karlan Grant was a big success in the first half of the season, so much so he’s still in the top 15 goal scorers in League One despite being sold to Huddersfield.
When Bowyer wanted to bring in Joe Mason to replace him, he was told he couldn’t.
Despite everything happening off the pitch and the upheaval on it, former wild man Lee Bowyer has built a team capable of still winning automatic promotion. Karl Robinson, one of the brightest young coaches at this level, failed to do that.
Lee Bowyer was once a revered hard man, unlikeable off the pitch and tough as a tiger on it. After the game he drifted off into managing a carp lake and seemed to have given up on football. Now, reinvented as a thinker and tactician, he’s one of the game’s most exciting English managerial talents.
Whilst Joey Barton continues to court controversy, Bowyer has completely changed his persona and it’s resulted in the Addicks becoming a serious promotion prospect despite being neglected and left to rot.
Now, with just weeks of the season remaining, Charlton’s future hangs in the balance. If the tyrant owner realises the club are unsaleable without the manager, he might just try to keep him at the Valley and in doing so, make them a real prospect for a potential new investor.
Let him go, and the best chance of success for the Addicks in several years will go with him.
It’s make or break time.