After three months of hectic buying and selling, the 2011 summer transfer window finally closed at midnight last Wednesday, with £485 million spent by the 20 Premier League clubs alone, a 33 per cent increase on 2010. But the number one wheeler-dealer was not Harry Redknapp or Roberto Mancini, but Chris Powell, the manager of League One Charlton Athletic.
Powell oversaw 32 arrivals and departures, bringing to The Valley 18 new players – more than an entire 16-man matchday squad. And, as he points out only half-jokingly, "We've got the loan window to come."
The club's much-loved former defender pleads special circumstances, having decided, soon after his return to Charlton in January to take up his first management job, that radical squad surgery was required. Most of the newcomers alongside the four remaining players signed by his predecessor, Phil Parkinson, were on free transfers but with League One experience, and four wins and a draw in five league games, and victory over Reading in the Carling Cup, suggest that the operation has been a success.
"It was a conscious decision," he said. "I just needed to change the whole way of thinking, and I felt the best way was to have a new group who have fresh eyes and a new feeling for the club. And things at the moment are progressing just the way you'd like."
Powell is proud to have played for Charlton in the Premier League, but the past was holding the club back. "It was at the forefront of everyone's mind: 'We're a Premier League club'," he said. "But we are in League One, that's the reality. Recently we have finished lower each season and I felt that you needed to change the way of thinking, the whole outlook.
"I was fortunate to play in some great days, with Alan Curbishley as manager – phenomenal. It's difficult for fans who got used to seeing great teams come here, but it's not happening now. Our aim has got to be to make people talk about what we did in 2011-12. And after five games, with 41 to go, we're making small steps on that journey."
Which seems all the more remarkable with players who have barely been introduced. "Everyone's making jokes, and people ask me if I know who they are, but believe me, I know," Powell said.
"I have spoken to people who have played with them, coached them, managed them. I know about their characters, that they will buy into what we are doing. You have got to do due diligence, it's a must. They are coming to a fantastic club, that I am proud to be manager of and want to be for a long time, so I'm going to make sure I get the right quality, the right temperament."
Only Scunthorpe, in a 2-2 draw, have denied Charlton victory thus far, with Sheffield Wednesday the next opponents, at The Valley tomorrow evening. "I don't know yet how they'll react to defeat," Powell said. "I could say I can't ask for more, but I will. That's my job."
He learned under some impressive names, including Sven Goran Eriksson, who was pleased to inherit him as a coach when he took over at Leicester, where Powell, 42 on Thursday, finished his playing career at 40.
"It's amazing how football is. Everyone knows my history with Sven, how he picked me in his first England squad, and it went full circle. There were new owners and new ideas at Leicester and I was part of that. Alan Pardew, who I played with and who managed me at West Ham, wanted me to go to Newcastle, Sven wanted me to stay, but when Charlton came in, he said: 'You need to start somewhere and where better than somewhere you know and love?'
"These guys, top quality managers and coaches, saw something in me, that I could be a manager in my own right. I felt it was a chance I had to take and I'm pleased I did. It's up to me to enhance that status I had with the fans as a player.
"I love this place, I know what they want and I want them to enjoy the ride with me."
As if a first management job does not exert pressure enough, Powell knows he is also a standard-bearer for black coaches.
"I realise the position that Chris Hughton and I are in – 92 clubs, only two black managers. So there are a lot of eyes on me, but that's fine. Just as players needed role models, I had one in the late, great Keith Alexander. Terry Connor at Wolves has been coaching a long time, Chris Ramsey – but there are not enough.
"A lot of black players who could have been good coaches and managers have been lost to the game for whatever reason and if I'm in a position to help, to be a role model, I want to take that on, no problem. One of the best ways will be to succeed with Charlton."
Charlton's in crowd
John Sullivan (Millwall, free, May 15)
Bradley Pritchard (Hayes & Yeading, undisclosed, May 24)
Cedric Evina (Oldham, free, Jun 21)
Paul Hayes (Preston, free, Jun 21)
Dale Stephens (Oldham, undisclosed, Jun 30)
Danny Green (Dag & Red, undisclosed, Jun 30)
Nick Pope (Bury Town, free, Jul 1)
Ruben Bover Izquierdo (Real Mallorca, free,Jul 1)
Rhoys Wiggins (Bournemouth, undisclosed, Jul 1)
Danny Hollands (Bournemouth, free, Jul 1)
Michael Morrison (Sheffied Wednesday, undisclosed, Jul 8)
Matthew Taylor(Exeter City, free, Jul 15)
Andy Hughes(Scunthorpe Unitd, undisclosed Jul 31)
Mikel Alonso (Tenerife, undisclosed, Aug 1)
Ben Hamer (Reading, undisclosed, Aug 1)
Jason Euell (Blackpool, free, Aug 10)
Leon Cort (Burnley, loan, Aug 30)
Michael Smith (Darlington, undisclosed, Aug 31)Reuse content