Manager of Charlton Athletic has not been one of the easier posts in football these past couple of years and for Chris Powell, now working under an ambitious new foreign owner, there has been an additional cross to bear.
A year ago there were five BME (black and minority ethnic) managers among the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs, since when Paul Ince, Chris Kiwomya and Edgar Davids have all lost their jobs. That leaves only Chris Hughton at Norwich and Powell, both of them currently involved in a relegation struggle that could have serious consequences for their employment prospects if there is any further deterioration.
Powell is doing his bit for the cause – two of his senior coaches are black and mixed race respectively – but he acknowledges: "Ultimately you have to do well at your job regardless of the colour of your skin. People like myself and Chris Hughton are role models for other guys whether they're in the game or not. But there is a lot of pressure and regardless of how you manage and where you're from and what level you're at, you have to do the job well."
Always appreciated by the previous owners, who remembered the qualities that took him from being released by Crystal Palace as a 20-year-old left-back to becoming Charlton's first England international for almost 40 years, Powell must now win over a hard-headed Belgian businessman, Roland Duchâtelet, who took over a few weeks ago and immediately utilised his connections at four European clubs to shake up the playing staff.
Six new recruits arrived from abroad, including three on loan from Standard Liège, the Belgian League leaders owned by Duchâtelet, and three popular players whose contracts were running out departed, among them top scorer Yann Kermorgant to Bournemouth.
"We were in a vulnerable position with regard to the contracts and it was disappointing to see them go but we have to move on now," Powell said. "We've brought in a number of foreign players that have to get used to the Championship and the FA Cup straightaway. It's now a different Charlton. Clubs move on. Your heroes aren't there forever but you find new heroes."
Despite having become the ninth longest-serving manager in the country after reaching his third anniversary at The Valley last month, Powell is aware that new owners frequently like to bring in their own man. "I'm not naive, but at the moment I'm fine, I'm having to build a new relationship with Roland, who has plans for the football club and wants us to progress. He knows it's been a real struggle all season, because we haven't been in a position to build on what we did last year. But it's like any owner. Ultimately it's their football club. He's the one who's put the money in."
Eight years ago, those Charlton supporters tiring of Alan Curbishley's management after six seasons in the middle of the Premier League table provided a classic case of being careful what you wish for. Those who wanted a change got one: and two relegations in three seasons. The highly popular Powell brought the club back up to the Championship and a respectable ninth place last season that they have been unable to match amid financial stagnation, sliding into the bottom three recently after four successive defeats.
The FA Cup has for once lightened Charlton's gloom with away wins at Oxford United and Huddersfield, and Saturday's fifth-round tie at Sheffield Wednesday offers the prospect of either some long forgotten glory or a real slog to the end of the season. New heroes need to step forward. And not just for one day.Reuse content