Charlton Athletic are promising to explain at a press conference later today why they sacked their head coach, Les Reed, after just 41 days in charge and replaced him, on Christmas Eve, with Alan Pardew a mere 13 days after he was dismissed by West Ham United.
In truth, no explanation is necessary for this most extraordinary of London managerial merry-go-rounds at the bottom of the Premiership. Charlton, as they did in getting rid of Iain Dowie earlier in the season, have panicked and now have a third man in charge in six months after 15 years with Alan Curbishley at the helm. Relegation, despite the club being regarded as a financially prudent model for others, is simply unthinkable after seven years in the top division.
But what remains puzzling in the dramatic decision is why the Charlton board allowed the 52-year-old Reed, who appeared an odd choice in the first place, given his lack of managerial experience, to sign his three-year contract only last week and assemble a new back-room staff. The club's chief executive, Peter Varney, said then that Reed's job was not under threat and that the blame for the club's plight lay with Dowie. However, sources close to Charlton have again confirmed that the club considered a move for Pardew - as revealed by The Independent - immediately after he left West Ham on 11 December.
The directors then appeared to decide that Reed would be allowed time, but the crushing defeats at home to League Two Wycombe Wanderers in the quarter-final of the League Cup and away to Middlesbrough in the Premiership reinforced the fear that he was not able to make the step up. It meant Reed's reign was brought to an end after just eight games - six defeats, a draw and a solitary victory - which made Dowie's 15 games in charge appear like longevity.
The confusing picture is all the more puzzling because Pardew, who spent four years as a Charlton player under Curbishley in the early Nineties, was keen to take up the post immediately after he left West Ham and his candidacy was supported in the dressing room and by the fans. Pardew's agent, Barry Nevill, and friends advised him to take a break from football and bide his time, but such was the 45-year-old's determination to get back into management that he has jumped at the chance and signed a three-and-a-half year contract.
That desire was made more acute because of the hurt he feels at being sacked by West Ham's new chairman, Eggert Magnusson, just two matches - and two defeats - into the Icelander's regime. To complete the moves Curbishley, a former West Ham player, replaced Pardew.
The financial blow for Charlton in having to pay off a second manager inside one season is softened by the fact Reed, who returned as Dowie's assistant only last summer, and is a former Football Association technical director, is understood to have been the lowest paid in the Premiership. He is not due a substantial severance package.
Charlton issued a statement from their chairman, Richard Murray, just before 7pm on Christmas Eve about the change. He admitted that Pardew's availability had been a major factor in the sudden decision - just as Curbishley's had been for West Ham. "We are very fortunate a manager of Alan Pardew's calibre is available and we have moved very, very quickly to secure his services," said Murray, who claimed Reed had left the club by "mutual consent". "Les Reed has Charlton in his blood but this decision is best for the club. We will expand on this on Tuesday."
Pardew's first game will be the home fixture against Fulham tomorrow night, followed by meetings with Aston Villa and Arsenal, and with Charlton seven points from safety he certainly has his work cut out. Money will be made available to buy new players, even though Charlton dipped into next year's budget to pay for Dowie's £11m spending spree last summer.
Pardew will be handed at least £5m to spend. He could bolster that total if he decides to cash in on Darren Bent - raising the intriguing scenario of Charlton doing a player plus cash deal with West Ham - while other players, such as Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, who is a target for Watford, and Souleymane Diawara, an expensive flop, could be moved on.
Bent's sale has previously been ruled out by Charlton but the striker, who appears unsettled, is also wanted by Villa and Newcastle United and would command a fee of between £7m and £10m. Pardew would be interested in both Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora while Teddy Sheringham remains another possibility.
The nightmare for West Ham fans would be if Pardew kept Charlton up at their expense, although the chances of survival are slim. It may well be Pardew's experiences with Reading, who consistently made the play-offs under him, and his three years at West Ham, whom he rebuilt with a young squad and brought back into the Premiership, have influenced his appointment more than his ability to cope with a relegation battle. Charlton, if they are to go down, also did not want to see Pardew accept another job in the mean time.
The situation he inherits at The Valley is similar to that experienced by Harry Redknapp when he returned to Portsmouth last December, although without the acrimony that the former Southampton manager faced. Redknapp endorsed Charlton's decision, saying: "Alan is an excellent manager and he's played there, he knows the club, and he's got a chance as well. They're not dead and buried. We were in a worse position I thought last year when I went back to Portsmouth, so he can turn it around."