BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Steve Gallen reckons his appointment as a director at Charlton Athletic shows he has earned the trust of the club’s hierarchy.
The 45-year-old joined the Addicks in April 2017 as head of recruitment. His role has encompassed far more than that for a lengthy period of time as key positions of power at the Championship club have been left vacant.
Gallen has earned praise from manager Lee Bowyer and Charlton fans for his transfer dealings and is providing input on football matters at board level.
“It has taken a long time, a couple of years, but I think they know that here is a guy we can trust,” said Gallen. “I think that was probably in the head of the owner [Roland Duchatelet]. I tell them what I believe – whether that is good news, bad news or indifferent.
“I have the same relationship with Lee. He tells me stuff that I don’t always want to hear – but so do I to him. We have a very open relationship.”
Supporters were left hoping that Gallen’s change of status indicated that a takeover could be close.
“Not that I know of,” he responded. “I knew we were getting close in the summer. I’ve spoken to prospective buyers a few times in the last 12 months. In the summer I was talking to them about transfer targets because if they came through the door they needed to be aware who we were looking at signing.
“Unfortunately it looks like that has gone back into the background. It will still come back, I just don’t know when.
“I’m still doing exactly the same as head of recruitment but I also deal with contracts and trying to re-sign players. Lyle Taylor is one that everyone is talking about. I’m speaking to his agent and trying to find a common ground.
“I think he will sign, but I said that about Joe Aribo and he went and left, unfortunately.”
Gallen was approached in April by Lieven De Turck – tasked with conducting takeover talks – about becoming a director.
Although an update from Companies House alerted people to the development on Tuesday, the EFL had approved the appointment around two months ago.
“I thought it was nice him [De Turck] asking me to do this because it has come from Roland if Lieven is saying it,” said Gallen. “They also wanted someone, and this is the main thing, on the board from the football side.
“In all the meetings in the last year it has been operational and finance people and no football person. They’ve asked my opinions but it has been phonecalls and emails, now it will be me sitting in there too and putting across the views from the football side.
“Some of my work in the last few months would probably be described more as a sporting director.
“When Lieven first said about being director I said: “Of football?’
“They are trying to sell the club and they are reluctant to bring in new staff and they are reluctant to bring in new positions, because they feel that could cause issues with potential buyers with costs going up and extra staff coming in.
“New buyers, who are maybe close, might be thinking of their own director of football, for example. Certainly they’ll be thinking of their own chief executive – that is something that is needed, for sure.
“I think to some extent they said the title will be this and hoped that will suffice to keep me happy.
“When I’m dealing with other clubs and agents, quite often the head of recruitment brings things so far and it gets handed over to a chief exec. Well, I’ve got no-one to hand it over to – it goes from me to me again.
“By giving me this title it has helped me in my role to open doors – especially when I’m speaking to other directors of football and managers about players.”
Gallen is also likely to be one of the first to hear about interest in Bowyer.
The highly-rated boss attracted the attentions of Huddersfield Town but has rejected those advances.
Gallen had already agreed his new contract a day after the League One play-off final win in May, but wanted to wait until Bowyer and the rest of the coaching staff had followed suit before his situation was announced.
But Bowyer’s deal only runs until June.
Gallen’s earlier comments about Duchatelet wanting the club to stay attractive to purchasers – who quite often bring their own man in – makes it seem unlikely that a longer contract will be forthcoming.
They have also had to battle to keep one of their sports science staff.
Gallen said: “When you are winning games it brings attention – it is always going to do that. It is the same for our players – if Lyle keeps scoring it is going to bring attention.
“Joe Aribo did well for us and that brought attention. There is not a lot you can do about it. Even chief executives get taken by other clubs.
“Do I want Lee to go? One hundred per cent no. I’ll tell you what does really help – the fans, and how good they are. It helps everyone here. They have been unbelievable.
“Because they have had a few years of bad times, now they are seeing some good times and are overjoyed about it.
“I love seeing that sort of togetherness and enthusiasm. That will help keep Lee.
“When other clubs are asking about you then you think of the fans who are starting to come back here. I’ve brought my kids to a few games now and they sing ‘allez, allez, allez’. They’ve got their Charlton kits on and they love it.”