BY RICHARD CAWLEY
If Lee Bowyer had walked out on Charlton Athletic on Monday night then the aftermath would have been ugly, highly destructive and blown a huge hole in their Championship planning.
But – as so often has been the case under the ownership of Roland Duchatelet – little is predictable when it comes to the Addicks.
And so we had the scenario where the Belgian owner fired out a feisty and inflammatory statement at the start of the week – in which he talked about negotiations being deadlocked and a caretaker manager being appointed – to Bowyer agreeing a one-year extension later that same evening.
It is a measure of how much the Addicks boss has enjoyed his time in the Valley hotseat that he has opted to stay.
It’s hard to walk away from something successful that you have helped build. And Bowyer, the first appointment made by Duchatelet to deliver major success, had always maintained he wanted to stay.
If he hadn’t, if he had left and waited for the inevitable spate of managerial sackings to arrive in September and October – opening doors – then it would have been carnage in SE7.
Unhappy fans and unhappy players. Protests from the supporters would surely have started again with a vengeance.
“I knew the outcome – if I’d gone,” said Bowyer. “I was aware of that. Not even from the fans’ perspective – but from the players. I’d spoken to quite a few and they were saying: ‘We want you to stay’.
“I think Jake [Forster-Caskey] will sign now and there is a chance that Anfernee Dijksteel will extend. We’re going to try and tie Lyle [Taylor down], which is going to be difficult.
“I’ve got a meeting with Joe Aribo on Friday. He has just come back from holiday and I spoke to him on Tuesday. He said: ‘Bow, I’m glad you’re sorted’.
“I’ve told him to come and see me, tell me his options and we can have a chat. He needs to stay and do a year in the Championship with us – so that he learns more. Then it might be a case of him leaving next season.
“It would be a huge thing if he stayed and kept learning because the big moves will come later on, if he does it right. Joe is a great lad, so we are going to have to wait and see what he says.
“There is respect there. He likes the club as well. It is the same with Pat Bauer – he didn’t want to leave. He said before: ‘I don’t want to leave, I love the lads and there are fantastic staff.’ He had been here for four years, but he had no choice really when sides are offering him double what he is on here. That is a difficult thing to turn down, he has got a young family and is just married.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t compete to keep him here, as much as we tried. We just couldn’t match that.”
Bowyer has been a composed and unflappable presence since he replaced Karl Robinson in March 2018.
And he kept his cool as Duchatelet decided to splash his thoughts on contract talks over the club’s website, taking particular umbrage at the involvement of an agent.
“I wasn’t even aware of the statement,” said Bowyer, 42. “The statement went out and Roland rang me, we had a normal civilised conversation.
“We both wanted to come to an agreement and in the end I said: ‘If you move a bit and I move a bit then everyone is going to be happy’. He said: ‘Okay, let’s both sleep on it and speak again in the morning’. Two or three hours later he said: ‘No, Lee, let’s just do it and get things back rolling’. Fine – perfect.
“What am I going to do? I’m a calm person anyway. The statement was what it was. I couldn’t control that.
“The most important thing for me was to get it resolved and move forward. On Tuesday I had a productive day with phone calls. I’m happy, the club is happy, the fans are happy and the players are happy. We can all start planning for next season again.”
In the end it was just Bowyer and Duchatelet who worked out an agreement.
“Our relationship is like that,” said the Charlton boss. “From the moment I took over we’ve always just been honest and straight with each other.
“He explained his situation – and I agreed with him. I 100 per cent understand what you’re saying – but this is my situation. You get negotiations like that in every walk of life.
“We’ve had conversations before about players coming in and they have always been civilised. We have never been disrespectful to each other.
“I wanted to stay because I was at Charlton as a kid and I loved playing there. And as a manager I am loving it. I want to take this club back to where I think it belongs. The first step was to get into the Championship and we’ve done that. Now my job is to keep us in the Championship and try to stabilise us in there, then we’ll see what happens after that.”
TOP PHOTO BY PAUL EDWARDS