Chris Powell - too nice to succeed?
Matt Holland wasted no time in sending a good luck text to Chris Powell when his former Charlton team-mate was appointed manager of the League One club in mid-January.
He had to wait a few days for a reply but an apologetic Powell eventually got in touch and explained that he had been deluged by hundreds of voice mails and texts wishing him well.
It is a small anecdote that says a lot about Powell's standing in the game. A former chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, he appears to be as popular with supporters as he does among his peers.
Southend fans voted him their all-time cult hero in a BBC poll and he was also named supporters player of the year at Derby County. Powell had three spells as a Charlton player and it was obvious from the reception that he received ahead of Tuesday evening's match against Colchester at The Valley that he is held in incredibly high regard by the London club's supporters.
Powell is an intelligent and considered individual. Photo credit: PA
It is easy to understand why Powell has a strong connection with the people who paid to watch him; he shares their passion for the game. I recently watched an interview he did at Leicester during the twilight years of his playing career. He sounded emotional as he talked about his love of the game and his hope that the influx of money had not soured other people's passion for it. They are words that would sound insincere in the wrong hands but it is obvious that Powell truly meant everything he said.
I canvassed the opinion of several fans and club staff on Tuesday evening and all spoke of a sudden and very definite change of mood around The Valley since Powell's appointment.
I thought Powell's predecessor Phil Parkinson was slightly unfortunate to lose his job. A new board took over at the turn of the year and sacked Parkinson after a home 4-2 defeat by Swindon on 3 January. Chairman Michael Slater pointed out that the Addicks had not won since 20 November, a sequence of five games. But the club had only lost two of those and had won their previous five League One fixtures. Parkinson, whose team reached the play-offs last season, was dismissed with Charlton fifth in the table, just three points off automatic promotion.
He achieved this despite severe financial restrictions that saw valuable players such as Jonjo Shelvey and Nicky Bailey sold to balance the books. Parkinson, however, was accused of negative tactics and did not have the accrued goodwill that Powell accumulated over more than 250 appearances.
Without doubt, the Charlton supporters are clearly delighted that someone they regard as one of their own is now in charge of their club.
But is a man who is universally regarded as one of football's genuinely good guys cut out to succeed in the rough and tumble of management?
"A lot of people say that he is too nice to be a manager but I do not think that you can play for as long as he did and be successful without having an edge to you," Holland told me.
Powell's playing career spanned 24 years, with several seasons spent alongside Holland at The Valley as the London club enjoyed a golden age as an established Premier League side.
"He was always very thoughtful on the game and started studying for his coaching badges long before he retired," added Holland, who now works as a pundit.
"He was interested in tactics and discussed them with management fairly often. Alan Pardew in particular had a lot of time for him."
Powell, who retired as a player last summer, had been on the coaching staff at Leicester when he received a call out of the blue on Wednesday 12 January. He had managed the Foxes reserve team the day before and was happy learning his trade under Sven-Goran Eriksson, but the lure of what he has described as his spiritual home was too strong to resist.
He headed down to London for an interview and reckons he wandered around the city in a daze on the Thursday afternoon after being told that he had got the job.
Eriksson, who selected Powell for and England debut in 2001 when the full-back was 31, recently said that he thought Powell would make a very good manager. Holland shares Eriksson's opinion, arguing that the new Addicks boss will be able to bring the best out of his players.
"The biggest skill as a manager now is man-management," added Holland.
"He was a top professional. He was always on time and nobody worked harder in training. Even when he was in his mid-to-late 30s he was still in the top few players at the club in all the running sessions. He looked after his body and will expect the same standards from his team."
Holland recalls Powell losing his temper both on the pitch and in the dressing room when things were going badly and is confident that the new manager will be anything but a soft touch.
The Addicks boss showed on Tuesday evening that he is not afraid to fight his team's corner. Midway through the second half a bizarre and farcical incident took place, starting when referee Darren Sheldrake ruled out a goal from Steven Gillespie. The visiting team protested and the official changed his mind after consulting with his linesman. Confusion reigned inside the ground and Powell led his team's protests, first discussing the decision with the fourth official and then with the referee. Sheldrake then consulted with his fourth official and once more changed his mind, settling on a drop-ball.
The match was decided by an excellent finish from new signing Bradley Wright-Phillips, but Powell was unimpressed by aspects of his team's performance in the opening half and admitted that there had been stern words at the break. As a player Powell was always keen to share a joke, but he seems to have made it clear quite quickly that he stands apart from the squad now that he is their gaffer.
Powell was a popular figure during three spells at Charlton. Photo credit: Getty images
"The other day I walked into physiotherapist's room and noticed that everything suddenly went quiet," the Addicks boss told the BBC's Late Kick Off programme. "I knew why it had happened."
Powell appears to have arrived at the club at a moment when financial stability has returned after several years of uncertainty - and he has inherited a squad that looks equipped to claim at least a top-six finish this season.
He has surrounded himself with an experienced backroom staff of technical director Keith Peacock, assistant manager Alex Dyer and first-team coach Damian Matthew. Powell has signed a three-and-a-half year deal and the hope is that he can bring a period of calm to a club that went through four managers in as many years. Powell wants to restore that "Charlton feeling" of a genuine pride in wearing the shirt and I have heard fans suggest that they have got their club back.
In his programme notes on Tuesday chairman Slater said: "For the long term a new and inspirational manager was the key. We've found one."
Crucially, Slater added that he understands there will be no quick fixes and unrealistic timeframes. Powell might be a Charlton legend for what he did as a player but it is important he is given the time to find his feet as he takes his first steps in management.
"He is at a club he knows well and the fans both like and respect him so that will buy him a little bit longer than normal," said Holland.
"But unfortunately that only lasts so long. Ultimately, it is all about results."
An emotional Powell cried after his last appearance for the club as his team-mates paraded him around the pitch on his shoulders.
Charlton supporters and countless others in the game are hoping that Powell's tenure as manager does not end in tears of a different kind.