Charlton chaplain Matt Baker is the heartbeat of the club says Chris Powell in a feature on club chaplains in The Times today which gives the Addicks top billing. Powell said that if he ever left Charlton for another club a chaplain would be one of his first signings: 'I would demand a chaplain ASAP.'
But Powell, who is known for his religious commitment, admits that not everyone buys into the concept. Coaches dislike interference and clubs fear Bible bashers.
But he insists, 'If a club doesn't have a chaplain, they are missing the point. Why not have someone who will help the club grow, help players individually, be part of the support network? Players need a voice, someone with empathy away from the football side. I'm their boss and they understand that, but these guys might see something that means they need to talk. They won't come to me with a question about religion or bereavement.'
'I don't think there's many chaplains qualified to deal with an on-pitch issue. But what if the player is dropped, he might think how does he handle that? The chaplain's role could be to keep his spirits up, tell him he's seen him play.'
Matt Baker has been Charlton's chaplain for 13 years. He also works full time as pastoral support director for English Football. Four months into his chaplaincy he had to deal with the drowning of Pierre Bolangi at an army training centre in Aldershot.
When Leon McKenzie attempted to take his life three years ago while playing for the Addicks, Baker, in the days that followed, was the only person at the club he told about the depths of his depression.