At least in terms of vociferousness, the 'Powell out' brigade is gaining momentum, although it is always difficult to judge what the balance of opinion among fans is. I didn't expect to get anything out of the Wigan game and a 2-1 defeat away to a side that was in the Premier League last season and is now hitting form after the end of their Europa League exploits is no disgrace. The Football League Paper says this morning that it was a 'gutsy' performance and gives good marks to a number of Charlton players: Thurman-Ulien, 7; Morrison, 8; Poyet, 7; Jackson, 7; Nego, 7; 'Gucci' 7; Sordell 7. Hopefully, Peter the Pole will be available for next Saturday.
I also found this comment from a fan interesting, 'On Friday CP lost his most creative player and main goalscorer, neither of which he wanted to lose. He then also loses his only fit goalkeeper. The team today included 3 players making their first starts and two more playing their second games. Plus the centre midfield was comprised of an 18 and1 9 year old. We were up against a team who were in the Premiership last year and we all said before the start we would get nothing from this game. Yet we are all focused on the last few minutes when we were under the cosh the whole match. We were lucky to be ahead in the first place and even luckier to still be ahead with 2 minutes to go. We could equally argue Powell was lucky for 85 minutes as to argue he got it wrong for 5. Probably the goals were coming anyway.'
I think that the outcome of the season depends a great deal on how good the new players are and how they settle in. I remain concerned about the midfield. However, we could keep the manager and stay up, or change the manager and go down. I think that in modern football, the difference the manager makes has been exaggerated, and there is too little focus on the players. For example, yesterday we were defending too deep in the second half: the bench urged the players to stop doing this and got no response.
As a result, we see the tenure of managers getting shorter and shorter, despite the evidence (see below) that more often than not, a change of manager makes no difference. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but one has to be careful about how one interprets them. I think that Sir Alex Ferguson could see the writing on the wall at Manchester United, realised that there was a big rebuilding job, and got out while he was ahead.
I do not think that Chris Powell is perfect, no manager is. He makes mistakes, as they all do. I think that Bradley Pritchard is a technically limited player (and I am not alone in that view) and I would not have brought him on as a substitute yesterday. I hear that Leroy Resonior defended Chris Powell on the Football League Show, saying that given the patchwork nature of the side Charlton fans should be proud of the performance they turned in.
I think that Chris Powell will go, but probably not until his contract expires in the summer. As Neil Warnock observes in the Football League Paper today (in relation to Leeds), foreign owners want to hire their own bosses. Rumours persist about Avram Grant being brought in as director of football, but I still don't see this happening - and I don't think it would be the answer. I think that we will move to a director of football/coach model and this would be no bad thing. I also hope that any replacement would be a foreign manager who would develop a more sophisticated style of patient possession football.
My former colleague Sue Bridgewater, now heading up sports research at Liverpool University Management School, has taught Chris Powell and has a high opinion of him as a person and as a manager. She is also a critic of the rate of managerial turnover. So what is the evidence?
First, one has to avoid the individualistic fallacy, that is generalising from an individual case to a general proposition. To put it another way, anecdotal evidence is not good enough.
Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Anderson, co-author of the best selling The Numbers Game in London for lunch. From the States, Chris is currently living in London and occasionally visiting The Valley. There is a lot of detailed data analysis in his book. His message is clear: 'Sackings do not improve club performances. Clubs simply regress to the mean ... The idea that sacking managers is a panacea for a team's ills is a placebo. It is an expensive illusion.'
Sue Bridgewater analysed sackings in the Premier League from 1992 to 2008 and found that there is a boost for a short honeymoon period (perhaps because players want to impress the new manager). The average club earns 1.3 points a match. It typically sacks its manager when it averages only 1 point a match, that is at a low point in the cycle. When you are at a very low point, you are always going to improve. In other words, there is a cause and effect issue: does the manager cause the positive swing or is he the beneficiary of it? Bridgewater found that three months after a sacking the typical club was averaging the standard 1.3 points a game.