January 31st, 2014, will stand as a pivotal moment in the history of Charlton. It was Yann Kermorgant who left the club that day, but it was Chris Powell’s managership that was finished by the sale.
“Funds received from the transfer will be used to strengthen the Charlton playing squad before January transfer window closes at 11pm,” claimed the club’s official statement - a fatuous and unfulfilled promise, as it turned out.
Instead, Powell was left with a rag-bag of continental signings that he clearly did not feel were ready to play in the Championship. We didn’t even know who had chosen them, except that it wasn’t him.
He also lost goalkeeper Ben Alnwick in apparently controversial circumstances, as well as midfielder Dale Stephens to Brighton.
But it was the sale of Kermorgant and the broken transfer promise to the fans the same day that effectively ended Powell’s hopes of keeping Charlton up and set him on a collision course with owner Roland Duchatelet. It resulted, five and half weeks later in his dismissal.
Powell will say what he wants to say about the circumstances of his departure in due course, but it will likely be understated. He had put on a typically brave and positive public face since the takeover, as he had through a turbulent three years under the previous owners. It was, however, often at odds with what was going on behind the scenes.
His key relationship on taking up the job had been with Peter Varney, who as vice chairman delivered the 2011 recruitment programme that secured the promotion squad and, thanks to Powell, a club record 101 League One points.
But Varney and chief executive Steve Kavanagh were pushed out of Charlton in the summer of 2012 when they asked questions about the club’s solvency as a mountain of bills went unpaid for months, and Powell’s personal relationship with owner Tony Jimenez was never an easy one.
Despite only being able to bring in right-back Lawrie Wilson and the veteran Ricardo Fuller to strengthen the team that summer, Powell somehow managed to carve out a ninth-placed finish in 2012/13.
Whatever criticism might be thrown at him for style of football, team selection, tactical naivety or the failures of 2013/14, he had assembled a group of players in 2011 that achieved far more on the pitch than its cost suggested likely. He simply wasn't equipped by his bosses to move it on to the next stage.
And throughout his three years, two months in charge of the Addicks, he was a shining personal example to everyone around him.
His public persona was beyond reproach and his private courtesy and sensitivity to others extraordinary.
Just one small kindness, but important to me, was the fact he went out of his way to get a personal message of support to me when I was sacked by the club in October 2012.
He had terrible circumstances thrown at him and to the outside world he seemed to shrug them aside.
As recently as last month, this decent, loyal and usually dignified man was still passionate enough to swing from the crossbar at Hillsborough when the Addicks qualified for an FA Cup quarter-final.
He was the best of Charlton in the worst of times.
In the end, he was undermined by the club’s own board of directors, even as the team stood on the threshold of a first Wembley semi-final in 67 years.
The loss of Kermorgant was a hammer blow to Charlton’s survival hopes this season, but Powell going takes the heart out of the club.
We will rebuild it, with or without the Belgian owner, because many things define a club, not any one individual passing through, and we have overcome greater challenges. But there may be some dark days before that happens.
For now we should salute a man who epitomised all that has been best about Charlton since he first arrived at The Valley in 1998.
He is, was, and ever shall be one of the club’s all-time heroes, on and off the pitch. For the last 20 months he has also been the source of its wider credibility.
We loved him. He made us proud once more. And we will not see his like again.
Much more on Chris Powell and the crisis at the club will be in VOTV111, to be published at the Burnley game on Saturday, March 22nd.
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