EFL Reporter @simgholam
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer: The once-reluctant manager now on the rise
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Last Updated: 05/10/19 11:27am
Lee Bowyer never dreamed of continuing in football once his playing days were over.
There were no boyhood ambitions of standing on the touchline in a suit barking orders, leading his team out at Wembley or planning inspirational half-time team talks. He played his last game in 2012 for Ipswich and, for a few years, his future seemed to lie in the far more relaxed world of carp fishing.
Seven years on from his retirement from playing, he is sat in the Charlton manager's office chatting to Sky Sports presenter and his former team-mate Scott Minto. It shows how quickly the course of your life can unexpectedly alter.
"I had no intention of going into management at all," Bowyer says. "I came back into football through luck. Harry Kewell rang me up on the off-chance, and I went in and helped him out at Watford.
"Then Karl Robinson let me come back into Charlton for a couple of days a week to work with the midfielders, and it just escalated from there. I became his assistant, then Karl left and went to Oxford and I got told I had three games in charge before the new owners would come in with their own people, but I'm still here! Let's just say I'm hanging in there."
'Hanging in there' is an understatement. As a caretaker boss, Bowyer steered Charlton into the League One play-offs in 2018. His first full campaign at The Valley ended in victory at Wembley and promotion to the Championship.
And success was not easy to come by. Bowyer began his career at Charlton as a schoolboy and admitted he didn't recognise what it had become upon his return in 2017 as the fans continued their ongoing protests against the owners.
Getting the supporters back onside was his most problematic task, and his biggest achievement.
"When I got back here it wasn't the same club I remembered from before," Bowyer said. "It had been a good family club with great support. It disappointed me because it had become the opposite and I didn't know what had happened.
"My job was to try and include the fans. I knew they had their differences with the owners but I can't control that, it was nothing to do with me. The most important thing I told them was to get behind the team, because I knew if they did it would make a huge difference.
"I felt we had a squad last season that could chase promotion, and I said put your differences aside and come and be a part of this journey. Don't miss out on what we're about to do.
"Thankfully, slowly but surely, they started to come back and by the end of the season we had a full house and the place was rocking. That was one of the proudest moments for me."
Even with all the success it looked for a period in the summer that Bowyer would be on his way out of the club. His contract was up, his stock was high, and other clubs were lurking.
The former midfielder, now 42, knows he could have left. But it was his love for Charlton that made him stay.
"The club means a lot to me," he said. "I started here as a kid and I felt the job wasn't finished yet. We had come this far and I wanted to give what we had put together a go in the Championship.
"It's a great club, we've got the fans back onside, and we're moving in the right direction. So for me it wasn't the right time to walk away. I had a discussion with the owner and thankfully we sorted things out. Obviously I would rather have a longer contract to try and build something, but that's not the case."
A few years ago he was sat in France running a fishing business, the world of football already seemed a world away. Now Bowyer has the bug again, and he wants to go as high as he can. Just like many Charlton fans, he hopes it will be with the Addicks.
"I don't even know where I'll be in the summer when my contract is done!" he jokes. "But I want to be the best I can, as I did as a player, and I want to get to the highest level and be winning things. That is why I was in the game as a player and nothing has changed for me as a manager.
"I want to carry on, and ideally I want to do that with this club, because I love it here."