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Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Saturday, 8 January 2011

Phil Parkinson's sacking is a sign of Charlton's slide

Phil Parkinson
Parkinson was under pressure to guide Charlton back to the Championship

By John Stanton

Less than five years ago Charlton were regarded as a model of stability and a club with a measured approach others should emulate. On Tuesday, they sacked boss Phil Parkinson and are now looking for a fifth manager in four-and-a-half years.

It is the latest unhappy chapter in the turbulent recent history of a team which has struggled to adapt to life after Alan Curbishley, whose remarkable 15-year reign ended in 2006.

He succeeded in transforming an unfashionable club into one which became the envy of many supporters - and chairmen - up and down the country: well-run, financially stable and upwardly mobile.

When Curbishley departed at the end of the 2005-06 season, the widely held view was that he had taken the team as far as he could and that a new approach was needed if progress was to be made.

But as this latest sacking highlights, it has not worked out as planned.

Parkinson was the fourth manager since Curbishley's exit to have failed to revive the club's fortunes, as fans have endured two relegations, mounting debts, key players being sold and the spectre of administration constantly lurking in the background.

"It's sad for me to see what's happened to the club over the last five years," said BBC Radio London's Steve Brown, who made 280 appearances for Charlton between 1990 and 2002. "I was there when we were locked out of The Valley and when the ground was in disrepair. I then watched it being built back up into a place where there were 27,000 fans coming along each week and we were competing in the top half of the Premier League.

"The club went through some extremely difficult times but it fought back, so it really saddens me that they are now struggling in the third tier."

According to Brown, a lack of stability has been one of the principal reasons for the Addicks' decline.

Steve Brown
Brown was an important part of Charlton's Premier League side

"The four people who have had the job since Alan Curbishley were all very good on paper but they couldn't stop that downward spiral," he added, referring to Iain Dowie, Les Reed, Alan Pardew and Parkinson.

"Ever since Curbs left there has been a lack of consistency. Managers have come and gone and each one brings a new philosophy which means upheaval for the club.

"We finished seventh and ninth in the top flight and that was an incredible achievement for a club with limited resources. Nowadays people talk about the Premier League as being out of this world, and it's certainly a million miles from where Charlton are at the moment.

"The squad I was involved in might not have been the strongest on paper but we had a core of players and staff who had been there for the best part of a decade. In my time there were four testimonials and three players who stayed for nine years, and that continuity was the reason for our success. Look at any strong team in any league and they will usually have had stability on and off the field.

"It should also be remembered that Curbs was given time. His first two or three years weren't comfortable but now he's considered the greatest manager in the club's history. After he went the next man was always going to have a difficult job and that is still proving to be the case nearly five years later."

Parkinson is the latest to struggle to marry the club's Premier League aspirations with the limited money available.


Where only a few years earlier Charlton had been the home of players of the calibre of Darren Bent and Scott Parker, over the last two seasons the manager was scraping around the lower leagues for free transfers and loan signings.

A club once unhappy with mid-table mediocrity in the Premier League can now only dream of the level achieved under Curbishley. The principal target of the new owners, Tony Jimenez and Michael Slater, who ended more than two years of takeover speculation by assuming control of the Addicks on 31 December, is to escape League One at the earliest opportunity.

It could be an excellent time to assume the vacant managerial position at The Valley. The new boardroom regime should afford Charlton more stability than at any stage since Curbishley's departure, as there ought to be an end to the constant fretting over finances, and they are still very much in contention for promotion, sitting fifth in the table, three points off second place.

But whoever the club's new owners choose to appoint next - Dennis Wise is the early favourite because of his links with Jimenez - Curbishley's success in establishing the south Londoners as a Premier League force remains a burden on those who have attempted to replicate his feats.

Dowie, Reed, Pardew and Parkinson have all now tried and failed. Pardew was in charge when Charlton dropped into the Championship and Parkinson could not arrest the slide when he was appointed permanently in December 2008, the club suffering relegation to League One at the end of that season.

For a while, it seemed he might be the man to offer the club stability as they raced clear at the top of the table last season, but they were eventually beaten on penalties in the play-off semi-finals by Swindon.

The lack of money available and a general feeling of goodwill towards Parkinson for his efforts in difficult circumstances meant he was afforded a stay of execution in the summer, but that would continue less than a week into the new owners' regime.

"I have some sympathy for Phil," said Brown. "But the new owners have put their money where their mouths are and they have the right to make the decisions. They need the supporters' backing if they are to return Charlton to where they were."

The task facing the next incumbent - if he is afforded the time - is to revive a club which has fallen on hard times. The likes of Norwich, Leeds and, going further back, Manchester City, have all shown that there is life after League One, while Curbishley proved that Charlton can be a force at the top level. No Addicks manager is ever likely to forget that.

Charlton 4-2 Swindon

Parkinson's last game in charge - Charlton 2-4 Swindon

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