After I said my piece, the players went out for the warm-up and Peter Reid, who was the Plymouth manager, came into my room.
He started talking to me about his troubles at the club, and I’m looking at him thinking: “Is this normal? Does the opposition manager usually come in?” I’d never seen it before.
Is he trying to unnerve me?
I was already nervous, thinking about all the things I had to do. About the pressure. We’ve got to start winning games, getting points.
But looking back now, I can see he was just being himself. Being friendly. I’ve never forgotten that moment, though.
As a new manager, you’re constantly outside of your comfort zone. Always asking yourself, is this right?
That day, we beat Plymouth 2-0. It was a great start and the momentum stayed with us for the next three games, too.
But then the winning stopped.
“Signing 16 players was a bold step, but I felt I needed to do it. The club needed new heroes”
For 11 games, we couldn’t get over the line. In fact, we only won two more games for the rest of the season. Like I said, it was a tough six months.
In my interview for the job, I’d said I was going to change the whole culture of the club. That summer, I knew that was what we had to do.
It helped that I knew Charlton. Over three separate spells there as a player, I’d played more than 250 games for the club. I knew the supporters, too – I’ve been there so many times, I think I know every single supporter.
I knew what it took to get that club back on track.
My first six months gave me time to look at the squad. Time to see the disconnect between the club and the fans. There was a downbeat feeling that I knew we could change if we got the supporters on side.
So, I asked everyone to trust me. I asked the supporters to trust me. And we made big changes.