The downside for Lee Bowyer if he takes Charlton to the League One play-off final at Wembley on May 27 is having to delay a fishing holiday to the south of France.
‘I’ve already got a trip booked so I’ll miss a few days,’ reveals the unlikeliest managerial success story of the season. ‘It’s a funny situation but I’d rather be preparing the lads for the most important game of their lives.’
That Bowyer will be in the home dugout for Thursday’s semi-final first leg against Shrewsbury at the Valley is a major surprise in itself.
Lee Bowyer has delayed a fishing trip if he guides Charlton to the League One play-off final
Bowyer, a keen angler, shows off a massive carp and owns a carp lake in France
Following retirement in 2012 after a lengthy career with Charlton, Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham, Birmingham and Ipswich, he showed little interest in staying in football.
He bought a carp lake in the Champagne region, renamed it Etang de Bows and opened it up as a business for angling tourists.
Even when old Leeds team-mate Harry Kewell asked him to coach kids at Watford in 2015, there was no formal contract.
Yet the journey since has taken him back to Charlton, initially on a part-time basis, promotion to assistant manager at the start of the season, and then interim manager in March after Karl Robinson left.
Bowyer bought a carp lake in the Champagne region once he hung up his boots as a footballer
Outside the top six at the time, Charlton have won six of their 10 matches under Bowyer to claim the final play-off berth.
‘I had no intention coming back into the game when I’d finished playing. I didn’t want to,’ says 41-year-old Bowyer, as slim now as when he won his sole England cap.
‘But once I dipped my toe into the coaching with Harry, it gave me the taste of that winning thing again, and being around football. It’s just gone crazy from there. As a manager, I have enjoyed the tactical side most. You watch other teams and work out how to beat them.
‘As an assistant, you’re not in control. Now I can have things done the way I want. If I fail, I’ll have failed doing it my way.’
Bowyer played under top managers including Alan Curbishley, George Graham, Terry Venables and Sir Bobby Robson – and he isn’t afraid to acknowledge their influence.
Bowyer played under top managers including Alan Curbishley (left) and Sir Bobby Robson
He says: ‘I learned from Sir Bobby at Newcastle that it’s fine to have a joke with the players, it’s allowed, as long as you keep that line where you are still in charge.
‘Terry Venables wouldn’t say anything negative about his players in public if they’d struggled. I could have gone crazy after we lost at Rochdale last Saturday, but I thought about Terry and took a step back, I said how well they had done this season.
‘Some players need an arm around them, to be told they’re the best in the world. Some need you to be firm.’ What is said within the dressing room stays there, but you can be assured Bowyer remains as challenging as he was when playing in midfield.
‘There has to be discipline in every club,’ he stresses. His player-assistant Johnnie Jackson elaborates about the Bowyer Blowdryer. ‘He can let rip and be brutally honest if the players fall short,’ reveals Jackson.
‘But then you move on. No grudges. He let everyone know in no uncertain manner after we’d lost at Wimbledon how disappointed he was. The players realised then they couldn’t come off their level or they’d be out of the side.’
Bowyer (No 4) played for Charlton, Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham, Birmingham and Ipswich
Charlton have won six of their 10 matches under Bowyer to claim the final play-off berth
Young footballers are often perceived as being selfish and pampered. ‘Not here,’ says Bowyer. ‘All my lads are respectful and well-mannered.
‘I tell them the most important thing is to work hard for each other.
‘I left two players out of the squad at Rochdale, Nicky Ajose and Harry Lennon. They asked, “Bow, can we travel anyway, we want to be part of it.” You don’t get that at other clubs. They’d be, “OK, see you later” and out the door.
‘I’ve tried to make everyone professional. Not being late for meetings, something small that carries on to the pitch. Thinking you can just get through training. It’s not like that. You have to train the way you play and that is the intensity I’ve asked for.’
Bowyer’s deal runs until the end of the season with discussions on hold until after the play-offs.
Bowyer describes 20-year-old Jay Dasilva (L) as ‘better than Ashley Cole was at his age’
Perhaps his greatest feat has been to get the Charlton fans behind the team again after years of open dissent against the regime of owner Roland Duchatelet.
‘To have a Charlton man at the helm definitely helps,’ says Jackson. ‘It has allowed that connection between club and supporters that was lacking before. You can feel the change of atmosphere and vibe.’
On Thursday night, Bowyer can call upon bright individuals such as top scorer Ajose, Northern Ireland international Josh Magennis and 20-year-old left back Jay Dasilva, on loan from Chelsea and described by Bowyer as ‘better than Ashley Cole was at his age’.
Shrewsbury finished 16 points ahead of Charlton in the regular season but the Bowyer factor could be significant. It’s not time to put up the ‘Gone Fishing’ sign just yet.