It’s 10pm on Monday night. Steve Gallen’s phone rings. It’s Lee Bowyer calling – not for the first time that day.
“Right, I’ll head off to bed then,” says Katie Gallen, Steve’s wife. She knows the score. The call won’t be a short one, it never is when those two are concerned.
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“Both of our wives joke around and say when are you two getting married?” Bowyer laughs.
The bond the pair have is clear for all to see. It’s something that Charlton Athletic have reaped the benefits of.
With Bowyer as manager and Gallen as head of recruitment, Charlton’s fortunes have been transformed over the past 18 months despite the club operating without a chief executive and chairman and with an absent owner at odds with supporters.
Bowyer is ringing up Gallen, who was appointed to the club’s board of directors last week, to ask him if he watched Jonny Williams in action for Wales against Belarus.
The former Crystal Palace man, who took a 50 per cent pay cut to remain with the Addicks in the summer, played a starring role in the 1-0 victory, teeing up Daniel James’ winner at the Cardiff City Stadium.
And Bowyer can’t contain his excitement, with Gallen the first recipient of his joy.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT.com, the Addicks boss said: “I can’t tell you how proud I was of Jonny Williams on Monday night. I was watching the TV and to just seem him involved in the first place gave me such a buzz.
“That boy is the nicest person I’ve ever met in football. I see him every day and he just makes me smile. I called Steve up and he’d been watching, too.
“We were both made up for him. As a manager, knowing that you’ve had an impact on someone’s career is a great feeling – that’s your reward.
“This time last year Jonny was playing for Crystal Palace Under-23s, things really weren’t working out for him. Now he’s pulling the strings for Wales in midfield and getting named man of the match – it’s some turnaround.
“He wasn’t good enough in pre-season and I told him that. And what did he do in response to that? He pulled his sleeves up, listened to my advice and now look at him.
“I saw him here, there and everywhere the other night, running back and winning back possession for his country with a crunching tackle.
“He did the same when we played Brentford the other week. He ran back, won back the ball with a slide tackle and started the move for a goal with Josh Cullen – who was in a similar situation to Jonny and is now playing for Ireland – eventually picking up the second ball and Conor [Gallagher] goes through and scores.
“We all know Jonny’s qualities. He’s a very skilful footballer who is great with the ball at his feet, but prior to this season he was missing that other element to his game – physically he wasn’t able to do that.
“He’s more of a team player now. He’s really earned his stripes and deserved to start the other night. I’m still buzzing now.”
Bowyer’s passion and enthusiasm for the game is unquestionable. Every day he spends hours watching over footage of his side’s upcoming opponents.
Gallen says the former midfielder, who won a single cap for England and made close to 400 appearances in the Premier League, is just ‘obsessed’ with football.
Bowyer admits he never wanted to be a manager when he hung up his boots seven years ago, but he opportunity to manage the club where he began his career was too good turn down and he says he is more fascinated by the game now he is in the dugout.
“Yeah, because it’s more challenging as a manager,” he says. “The preparation and everything that goes with his job.
“I loved training and playing as a footballer – that’s why I continued playing until I was 35. And now I’m enjoying it in a different way as a manager.
“Man management is so important. To have the players believe in what you’re telling them and every day on the training pitch you’ve got to keep them happy and progress, both individually and as a team.
“The balance that we have here is working really well and I think all of the players from when the first day they came into this football club to now, whether they were permanent deals or loans, have all improved.
“It just proves that my staff and myself are doing the right things. Everybody is happy here.
“The club wasn’t in a good place when I took over, so from where it was then to where it is now it’s a great achievement.”
Operating on the lowest budget in the Championship, last year’s League One play-off winners currently lie second in the table having picked up 14 points from their opening six matches.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed. Bowyer has been a wanted man over the last few months.
Most recently Huddersfield expressed a strong interest in bringing the 42-year-old to the John Smith’s Stadium – which would have seen him get a significant wage increase – but Bowyer, who admitted he was tempted by the possibility, remained loyal to the Addicks.
“I stayed because what we’ve built here is very good. The club means a lot to me personally. I started off here as a kid. For me to leave this football club it will have to be something big,” he declared.
“I’m going to keep enjoying it here for as long as I can. At the same time there will come a time whether the club moves me on or I make that decision – that’s football after all.
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“Yes, there has been interest since I’ve been manager here. If you do well and you’re successful then other clubs will want you, it’s as simple as that.”
He continued: “Of course it was tempting to go there [to Huddersfield]. It’s great to be recognised for what you’re doing. But it was about what was right for my career, and more importantly what was right on a moral level.
“My family are local and we’re sitting second in the league. I’ve got a good bunch of players, some of them have come here specifically to learn from myself – I couldn’t just walk away.
“I thought it be wrong of myself to do that and leave this all behind it. I just couldn’t do it. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but that is part and parcel of football.
“We have great fans, this is a big football club. If the right people come in and take over then who knows what could happen? This club could easily get back into the Premier League.”
Those hopes could pin on keeping hold of Lyle Taylor for the foreseeable future. The former AFC Wimbledon striker has been a revelation since arriving at the club on a free transfer last summer.
He has already scored five goals in six appearances this season having netted 25 times in the 2018/19 season.
Brentford made multiple bids for Taylor before the transfer window closed last month, with the possibility of a massive wage increase understandably turning the player’s head at the time.
The Bees are still sniffing around now – it would come as no surprise to anyone at Charlton if they come in with another offer in January.
Bowyer completely understood Taylor’s predicament and says his response to the failed move has been ‘exceptional’.
“It was a difficult situation for the lad,” he said. “He’s 29 years old and had a side come in for him who offered him a lot of money in the summer.
“I’m guessing he hasn’t earned that top bracket money in his career as he’s been around the lower leagues. So when that opportunity presents itself of course you’re going to be interested, it’s about securing your family’s future.
“As soon as that window closed though he remained professional and was every bit as good, if not better, than last season.
“Lyle’s attitude has been spot on – he’s been exceptional for this football club. When he first came to the club he needed to get fitter, yeah he could score goals as he’s done that throughout his career. It was more about improving his all-round game.
“If you can score goals, can hold the ball up, create chances for your team-mates and you have a great work ethic then you have all the ingredients to to be a top striker.
“If we’d have lost him it would have been a lot more difficult for us to stay in the league. It was crucial we did keep hold of him. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did go.
“We’ve got try and nail down a new contract for Lyle. That’s something that is in the owner’s powers and hopefully he puts a good enough offer in front of him and his agent to sign on again.”
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Having represented Birmingham, Ipswich, Leeds, Newcastle and West Ham – as well as Charlton – during an impressive playing career, Bowyer played under some great managers – Howard Wilkinson and the late Sir Bobby Robson among them.
But who has the Charlton boss turned to advice so far in his blossoming managerial career?
“I speak to Steve Bruce quite a bit. I never played under him but he tried to bring me to Birmingham about six times, so whenever I see him he always gives me a bit of banter about that,” he chuckles.
“He’s a nice, respectful man who I know very well from family holidays and what not.
“He’s got all the experience you can have as a manager, so I’ve turned to him for advice in certain situations.
“Howard Wilkinson at Leeds is another one, I speak to him here and there. He’s a very wise man who’s been in the game a very long time.
“I spoke to Dean Smith in pre-season when we played Aston Villa and asked him if there’s one bit of advice you could give me what would it be – I ask all the managers that.
“He said ‘try and win every game in that division’. I would have done that anyway, but it’s nice to hear that from a fellow manager, as that’s my mentality too.
“I don’t set up my team not to lose, I go into every single game believing my team can win no matter who we’re playing. That’s the type of person I am.”
So what is the difference between Lee Bowyer the player and Lee Bowyer the manager?
“Nothing, I’ve also been a winner. That will never change,” he says passionately.
“I’m a laid back person in general. Around the training ground I’m always calm.
“That helps, whether you’re winning or losing, because everyone knows where they stand.
“But as soon as it’s game time or you’re on the training pitch learning, then I’m completely different.
“You have to do the right things on the training pitch and on a match day, because I want to win.
“I’m demanding and respectful, but I’m a winner. I always have and I always will be. My job is to get this team to win games and push them as hard as I can.
“If they maintain the standards that I set them every single time they step out on to that field then will we will have a successful season.”
Bowyer readily admits he’d snap your hand off if you offered him a fourth from bottom place finish right now.
So he was rather perplexed to say the least when he overheard one fan talking about the small matter of promotion just four games into this season.
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“I overheard a conversation where someone said ‘yeah, I think we’ll get promotion’. Come on now, let’s be realistic for goodness sake. You’re talking rubbish,” he shakes his head.
“We’d played four games at that stage and the fella’s talking about promotion. Sort yourself out.
“We need to establish ourselves back in the Championship – that’s the main priority right now.
“We don’t want to become a yo-yo club. Let’s concentrate on staying in the league and maybe someone else will take over and the ambition might change then.
“As we stand now, give me fourth bottom and I’ll take that all day long.”
It’s hard to believe Bowyer will settle for that, though, and given what he has achieved so far down at The Valley few would be surprised to see Charlton upset the odds once more this season.