BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Lee Bowyer has revealed he got “choked up” in his farewell address to Charlton Athletic’s players.
The 44-year-old quit the Addicks on Monday and was appointed Birmingham’s new head coach on Tuesday evening.
Bowyer told the Charlton squad about his departure at the club’s Sparrows Lane training base before heading to the Midlands to sign a Blues deal until 2023.
“It’s probably the hardest speech I have ever had to do,” Bowyer told the South London Press. “I was getting a little bit choked up because it was a tough decision.
“I didn’t even get like that after the play-off final. My wife always says I’m quite a hard person. She’ll watch something on TV and get choked up and I’ll be telling her: ‘Shut up, you wally!’ That’s just the way I am. But I did [get emotional] the other day – because I care. I put so much into the place, so it was definitely hard to leave.
“The other reason it was hard is because I brought players in, and then you go. So I felt bad to go with 11 matches to go.
“I’m thinking ‘is this the right thing to do?’ But deep down I knew it was the right thing. It doesn’t make it any easier. If I didn’t have that connection with the club and the memories we’ve built then it would’ve been easier.
“But it is a little bit like when you are a player and feel that you need a new challenge.
“I asked Jacko [Johnnie Jackson] to take the [Bristol Rovers] game. I messaged him before to say good luck and I meant it. I told him ‘you got this’.
“Jacko would’ve been nervous. It is the first game he has taken charge of and there is a lot of responsibility. It is different to being the assistant, I know because I’ve been there.
“He wants the right thing to happen because he cares about the club – thankfully they won.
“Of course I want them to get in the top six and get promotion, that will never change.”
Bowyer said players, both past and present, had been in touch this week.
He fell just short of three years in charge of Charlton with the high point the League One play-off final win over Sunderland in 2018.
“I won’t name individuals but I’d say I got a number of [the current] players who rang or messaged,” said Bowyer. “They could see the effort and work I put in there.
“They are not silly, they know a lot of them have improved under me. Even ones who have left were sending me messages – Karlan [Grant], Lyle [Taylor], Joe Aribo, Patrick Bauer and Krystian Bielik.
“They all realise I’ve given everything to the club.
“I learned more in my three years at Charlton than other people will have learned in 10 years in another managerial job.
“I leave with my head held high, that’s 100 per cent.
“The things that stand out for me is that we went up a division and our budget got smaller. Then we had ESI, crazy stuff. Everyone knows I could’ve left two or three times and I didn’t because the club was in a bad way. I thought if I left then things would crumble.
“I was loyal. People say: ‘If you are loyal, why walk away now?’ Now is the right time. The club has got a good owner in place and stability – before there was nothing at all. We were days away from going into administration.
“At the end of last season we didn’t know if we were going to get paid at all.”
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