Charlton manager Lee Bowyer has spelled out that his comments after last night’s defeat to Milton Keynes were meant as absolutely no criticism of the club’s fans.
The Addicks had 2,000 supporters back at The Valley as government restrictions over crowds attending football matches was eased yesterday.
Bowyer has expressed disappointment in the immediate aftermath of the 1-0 reverse that the fans were not more vocal and positive as they headed back to SE7.
Speaking to the South London Press today, he made it clear that he meant absolutely no criticism.
Bowyer said: “I wasn’t trying to have a pop at them. The relationship I’ve got with our fans is unreal. There are not many managers who have that kind of relationship.
“I appreciate it was freezing cold – I can’t believe how early they were in there, about an hour and a half before the match. I said about it to one of my staff ‘they must have been freezing’.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for them because whatever we have done here they have been a massive part of that.
“If there’s one thing I’ve been from day one that I’ve been here, that’s honest in every interview that I do.
“Someone asked me about the atmosphere – what did you think – and I said it was quiet, because it was. And the one thing I did say as well – and people took it completely the wrong way – is that our fans are great. And they are good at recognising when our team needs a lift, needs a bit of help.
“They are vital to us and I’ve praised them from day one. When I took over I said this club needs to come together. The fans will always play a big part – they were a massive part of us getting promoted. Nothing changes in that regard.
“The thing that did disappoint me is that I’m thinking with 2,000 coming in and they’ve been locked away from football for months and months and months, I just expected them to be singing the whole time – happy to be back in the ground and getting behind the team.
“That’s what I thought, but it wasn’t. It was quiet. I understand as a team that sometimes we need to make them happy and get them singing. To be fair in the first 20 minutes the other day we could’ve scored two or three goals when we won the ball high up, but we didn’t take care of the final pass.
“We were pressing well and winning it high. We had a couple of chances but they still didn’t get behind them.
“I’m not criticising them. I’m not criticising them at all. It’s not that I’m trying to blame them for our performance – whatever we do on the pitch, that’s down to us. I accept we’ve got to entertain them, that’s what we’ve done since we came in. That place has been bouncing at home and we’ve been the same away. But last night it wasn’t. That’s got nothing to do with if we played good or bad – because normally whether we are good or bad they have been excellent. We’ve played badly at home before.
“I understand it was only 2,000 fans that were there. I thought they would be singing their hearts out. That could’ve been the difference in us scoring before they did.
“I’ve praised the fans from day one. The players have been on the road – Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday – all of them away games and they were tired last night. I watched the game and we looked off it. They [MK] looked a lot sharper than us. That’s the time when you need the fans – whether it is 100 people or 100,000 – to try and push you on. They have always had an impact since I’ve been in charge.
“Yous are part of this. Getting promotion isn’t going to be easy and they are going to play a big part – they did two years ago. I just want them singing their hearts out, however many are there, and if the team underperform that’s down to me, the coaches and the players. I’ll accept that.
“I’m not saying it’s the fans’ fault – of course it’s not. The players weren’t at it last night. We lost 1-0 and deserved to lose. We hit the bar at the end and should’ve scored. If that goes in we nick a draw.
“I have to analyse why they were so much sharper than us. I was lying there at 3am thinking it over, how is that happening? We’re playing at home for the first time in ages and have got the fans back, we should be like ‘c’mon let’s go’.
“It was a learning curve for me for certain players – if they can go Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.
“We’ve got a few out at the moment. Two because of Covid. We’ve got no central defenders that are fit to start. Akin [Famewo] came on [after a month out]. Recognise the situation we’re under and look at the bigger picture, that’s always what I try to do.
“We were in fourth place going into the game with a chance to go second with a game in hand – and we’ve got no recognised centre-halves fully fit. We’ve played three-four games with no recognised centre-halves fit. There has to be a little bit of slack.
“We all want to get promoted but you have to look at the situation we’re in. We brought in 12 new players and we’ve had hardly any time on the training pitch because of travelling here, there and everywhere. We’ve played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday.
“That’s no excuse for last night. I won’t ever give players an excuse because what I do is push them and push them and get the best out of them.
“If we had gone second then the only team above us would have been Hull, who near enough kept their whole squad after they went down from the Championship. We just went to Ipswich and won. They are a good side who were in the top two for a number of weeks.
“We had a blip – we’re going to have blips.
“When people ask me about the performances am I going to lie now? The way I answer is why players and fans respect me. Sometimes I say things and people may criticise me for what I say about a player – but I do it sometimes to get a reaction, the right reaction.
“I’ll use Albie Morgan as an example. I’ve said things about him in the past and people say ‘you’re harsh on Albie, he’s a young lad’ – but look at him now.
“Hopefully we’ll have at least 2,000 in for Wimbledon. Come and do what you’re good at. We’ll try and do what we’re good at and you do what you’re good at – getting behind the team and singing and singing. The players need that help. It can affect them. Naby Sarr is another example. I said to do us a favour and get behind him and everyone will see he is a good player – they started singing his name and he became much, much better.
“When you sing a player’s name you’ll be amazed what it does to them. It makes them push that little bit more. It shouldn’t – but that’s what it does.”
PHOTOS: PAUL EDWARDS
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