Saturday, 6 July 2013

Charlie Oatway interview

Did this one for The Seagull Love Review in November 2009, just after Gus was appointed. Thought I'd put it on here for posterity. Charlie was always one of my favourite interviewees...

How was your first training session with Gus?
It was an eye-opener, obviously. I’ve been involved with the reserves and all that for a little while. When the gaffer and Bob and Dean got sacked Hinsh spoke to me about it being virtually all hands to the pump. It was good to see a man of that profile at work.

Were you surprised when you heard that he’d got it?

He hasn’t said this, but he has been a successful second in charge. He was very humble and said ‘I’ve done ok’ – but he has done well, simple as that. I wasn’t taken aback because the papers knew he’d been interviewed. I knew as much as they did, so it wasn’t a shock. But it’s a massive name – you’re talking about a man who nearly went to Real Madrid as an Assistant Manager, so that speaks volumes.

Has he given it the big-time Charlie at all?

No, he’s very down-to-earth. It’s very funny when he swears because he’s got that little twang to his accent. He hasn’t heard my accent yet, though. 

Is your training top on back to front?
No, it’s crappy old kit until our kit comes.

Is that sort of thing a bit of a culture shock for him, do you think?

No, it ain’t gonna be a culture shock for him, is it? The fact is he was at Swindon and Leeds. I know Leeds is a massive club but they had money problems at the time so I don’t think he had everything in abundance. He seems like a hands-on type of guy so I don’t think he’s going to care about getting his hands dirty or worry about wearing an odd sock or not.

Did you do anything different this morning to the rest of the season?

He came straight in and was very relaxed. He’s got set times that he wants to work to, he’s set things that he wants to work with, you know…he wants to shut up shop at the back because we’ve conceded a lot of goals…but it’s a team effort, he ain’t isolating back fours or goalkeepers. It’s a team effort and he seems very big on that sort of scenario.

Because that’s what you and Hinsh said last week, isn’t it? You wanted to shut up at the back, and then you conceded four goals, so there’s no guarantee when you work on those things. Is that a concern?

If that’s the case, which I haven’t found yet because I haven’t been here long enough, then you need to get different personnel, don’t you? If the penny ain’t dropping…but they’re a young, enthusiastic back four or back six players we’ve got there…

Do you think maybe we need another Guy Butters?

Time’s gonna tell, because I wasn’t here day-in, day-out. I started here taking the reserves with Bob Booker, so I wasn’t seeing what went on on a daily basis. I wasn’t seeing the training sessions so I don’t really know.

Does it make the sackings hard for you when you were quite good mates with Bob and Dean?

The simple fact is I’ve been in the game 14, 15 years as a pro…they’re honest lads, Dean White’s probably the most honest lad you’ll ever meet in your life, and he even said, ‘fourth from bottom, what did we expect?’” So it was as simple as that, but it weren’t through a lack of trying, I can tell ya.

Are you still in touch with them?

Yeah, every one of them.

Have you spoken to them about Gus’s appointment?

I haven’t spoken to them since the gaffer got the job, but you feel devastated when someone gets sacked. It’s not nice – you don’t want to see anybody get sacked, especially in this current client. But football’s football and it moves on.

So the next step is Southampton on Sunday. What do you reckon?

I haven’t seen Southampton. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they were out of the situation they was in because they’ve got three good coaches and a good manager there.

Dean Wilkins and…

Well Wally Downes has been everywhere, he’s very good with back fours and things like that. I’ve just had a text come through from him as it happens. I don’t want to show you it, but it’s ok. It’ll be interesting but the be-all and end-all isn’t Sunday, it’s beyond that.

Do you think you’ll be a part of that?

I don’t know what the gaffer’s got planned, we’ve only been together four hours or so. I think so.

I’ve got to say, I think everyone enjoyed seeing you really give it some on the touchline at Wycombe last Saturday. It was good to see a bit of passion.

Well that’s me as a person – I don’t do anything for show, I do it because I care and I give a shit about the club.

Because occasionally you have to say there’s been a little bit of a lack of spirit and possibly a bit of passion missing this season.

Yeah, speaking to the gaffer and his Assistant, I think they’re going to bring a lot of passion in their own way. Just listening to him when he spoke to the players and addressed the staff, this is where he wants to work and he wants everyone to know that he doesn’t want anyone to pass the buck. If you make a mistake as staff, just put your hands up – he doesn’t want any in-betweens. That’s great, it’s music to my ears and the same for the players. He’s down-to-earth, prim and proper, let’s have a go.

A Uruguayan Charlie Oatway?

I dunno about that. Only a little bit more talent, you know. It’ll be very interesting.

Have you given (or thought about giving) him any stick yet?

What’s the phrase? Softly softly catch a monkey, I think. I’ll wait and see how the land lies and see how he reacts to me giving other people stick first, and then if he likes it he likes it…

He’ll have been used to that with Dennis Wise.

Well, Dennis is one of his best mates, and I’ve known Dennis all my life.

Do you get on with him?

Yeah, Dennis’s family and my family grew up together in White City, Shepherd’s Bush. I used to stay round one of his uncles’ house fairly regularly.

He’s been very unpopular amongst the fans, with people saying they don’t want him involved.

I don’t understand that, he’s very good and he’s achieved a hell of a lot in his management career, hasn’t he? He did well with Swindon and Leeds.

I think it’s because of the way he played. He was a very unpopular opposition player.

Oh, of course. The same goes with me at a lower level – I upset everybody but I didn’t care, and Dennis is the same. He did it at a much higher level, don’t get me wrong. I can understand why people dislike the character, but I know Dennis very well and he’s a lovely man.

Do you think there’s a chance he’ll come in at some point?

I’d imagine Dennis has got his own sights. I haven’t spoken to him for a couple of years.

He might be looking to rebuild his reputation after the bad publicity surrounding Newcastle.

Yeah, but he got drafted in to do a job and he did that job to the best of his ability. I know Dennis, simple as that, and if it ain’t worked out it ain’t been due to his lack of efforts, I’ll tell ya. I ain’t looking to blow smoke up peoples’ backsides but the same goes for the gaffer here. You can see that he’s going to be here night and day and he’s going to see us succeed.

We’ve got quite a tough run coming up now.

Yeah, November’s terrible.

Do you think that makes it the right time for Gus to come in?

When’s a good time? You could have three so-called easier games and get beat in all three. We’re fourth from bottom – it doesn’t matter who we play at the moment, we ain’t good enough.

What do you think has gone wrong this season, in total honesty?

To be totally honest there are one or two things I’ll keep to myself, because it can’t come out. At the end of the day, the sheer fact is – and I can say this because I was a player – you’ve got to take responsibility. Simple.

Have you seen people hiding on the pitch?

No, I wouldn’t say hiding. I don’t think you could ever see a player hiding, that’s a bit of a myth. Maybe you get people who aren’t as comfortable because they’re losing. Sometimes it’s a natural instinct to go ‘oh shit’…they’re young, there are a lot of youngsters here with big potential, but that’s all we have got at the moment – potential. And hopefully they’ll go on and earn this club lots and lots of money and achieve things with this football club. But at this moment in time that’s only a maybe.

You think about Russell Slade and you think at the end of last season it looked like we couldn’t have got a better manager in terms of man-management and tactics. Can you give us a clue as to why things didn’t work out for him?

Where do I think he went wrong? Again, it’s difficult to comment. It doesn’t take rocket science to sense things are wrong when you’re fourth from bottom.

He’d come out and say the right things after every game and you could tell it wasn’t bullshit. He really did seem to understand what was going wrong.

Oh yeah, he understood. He’s a very intelligent man, very clever, he’s not an idiot. But all managers and coaches – all of us – wouldn’t come out and tell everything. Do you know what I mean? You’ve got to keep a certain amount in-house and start building people back up for the Monday. But if you spoke to him now, off the cuff, I’m sure he’d tell you point blankly what the problems were. At that time he had to try and keep some of these youngsters going. I do believe at the time Russell was here, we were only one or two players short of being quite successful. That’s my opinion.

We were never getting beaten three or 4-0.

Our creative play was fantastic. I do believe Russell was one or two players short and I do know that he was looking at those one or two players very strongly.

Experienced players?

Yeah, he was looking at players who had been there, seen it, done it, but not too old in the tooth.

Like you and Paul Rogers were?

Yeah, I suppose so. But I was better than Rogers, make sure you put that in.

He’s still on the commercial side, you know…

He will be on the commercial side because he’s so close to the chairman. Every time the chairman moves, Paul Rogers is there.

You mean the Club President?

Both. Soon as there’s anyone a little bit higher than him he runs around after them. You can put that in there and all.

You’re not bitter about that at all?

Oh no, I couldn’t be like him. He’s like a dog with a bone with anyone who comes in with a bit of authority, he loves them.

So can you tell us about your day-to-day involvement with the club as it stands?

You know as much as me, I don’t know nuffink at this moment in time. I came in to stand guard for the club with Hinsh and Browny while they appointed someone.

People have banged on about team spirit, and yours is a name that sprang to mind as being able to help with that.

Like I said, I’ve just come in to help. If my job role changes because the club see fit, I’ll go with what they say. Gus has brought in his assistant, and I get on fine with him. Again, it’s only been four hours, so I wouldn’t say we’re best of mates. But he seems a quiet lad and a nice man.

You’ve been through this a few times. Does it ever get any easier, or is it always awkward?

What becomes an obnoxious thing to you is…as you get older you realise the bigger picture. These people who have moved on have often gone on to bigger and better things from us, which is fortunate. But the people who’ve been sacked have got wives and kids, and that’s something that I find difficult to take. Russell had a lovely wife and kids and it wasn’t for a lack of trying that he didn’t succeed but, like I say, I think he was only two players short, maybe three off being really successful.

Do you think he should have been given more time?

I’m looking at 5% of the picture, because I was only there for matchdays at home and the reserves. The Monday to Friday stuff I never saw. His man-management skills, I thought, were spot on. He spoke to players, his door was always open. I’d love to have seen him stay on and succeed, but I’d love to see Gus succeed now, because my loyalties are with the football club. It’s the same group of players and I believe that Gus will turn it around and make them very successful. I believed it with Russell and I believed it with Micky.

Has there ever been a group of players here where you thought that wasn’t the case and we’d be average or worse?

When we were in the Championship for the first time we went through a long period of getting beat. You don’t think ‘we’re gonna finish bottom’, but you think ‘it’s going to be really difficult’…but again, the attitude of this club and these players was that everyone rolled their sleeves up every game and had a go.

Is that what we’re lacking?

I need to find out myself. Now I’ve been in the training ground on a weekly basis I can see how the players train and find out about their characters a bit more.

Are you enjoying it?

I love it. I enjoy being at a player’s beck and call. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to me – I mean if a player wants to do a bit of shooting, a bit of crossing, a bit of this or that to benefit him and his career, I’m there. If he wanted to turn up at 12 o’clock at night for it, because he thought it would benefit this club, I’d turn up at five-to-12 to meet him.