Les Reed: The Former Shortest Premier League Reign

Frank de Boer has astonishingly been sacked by Crystal Palace just four games into his reign in South London. The Dutchman, who won the Eredivisie title with Ajax for four years running, was brought in to revamp the style at Palace and get the Eagles challenging for a spot in the top ten and even in Europe.

Sadly, after four successive defeats in the league, failing to score in any of those, de Boer was shown the door, in the process breaking the record for the shortest permanent managerial stint in terms of games in Premier League history.

They say one man’s misery is another man’s joy, apparently, but never has that been truer than in this case. A certain Mr. Les Reed may be the only man on earth not meeting the news of de Boer’s sacking with general shock and astonishment, as the Dutchman now holds the record for the shortest permanent stint as a Premier League manager, breaking Reed’s previous unwanted record of just seven games in charge.

Reed took over from Ian Dowie at Charlton Athletic in November of 2006 after Dowie had won just two of his 12 league games in charge. Dowie could never recreate the magic of Alan Curbishley, the man he replaced, who was so well loved and revered at the Valley. Curbishley’s decision to move on was a massive turning point in the fortunes of the club – Dowie simply failed to replace him and was duly sacked.

While Reed’s appointment was underwhelming, the fact that he had quite literally written the book on coaching (The Official FA Guide to Basic Team Coaching by Les Reed… Now selling for just £0.01 on Amazon) gave the fans at the Valley some semblance of hope that he could arrest the alarming slide.

What followed, unfortunately, was the stuff of nightmares for Reed and Charlton fans alike.

Reed took his new charges to the Madejski Stadium desperate for a good start to his time in charge as he sought to allay the fears surrounding his ability to manage at the highest level. Reading were in no mood to be accommodating though, easing to a 2-0 win and consigning Reed to his first loss as a Premier League manager. Sadly, the pain was only just beginning.

The Addicks managed to carve out a draw when they welcomed Everton to the Valley a week later, but Hermann Hreidesson’s own goal was a sign of the horrors that lay ahead and patrons in the stands were understandably worried.

A chastening loss to fellow relegation strugglers Sheffield United was next after surrendering a half time lead leaving Reed with just the one draw from his opening three matches. Losing to a relegation rival did not go down well amongst the proud Charlton fans who were helpless as they watched their beloved club lurch from one poor performance to another. For many, it was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Actual footage of Charlton Athletic under Les Reed

Three days later, however, and there was joy at the Valley once again. The Addicks had earned their first win under Reed after seeing off Blackburn Rover with a hard-fought 1-0 win. Perhaps a corner had been turned, perhaps Reed had found his feet and perhaps Charlton were about to escape from the nightmare of the months previous. Suddenly there was hope again and the considerable mounting pressure surrounding Reed abated. Light at the end of the tunnel.

Tottenham 5, Charlton 1. Athletic came crashing back down to earth with a bump and a half. Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe ran an abject defence ragged at White Hart Lane with Charlton’s only response coming in the form of a Tottenham own goal. Any optimism that may have been bubbling after the Blackburn win was quickly quashed by a few swings of the Bulgarians prodigious boot.

It didn’t get any easier for Reed. Next, third-placed Liverpool came sauntering into the Valley and, unsurprisingly, without a moment hesitation, Reed’s team shot themselves in the foot. Charlton conceded a third-minute penalty, duly converted by Xabi Alonso before going on to concede a further two times in the second-half. Suddenly, the Addicks had shipped eight goals in just two games with their only response scored for them by Tottenham’s Michael Dawson.

The mood at The Valley matched the sombre mid-winter weather. The build up to Christmas of 2006 was not a merry one and it was only set to get worse. Reed was completely in over his head, lost for solutions to the terrifying manner in which Charlton were charging head first towards relegation.

The absolute lowest of lows for Reed came on a crushing evening at the Valley on the 19th of December. Charlton’s only solace during a mortifying season had been found in the League Cup where they had strung together a decent run to secure themselves a spot in the quarter-final. When the draw coughed out a home tie with League Two side Wycombe Wanderers, many felt that a spot in the semi-finals was certainly beckoning.

At the time, 53 places separated the sides in the league standings but you would not have thought it at all. Charlton were simply dreadful and had it not been for keeper Scott Carson the humiliation could have been far greater.

Boos cascaded down from the stands in Reed’s direction and there was nowhere to hide as he watched his side fail to create any clear cut chances and Charlton were knocked out.

A club in crisis indeed.

Very few people were surprised. The Addicks had never looked like a Premier League side under Reed or Dowie for that matter and had been alarmingly poor for weeks. Something had to change and Reed knew it.

A league trip to Middlesborough provided a much-needed distraction. With Boro hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone in 17th, this was a game that Charlton could, and quite frankly had to win, but what followed was not what one would expect from a side fighting for the Premier League lives.

Charlton never got off the bus really as Boro eased to a 2-0 win, dominating throughout. Reed’s side had gone three games without scoring a goal of their own. The players didn’t seem bothered and Reed on the sidelines looked completely devoid of any kind of productive or helpful thought. The final whistle blew to end the misery and with it, the writing was engraved on the wall for Reed.

Almost mercifully, the coach was sacked after just 41 horrifying days; Reed’s reign was dark and full of terrors and is not fondly remembered at all.

Fortunately, Reed landed on his feet, eventually moving on to Southampton where he is now a member of the board of directors.

One can only imagine that he was more than pleased to hand his record over to de Boer but is possibly one of the few people on earth who could sympathise with the Dutchman. Anyway, Roy Hodgson is set to take over at Palace so, exciting times ahead… Perhaps exciting is the wrong word.