LONDON: Charlton Athletic, facing relegation from the English second division, are bringing in AC Milan academy boss Jose Riga as manager in place of sacked Chris Powell in a move which will raise eyebrows twice over.
Firstly, Powell was one of the few black managers in the English game and, secondly, three Premier League clubs, fighting to avoid relegation, have also gambled on foreigners with no managerial experience of the English game: Cardiff with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in place of Malky Mackay, West Bromwich with Pepe Mel and Fulham with Felix Magath.
Charlton from south London, knocked out of the FA Cup quarter-finals last weekend by Sheffield United, removed Powell, 44, after the breakdown of talks with new owner Roland Duchatelet over a contract extension.
Duchalet, who has long had football links with fellow Belgian Riga and also owns Standard Liege, took over the south London club at the start of January.
Riga, 56, has managed several sides in Belgium including Mons and Standard. He will be assisted by Karel Fraeye, who is currently head coach at Belgian club Eenddracht Zele and also has links with Charlton’s owner.
Five of Charlton’s six signings in January came from Duchatelet’s other clubs, while they sold striker Yann Kermorgant and midfielder Dale Stephens to Championship rivals Bournemouth and Brighton.
Duchatelet said there had been “good progress” in talks over a new deal for Powell but that the two parties “could not reach an agreement over the club’s football strategy going forward”. He added: “The situation put a strain on the working relationship between Chris and the board. Therefore I think it is best for all parties that we part ways at this stage.”
Powell’s last game in charge was Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against League One Sheffield United, but they were defeated at Bramall Lane.
Charlton have only won six of their 30 league games this season but, despite being adrift at the foot of the table, have four games in hand on Millwall, who are 21st place.
Former England full-back Powell was appointed Charlton manager in January 2011 on a three-and-half-year contract, having made more than 250 appearances for the club in three spells during his playing career.
He led Charlton to the League One title in 2011-12, and last season guided them to ninth place in the Championship, just four points short of a play-off place.
Powell was the ninth longest-serving manager in the Premier League and Football League and his departure leaves Norwich City’s Chris Hughton as the only black manager in England’s top four divisions.