Exclusive Interview: Charlie Oatway

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR. “Hi Charlie, thanks for talking to me at TSF on a bright and sunny morning.  I’m guessing this time of day looks a little bit different to how it was when you were playing, how goes the new job?”

CO  “Well it was tough in the beginning retiring from professional football.  I only know football and I am not an educated guy.  I wrote a book in the past and that was done for one reason which was to get people into adult learning because I went back to school to try and learn the basics of reading and writing.  At the age of 32 I was coming to the latter end of my career and I am really passionate about ex players and sports people coming out of their sport and what they are going to do afterwards because I did struggle mentally a little bit.

But I was fortunate because I went straight into working in sport with ‘Albion in the Community’ which is the charity side of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, so I managed to go straight into a new job.  They did not let me get my feet under the table at home though, they said to me that I have two days off and then I was to be back in!  They did that for me to start getting used to a different job and a different environment.”

JR  “You were known as a tough, no nonsense midfielder, and perhaps nowhere more so than at Brentford where you played for two seasons.  They’re flying now but it wasn’t always like that…”

CO '' Yes, It was a strange one because when I first went into Brentford FC they were run and owned by David Webb who was a player who played for Southampton FC, Chelsea FC and Queens Park Rangers F.C.  He was the Chairman, and then he sold the club to Ron Noades.  Ron was not only the chairman but also the manager and I got on well with him, he was an OK guy, but he was not a manager.

He just loved football having previously owned Crystal Palace, but he was an out and out shrewd businessman so it was weird to have someone being your manager but on the other side of it he owns the club.  He did have some good coaches around him though in Ray Lewington and Terry Bullock who did the coaching on a daily basis which meant Ron concentrated his efforts on team selection.

I did love my time at Brentford FC because it was only round the corner from where I grew up.  I’m a Shepherd's Bush boy so all my family could come to the games which was double handy for them.”

JR  “I suppose your heart is really nailed to the south coast though, you played eight seasons for Brighton & Hove Albion making over 200 appearances for the club, you must have seen some sights?”

CO. “Brighton & Hove Albion means a lot to me.  I live in Brighton now and it is where my family is also based.  I never moved away from the area even with the coaching jobs that I have had.  I have always come back to Brighton.  I love the club and I love where they are now playing in the Premier League.

When I worked with Gus Poyet at the club we set a precedent and a template for how to play and we played attractive football at times.  But as much as I loved my playing career at the club I really enjoyed my coaching career at the club too.”

JR  ‘'Which player do you admire from your time as a professional, is there anybody whose traits you tried to instill into the younger players when you were coaching?

CO  “Yes.  For me one of the best players I played with - and that was because of his attitude as well as his ability - was Bobby Zamora.  He was a fantastic player to play with and his work ethic was tremendous let alone his goal scoring record at Brighton & Hove Albion.  His attitude in terms of helping the team out at defending corners due to his height was spot on.  He is up there with the best players I played with, he was absolutely outstanding.”

JR  “I can imagine in your position as a midfielder that you came up against some difficult opponents during your playing career, did anybody give Charlie Oatway as good as they got?”

CO  “Yes, I was fortunate and although I was not good enough to play in the Premier League I played in the Championship and League One and Two during my career.  I played against Gary McAllister who was coming towards the end of his career and also against the bread and butter players of that standard of football.  Graham Kavanagh who played in midfield for Stoke City and Wigan Athletic was a hell of a player and he was one of the toughest opponents I faced during my professional career and we’d have a laugh about kicking each other in games, but he was a solid player who encompassed the weekly battle you would face at that level.  But he had great ability playing in a very good Stoke City team at the time.

I played with and against Richard Carpenter and we roomed together for many years, he was also an excellent player. These were players that were there 46 games of the season and they hardly ever went missing, if they were injured they would soon be strapped up and ready to go again.”

JR  “Charlie thanks for talking to me today, I’m glad things are going well for you at Brighton.  Just finally, which coaches and managers made the biggest impact on your football philosophy?

CO  “One of the main people would be a man who has passed away now, a guy called Eddie May.  He was a centre half for Leicester City and he signed me for Cardiff City, Brentford and Torquay United, so he was a big factor in my early days.  Then there are people like Micky Adams, Mark McGhee, Steve Coppell.. all were good managers and good coaches.

I learned a different way to coach and manage players when I started working as a coach under Gus Poyet.  The South American way is different in the sense of the attitude towards things that are good or bad. It was a different way of looking at things.  I was fortunate to play under quite a few good coaches and managers, and I’d play in different ways, sometimes I won the ball and gave it to better players.

But as a coach I am a little bit different to how I played which is excellent for me as a coach because it means I have different strings to my bow.  I am looking to go out on my own now in terms of coaching in football.”


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.