Steve Gallen on a very busy transfer deadline day

More than 150 telephone calls, three players signed and all from his living room in West London, this was Steve Gallen’s summer transfer deadline day 2021.

“I caught Covid,” he explained, from that same living room. “On the Friday before the deadline day I tested positive. I didn’t feel well on that day and then wasn’t particularly good on the Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, the deadline day was Tuesday. 

“Bizarrely, I felt worse afterwards as your focus is so much on that day that once it finished and I felt like the job was done, I relaxed a little bit.  

“I’ve been at home. I haven’t been at work, I can’t go in. I’m not well enough to be honest but hopefully I will be by this weekend.”

Not ideal for the Addicks’ Director of Football around one of the busiest days of the year.

He said: “Deadline day, it started early. Phone calls started at 7.30am. You don’t normally get that in my job, it’s almost like there is an unofficial start time of like 9am for agents ringing and doing deals. People are aware in football that on that day – transfer deadline day – the rules go out of the window. I was working from 7.30am until about 10.50pm – that wasn’t my last phone call but it was when I stood down thinking ‘great, we’re done’ after we finalised Jonathan Leko’s signing.”

Time for food?

“I was lucky that my wife was about. I was getting supplies brought to me. It is hard to explain, the day went that quick, it doesn’t feel like there is a spare second in the day. 

“We signed three players on that day. There is so many things you have got to cover, from our owner, to the agent, to the player, to speaking to their club and of course things were in motion in the weeks leading up to the deadline but you still have to tick off so many boxes to get it done. For example, people were at the training ground, waiting for Leko to arrive and [Club Secretary] Chris Parkes is then the most important person in the world in those few minutes because the signing has to be done by him and put through by him, so all I was doing on the phone at that stage was making sure there was a clear path for Leko to get everything signed to Chris Parkes and then we could relax. It’s a long day, you are at it from the start to the end.”

Harry Arter was the first man through the door, completing a DocuSign from Ireland’s training camp in Portugal, with the deal announced at 4.30pm.

Gallen said: “I’d been speaking to Harry on and off for more than a week before. We were trying to do a deal with Nottingham Forest, so that took its time. Quite often when you are doing deals, the deal is off and you feel like you’ve drawn a line through it and then a day later something changes and either you pick it up again or they pick it up again. These things have to happen at times when you are negotiating, as the other side needs to know that you are prepared to walk away and go for someone else but they are also maybe doing that to me too. 

“Speaking to Harry though, he was as keen as mustard to come back. I had a lot of chats with him, including on the last day when he was in Portugal with the Ireland squad. It wasn’t a panic, it was coming, we just had to get everything sorted and knew he would sign from over there. It might have looked like that was a bit of a rush but it wasn’t.

“His experience in particular will help. I think we all just felt behind the scenes we needed to help those three young midfielders by bringing in a bit of experience to support them and that is exactly what Harry is and exactly why we did it. He’s obviously a good player, he’s had a very good career, he feels he’s got unfinished business, he wants to stay in the Ireland squad. He’s only 31, he feels like he’s got a few years ahead of him and he wants to help us get promotion.”

The easy part done and now attention was focussed on finalising the deal for Sam Lavelle and adding some attacking support.

It wasn’t until 11.30pm that Lavelle was announced.

“We’ve been talking about him internally for quite a few months,” Gallen said, “there was talk about shall we bring in a centre back or not because obviously we’ve got a few and we’ve got a few good players in that position but then Sam became available quite late to us and we decided to do it. 

“I think he is a great signing for the football club and one of a few players now that we’ve paid a transfer fee for and this is all quite new to me because I’ve been at the club for four and half years and for the first few years we didn’t pay a transfer fee for anybody. 

“Now Thomas Sandgaard has come in, he’s allowed us to do that and we’ve got a player now who is on a three-year contract, with an option for an additional year, so potentially a four-year contract, so we’re pleased to get someone of his age, captain of Morecambe, a good player, he’s a winner and I think he’s really going to help the team and the squad. He was a fan favourite at Morecambe and there is certainly no reason why he can’t become that at our club.”

The final signing of the window, saw Jonathan Leko arrive at Sparrows Lane just before the deadline after pulling over on his journey to complete the DocuSign. The deal was announced at 11.45pm.

“We’re really pleased to bring back Leko. A few years ago we brought back Josh Cullen and he wasn’t available to us for a lot of the summer but I never gave up on Josh Cullen that time, I chipped away every day for a couple of months. I did the same with Jonathan Leko. I chipped away with his agent and also Lee Bowyer. It was only really late that Lee Bowyer came back to me and said ‘Look Steve we’ll be prepared to let Leko go out’ because they have just signed Troy Deeney, which is a great signing for them.

“Leko became available and we moved really, really swiftly and we had to, to do that because we were running out of time. I only struck a deal with Birmingham’s Director of Football Craig Gardner at maybe 8.30pm ish. We did it in time and he’s a really good addition for us.”

Time to turn the phone off!

“It's a combination of relief and pride at the end of the window. I think on that last day I made about 150 to 160 phone calls, I don’t know how that compares to most people. It’s not just phone calls but persuading people. It was a strange one doing it from home, I have to admit that but I’m pleased we got it done.”

The window is closed but Steve Gallen’s work isn’t over. A left back and a goalkeeper are still on the agenda.

Pape Souare, an international left back, joined the club on Monday.

Gallen said: “I’ve been aware of Pape for a couple of months. Dougie Freedman at Palace is a good friend of mine. I’ve been asking people ‘what have you got?’ ‘who do you know about?’ which is normal in football – the people you know in the game managers, agents, asking around about positions we are looking for. All the while Dougie was saying ‘Get Pape Souare, get him in and have a look at him’. We knew he was a free transfer on deadline day, so we didn’t have to do it then. 

“I told him that once the deadline finishes, we’ll pick it up the next day which I did. We had him in training last week. He impressed everybody. He’s got very good pedigree. We know he’s a very good player, it was a little bit more about doing his fitness, he did a medical with us. He’s really, really pleased, I’ve not met him yet as I’ve not been in but I’ve been texting him and he’s really pleased to join Charlton. It is great to get Pape and I’ve thanked Dougie as well as he really helped in the situation.”

Stephen Henderson, a former Charlton goalkeeper, signed on Tuesday

“Stephen started training with us about five weeks ago. He’s come in and impressed us with his ability and attitude, so like with left back, it was something we were confident we could get done after the deadline and I’m pleased we’ve been able to.”

Now is time for Steve to relax and recover…right after he appears on CharltonTV on Saturday…and after his upcoming appearance at a fan meeting…and after he’s prepared for the next window…

Read about the club's transfer strategy here.

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