A few weeks ago, when Darren Bent joined Brighton and Hove Albion on loan, Twitter was full of Charlton fans reminiscing about their prolific former forward. It didn’t exactly help to get over the disappointment that he had not returned to The Valley, but there was enjoyment to be had in remembering his goalscoring exploits in SE7.
It also encouraged Twitter-based Addicks to discuss not only their favourite strikers, but favourite Charlton XIs. From the obvious, the dubious and the delusional, there was a shout for a great number of players who have represented the Reds over the years.
However, looking at fans who have occupied a seat at The Valley for a greater length of time than I have Tweet with some enthusiasm about players I never got the chance to see play was a cause of frustration.
Of course, having been able to see the likes of Clive Mendonca, Andy Hunt and John Robinson in their prime would have been excellent, but not seeing that crop of players pull on Charlton red isn’t particularly the cause of my frustration.
It’s that I missed out on seeing a number of cult heroes, or at least players that were cult heroes at the time, by a season or two. Claus Jensen, Scott Parker and Mark Kinsella all come under that bracket, while it’s fair to say I probably don’t have the same sort of memories of Jonatan Johansson and Shaun Bartlett as many others do.
Missing out on seeing some of Charlton’s greatest is gutting, and probably always will be.
Nonetheless, allowing myself a moment to stop feeling bitter and jealous, I considered that I have actually been quite fortunate to see some talented and charismatic players wear Charlton red in my time as a supporter, despite our relative struggles since the 2004/05 season.
As a result, over the course of a number of weeks, I’ll be singing the praises of the members of my favourite Charlton XI, who have been deployed in a very un-Charlton 4-3-1-2 formation.
In choosing my XI, I have paid little attention to whether they played for the Addicks in the Premier League or League One, effectively creating a level playing field for any player who has represented Charlton since 2004.
And, when choosing between two players for a certain position, personal attachment is viewed more importantly than recognised success. The first player ticks boxes in both categories…
#1 – Dean Kiely
In my time as an Addick, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a number of very good goalkeepers. In fact, there’s not been a season where Charlton’s first choice goalkeeper hasn’t been reliable. Most of them have been capable of producing point-winning performances.
I was always a huge fan of Ben Hamer, a man whose personality matched his outstanding ability, while Rob Elliott did a respectable job in difficult circumstances. Scott Carson, Thomas Myhre and Stephan Andersen also showed themselves to be incredible shot-stoppers in their short spells as Addicks.
But there’s always emotional attachment towards your first. It’s probably why I couldn’t possibly say a bad thing about Francis Jeffers, who scored the first two goals I saw at The Valley.
And it’s the player who stood at the other end that night, a 3-0 win over Aston Villa in August 2004, who quickly became the first Addick I adored.
My father, before he managed to convince me that supporting Charlton wasn’t all pain and suffering, had built him up as some sort of mythical being, I played in goal as a youngster and his name wasn’t too dissimilar to mine. I was probably full of admiration for Dean Kiely long before I first saw him play.
And from the moment I witnessed his pre-match routine, the one that involved dancing around in the goal frame before praying against one of the posts, the admiration was confirmed. Not only was it fascinating for a pair of young eyes, but it was a crucial part of Kiely’s charismatic and confident character.
That confidence meant you never felt like doing prayers of you own with the Republic of Ireland international between the posts; Kiely was capable of producing outstanding stops without divine intervention.
Against Villa, the work he had to do was minimal, but straight away I saw just how commanding he was inside his box, how energetic he was across his line and how loved he was by the Covered End. I got to join in with the “DEANO, DEANO, DEANO” chants for the first time that night, and would go onto cry his name with vigour on numerous occasions.
In fact, in my first season as an Addick, Kiely not only inspired me to adopt some post tapping nonsense in my Saturday morning games and become the player who adorned the back of my first Charlton shirt, but came to Charlton’s rescue on several occasions.
There were two saves in particular that stand out. The first was effectively meaningless, but showed Kiely’s incredible reflexes. A save from a free-kick seen late in the 4-1 defeat to West Brom had many purring, with the scores level at the time.
But the second was more important. It’s often forgotten, with Addicks quick to reminisce about what happened in the 90th minute of that game, but his penalty save from Andy Johnson at Selhurst Park should be as big a part of Charlton folklore as Dennis Rommedahl’s late winner.
While Kiely’s role in that derby victory may be often undervalued, he certainly became as such in the season that followed. A man that was previously Charlton’s talisman was replaced by Andersen at the end of the 2004/05 season, before the Dane, and then Myhre, prevented him getting back into the side.
He was soon shipped off to Portsmouth, for who he impressed, and I always thought that, regardless of how well Andersen and Myhre did, Kiely was moved on a season or two before was necessary. 248 appearances and two Player of the Year trophies isn’t a bad haul, mind.
Regardless, you won’t find an Addick who doesn’t speak enthusiastically about the stopper. There has been a hero’s welcome when he has returned to The Valley, and excitement when rumours that he was joining Chris Powell’s coaching staff emerged.
While he chose to stay at West Brom, for who he appears to be a valuable member of their coaching set-up, I am yet to give up hope that my first irrational football love won’t one day return to Charlton in a coaching capacity.
At the very least, it would be excellent to see the Irishman get a managerial role at any club. You would think, after taking over West Brom on caretaker duty last season, he has ambitions to do so.
For now, I’ll settle for the wry smile that shouts of ‘DEANO’ produces when Stephen Henderson or Nick Pope send their goal-kicks into touch. The harsh, but affectionate, legacy Deano has left in SE7.