Walking towards The Valley last night, I spotted someone with a clipboard and immediately hid. He was after my Play of the Year vote, but he wasn’t going to get it. For my mind is not yet made up as to who deserves the award. While team performances have swayed from superb to shambolic and back again, there have been a number of individuals who have performed consistently throughout the campaign. As much as I’d like to vote for Simon Church, the seven players below are the main contenders for POTY. Vote for your POTY in the poll at the bottom of the post. (Stats correct as of 08/04/15)
Clean sheets: 8
- The lucky charm. The Irish stopper missed 14 games between November and February through injury – 14 games that saw the Addicks record no victories. But Charlton had won the game immediately before a shoulder problem developed, and his return to the side saw Guy Luzon’s men go on an unexpected run of seven wins in nine. It means Henderson has won 13 of his 27 games for the club, and suffered defeat just four times.
- Excellent shot-stopping. It’s no coincidence that Charlton have recorded such an impressive points return with Henderson in the side. While his saves might not have always been match-winning, with his efforts to keep out Lee Gregory’s penalty counting for little against Millwall, the 26-year-old has consistently pulled off blinding stops that have given the Addicks every chance of winning games.
- A strong leader at the back. Not only was his shot-stopping missed during that winless run, but so was his command of his area and his control of the back four. Where Nick Pope, Neil Etheridge and Marko Dmitrovic flap at crosses, creating uncertainty across the back line, Henderson, helped by fantastic judgement, consistently plucks the ball out of the air with composure and confidence. A defender’s dream, allowing Charlton’s back four to have trust in their goalkeeper and emulate his level of composure.
- Wayward distribution. If there is one thing holding Henderson back as a goalkeeper, then it’s that his goal kicks are frequently miss-directed. His distribution the only quality that does not match or better Ben Hamer’s.
- Some of his teammates are more deserving. It’s not something I necessarily agree with, but Henderson’s role is likely to prevent him from being a serious contender for POTY. The unfashionable goalkeeper, who goes about his job with minimal fuss, is unlikely to take more plaudits than the entertaining goalscorers.
Best moment: As fantastic as the penalty save at The Den was, his efforts to keep Norwich at bay for 90 minutes at Carrow Road eclipse that. A string of fantastic saves from Henderson prevented the hosts’ from turning their dominance into a lead, and allowed Johnnie Jackson to create carnage in the away end with a late winner.
- An excellent comeback from an injury-plagued season. To be truthful, I feared we might not see the same Solly that won two POTY trophies in a row. I anticipated that almost a season out with injury would knock the academy graduate back somewhat. Instead, the 24-year-old has performed in a manner that has suggested he’s never been a way. Consistently brilliant and dependable.
- As vital to a winning Charlton as he ever was. Throughout the campaign, Charlton’s best performances have had Solly at the heart of them. His defensive work solid, while his forward play, often in partnership with Gudmundsson, provides a real threat.
- A worthy wearer of the armband. Ever since the full-back became a regular starter in 2011, there has often been a suggestion that the academy graduate will one day be Charlton’s captain. While Jackson’s days are certainly not yet over, Solly has led well when called upon, and to see a home-grown player wear the armband has been fantastic.
- He’s no centre-midfielder. It was not his fault that he was played there, but the quicker Solly’s performances in midfield are removed from my memory bank, the better. Philip Lahm he is not.
- Uncharacteristic below-par performances. Minimal they may have been, but such are the standards of consistency Solly has set himself, it’s almost disappointing that there have been a couple of very poor performances from the full-back this season. His efforts away at Middlesbrough and at home to Norwich in quick succession did not belong to the Solly we all know and appreciate.
Best moment: A man of the match performance in the win over Reading at the Madjeski. Faultless work at the back topped off with a stunning cross for Igor Vetokele’s winner.
Tal Ben Haim
- He’s made us all look a bit silly. Most supporters, especially including myself, were not convinced by the signing of this clogger. The 33-year-old won few friends during his previous spells in England, and it seemed like a lazy replacement for the departing Dorian Dervite. However, Ben Haim has largely done a great job at the back for Charlton this season.
- Crucial performances in tight victories. In a great deal of Charlton’s victories this season, a strong defensive effort has been required. The Addicks have had to dig in and hope for the best. But Ben Haim, more often that not, hasn’t melted. His aerial dominance, strong tackling and clever blocking has been vital, especially at the start of the season.
- Fantastic shithousery. Any player that consistently commits murder inside his own penalty box and gets away with it has my respect.
- Comical errors made more frequently than you would like. Unfortunately, the Ben Haim that many expected has also been on show at times this season. Horrendous and costly mistakes against Rotherham, Blackburn and Watford have made for horrible viewing.
- A drop in performances during the second half of the season. When Charlton fell away, so did Ben Haim. The composure and calmness he showed earlier on in the season has been missing for some time now, and hasn’t really returned during the recent upturn in form.
Best moment: A fantastic, battling performance in the win over Watford at The Valley, which included a trademark clumsy challenge in the box that somehow didn’t result in a penalty.
- Mature performances, well beyond his years. Jackson, having endured an injury plagued season, has certainly been missed, with his inspirational qualities absent when they have been needed most. But Cousins’ leadership in midfield has made sure that has been kept to a minimal. So often his drive and determination has not only proved vital for what they are, but also got his teammates going around him, especially when he has had the struggling Yoni Buyens alongside him. 20-years-old and our central midfield cog – fantastic.
- All-round brilliance. His passing is fantastic, his tireless pressing is commendable and he’s strong in the tackle. Even when played on the left, there was a consistent threat and a determined hassling of opponents that meant his role out there was vital. Chuck in his three goals scored this season, and Cousins has shown his ability as a well-rounded midfielder throughout the campaign.
- A home-grown talent to be proud of. There is certainly something rewarding about seeing an academy graduate perform to high standards, and a lot of pride can be taken from Cousins’ displays this season. Unlike other academy graduates, however, it is vital he is kept for as long as possible.
- I’m struggling. A consistent performer all season, whether on the left or in the middle.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson
- Goals that continue to defy logic. How does he keep doing it? Just when you’ve convinced yourself Gudmundsson has scored the best goal you’ve ever seen, he goes and scores one even better. His strikes from open play and from set-pieces have been both brilliant and vital throughout the season – the match-winner Charlton missed last season.
- A genuinely creative winger. So often the Iceland international gallops past the opposition full-back as if they are not there, while his turns and cross field balls that have produced several goals this season are absolutely stunning.
- Determination. Like any winger, his strength is not consistency, but an ability to provide match-winning moments. Regardless, even when things aren’t quite going his way, he makes up for it with unrelenting off-the-ball energy that is not characteristic of most wide men.
- He’s going to win goal of the season. Let someone else win this award, because one of Gudmundsson’s stunning strikes will have won him goal of the season.
Best moment: That stunning piece of individual brilliance against Cardiff City at The Valley. The tackle, the goal and the celebrations – all superb. https://vine.co/v/OHFMmnWjUqd
- Goals. Goals. Goals. And more goals. They my have dried up of late, but Vetokele started the season superbly and is still the club’s top scorer. His strikes winning Charlton games, and making him a fans’ favourite right from the off.
- Tenacious off the ball work. Arguably, it is not his goals that are his best quality, but his pressing. With Vetokele constantly hassling defenders when in possession, the summer signing has played a key part in stopping the opposition from playing. That quality has been crucial in Charlton’s best performances this campaign.
- A strong character. Frequently, Vetokele was forced to pay while injured, owing to the fact there was no one that could replace him. While it probably did him no favours, that he continued to fight for Charlton’s cause shows his excellent mentality and his commitment to the Addicks.
- The droughts. The Angolan should have many more goals than the 11 he currently does, but a number of drought have prevented Vetokele from scoring the amount of goals his efforts deserve. Half the problem is, rather oddly, a poor finishing ability when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
- Overall inconsistency. Whether it’s been injury, tiredness or a relative failure to completely adapt to the riggers of English football, Vetokele’s brilliance has come in patches this season, with the rest a little disappointing. Such inconsistency will ultimately prevent the forward from winning the POTY award.
Best moment: Two excellent finishes in an excellent performance against Brighton at The Amex. https://vine.co/v/OiutmWVp7rB
- The season changer. There are several reasons for Charlton’s upturn in form beyond February, but the main one is Watt’s influence. In so many of those wins, whether tight in scoreline or not, Watt’s creativity, directness and goals were the difference. A man who provided hope when there was not, and injected confidence when it was seemingly beyond recovery.
- Consistent brilliance. Rarely has there been a player in recent years who produces a roar of expectation from The Valley crowd by simply touching the ball. His directness and tricky means something is going to happen each time he’s in possession, and it’s normally fantastic to watch.
- Single-handedly keeping the network alive. Given the impact the signing of Watt has had, the possibility that quality lies within the network has increased.
- Not enough appearances. Playing less than half a season might have been enough for Diego Poyet to win last year’s award, but, with several quality options to pick from, a relative handful of appearances probably pushes Watt to the back of the queue.
Best moment: Two unplayable performances in as many home games in the wins over Brentford and Huddersfield. Arguably the two best displays by a Charlton player this season.