#3 – Miguel Llera
His gangly right leg produced a feeling of euphoria rarely bettered while inside The Valley. The nine men of Charlton heroically snatching a stoppage-time equaliser against promotion rivals Swindon Town on Boxing Day 2009.
In terms of just a single goal, it’s arguable that only Johnnie Jackson’s winner against QPR betters it for the release of emotion it caused. For one short moment, Miguel Llera was at the centre of wild celebrations, and a hero in SE7.
Alas, irrespective of how special a moment his late volleyed lob over David Lucas was, it does not override the first feelings that come into your head when the Spaniard’s Charlton career is remembered.
For it was far more common to see Llera’s right boot send an aimless punt up field than it was for it to loop a ball over a goalkeeper. It was far more common for Llera’s feet to be left stuck in the surface as a pacey forward showed his lack of agility. It was far more common for his feet to be placed where they shouldn’t have been, as an opposition striker exposed his poor positioning.
In the often direct nature of League One, Llera was able to survive on the basis of occasional good fortune and near-perfect ability in the air that did not belong to a man with so many faults. It’s how he managed to rack up 45 appearances over two seasons.
It was his style of play that proved the biggest annoyance to Charlton supporters. It’s undoubted that Phil Parkinson, the man in charge for most of Llera’s appearances, had some contribution to the way the Spaniard played, but his persistence in lumping unnecessary and inaccurate long balls forward to the like of Deon Burton and Paul Benson was gruesome viewing.
Defenders whose first instinct is to get the ball clear have been a success in SE7. Michael Morrison, who made my best Charlton XI, wouldn’t be seen dead risking a touch when he could simply smash the ball away first time.
But the frustration with Llera was that with yards of space and plenty of time, he would more often than not fail to make a short pass and spoon the ball forward. Signed in the summer of 2009 from MK Dons, he was at the heart of some of the most aesthetically unappealing football played by the Addicks in my time as a supporter.
Maybe his decision to play in such a style was based around a desperate lack of composure. When the pressure was on, Llera crumbled.
And there was no better example of that than in another fixture against Swindon at The Valley in the same season.
Although the Addicks had allowed Swindon the equaliser having overturned a 2-1 deficit from the first-leg, the advantage remained with the hosts as extra-time approached.
For the visitors, having seen Gordon Greer dismissed, were a man lighter than Charlton. The elven would surely find a way to break down the ten at some point over the additional 30 minutes.
Alas, a suicidal mistake from Llera, one arguably as large as Nicky Bailey’s penalty miss, brought parity in terms of numbers on the pitch. The Spaniard slipped, allowing Charlie Austin to seemingly break through, before deciding the best course of action was to desperately hold onto his shirt and drag him down.
With the penalty loss and despair that followed, his Charlton career never really recovered after that moment. Although he would make a return of sorts under Chris Powell, Llera was discarded relatively early on in the 2010/11 season.
If it isn’t that play-off semi-final defeat, then Miguel Llera’s contribution to the Addicks following his departure can best sum up his Charlton career.
That contribution in three games for Sheffield Wednesday against his former club greater than 45 while wearing red.
The first of those three came as Charlton narrowly won at Hillsborough through Johnnie Jackson’s free-kick; a crucial result on their way to beating Wednesday to the title. His struggles at the back saw the “Miguel Llera, he ain’t got a clue” chant coined, and it was heard each time he played against his former employers thereafter.
He certainly didn’t have a clue in two fixtures at Hillsborough against the Addicks in 2014. The first, Charlton’s FA Cup victory over the Owls, saw him in typical error-prone form, while the second involved him somehow being unable to cope with Marvin Sordell, proving particularly helpful for at least two of his three goals.
Maybe the fact he so regularly wilted against his former club is another sign of his failure to deal with high pressure moments, and to regain composure after a mistake.
It’s easy to paint a picture of Llera as centre-back incapable of going a game without making a comical mistake, but that isn’t quite true. Many of his games for the Addicks, and for Sheffield Wednesday, passed by without incident.
But the moment he made one mistake, or lost composure for a second, he was gone. There was no recovery. More lost than one of his aimless punts upfield.