It wasn’t too long ago that deciding who should receive your vote for Charlton’s Player of the Year was an arduous task for all the right reasons. You could make an argument for almost any regular starter winning the award as the Addicks won League One in 2011/12, and it was equally as tough to split the best performers in the first season back in the second tier.
But the disappointment, despair and crisis that has engulfed this season means that a large pool of players to pick from for the award exists as a result of underperforming and failure. The nature of this campaign making consistency almost impossible, meaning just a handful of decent performances throws you into contention.
In fact, some will probably argue that, with Charlton’s season set to end in relegation to League One, awarding a POTY isn’t worthwhile. No one can claim they deserve it in such a dire campaign.
Nonetheless, there are those who have worn red this season whose performances have, at the very least, helped rather than hindered the Addicks. Who unquestionably deserve better than to play for a club that has been poisoned by Roland Duchatelet’s ownership.
And, after having it confirmed that I’m not allowed to vote for Yann Kermorgant, it does appear that there will have to be a Charlton recipient of this year’s award. Let’s
begrudgingly shift through the extended list of candidates.
200 up, and still a consistent performer. In a season with little celebrate, being able to reflect on Solly’s Charlton career after reaching a double-century of appearances was a lovely distraction. And the homegrown full-back remains a consistent performer, battling away in typical tenacious fashion. His fight particularly well-respected in this weak and often gutless side.
Growing as a leader. There were times last season when Solly’s suitability to wear the armband was seriously questioned, but he appears to have grown into his vice-captaincy role during this extremely testing campaign. Vocal, determined and behaving like a senior player, it’s no longer the case that he seems to be given the armband when Jackson isn’t around simply for the sake of it.
Must take his share of the blame. Though Solly has performed consistently, and you’ve not been able to question his effort, he must take some of the blame for Charlton’s pathetic defensive record this season. Purely by being part of a defence that has conceded 80 goals in all competitions, he can’t escape criticism, but so too have plenty of the goals that the Addicks have let in come down Solly’s side. He hasn’t been perfect.
Unable to provide a game-changing forward threat. When Chris Powell’s Charlton were at their best, Solly and left-back Rhoys Wiggins were outstanding both at the back and going forward. In fact, they were arguably the Addicks’ most potent threat, constantly contributing to attacking moves. But Solly hasn’t quite been so successful going forward this season, with just one assist and performances where he has been a catalyst to Charlton pushing forward limited. Not helped by the overall efforts of the side, of course, but something from the academy graduate has been missing in the final third.
Best moment: At the conclusion of his 200th game for the club, a disastrous defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage, Solly dragged his fellow academy graduates Morgan Fox and Callum Harriott over to an away end that deserved appreciation while many of his teammates hid. One of us.
Worst moment: A toss up between being torn to shreds by Alan Judge during the defeat to Brentford at The Valley, and providing absolutely no defensive resolve in the 5-0 defeat at Huddersfield. Two very un-Solly-like performances in the sense he quickly lost confidence and wasn’t able to regain it.
Composure in a time of a crisis. The Frenchman has been composed, classy and consistent throughout the season, but it’s in recent weeks that his qualities have dramatically shone through. His control of the midfield, breaking up opposition attacks and calmly starting new ones, is arguably the catalyst for this mini-increase in performances.
Playing through the pain barrier. While others have caved in at the first sign of adversity, Diarra has been playing, and performing to a high standard, with various niggles and knocks for several months. One of the few players without a deep Charlton connection who seems to understand that supporters demand fight and character from those that wear their club’s shirt.
He isn’t a centre-back. As his performances in the centre of midfield have got better and better, it’s become more and more apparent that Diarra was wasted operating in defence. At the very least, he’s been much more composed in midfield, with his slight lack of pace occasionally leaving him exposed at the back. Strong in the air, but maybe not the best against quick forwards.
Injury proneness. Like several players on this list, a factor that makes you question giving Diarra your vote is the amount of football he’s missed. His willingness to play through the pain barrier probably makes it irrelevant, but the Frenchman has still been absent during several periods this campaign.
Best moment: Hobbling back on the pitch for the final few moments of the goalless draw with Ipswich Town, despite evidently not being fit to continue. Summed up his unrelenting fight.
Worst moment: Receiving two unnecessary bookings in the defeat to Crystal Palace, and compounding Charlton’s misery.
The solid foundations on which a crumbling house stood. Without the presence of Bauer in the first half of this dreadful season, Charlton’s relegation to League One would already be confirmed, and they would have displayed even less fight and resolve. An excellent defender, who even managed to impress during heavy defeats. Such a shame that Naby Sarr and co. couldn’t adequately support him.
Adapted to the Championship quickly. Few players signed under the Duchatelet regime from outside the Championship have adapted as quickly as Bauer did. Strong and physical, an intelligent reader of the game, and offering greater composure than many other defenders that have been snapped up in recent times. The BFG has even managed to make himself well liked by supporters. You can have this one, mysterious scouting department.
Long absence. Such were his early season defensive contributions, his name deserves to be mentioned among the POTY candidates, but his lack of playing time in 2016 will prevent him from claiming too many votes.
Discipline. Possibly to be expected from a relatively young centre-back in a foreign league, but Bauer’s discipline was, at times, a little questionable. Not only was the German dismissed twice, but he developed a habit of conceding needless fouls, particularly against pacey forwards. His reliability decreasing before the start of his injury lay-off.
Best Moment: A dominant performance in the narrow victory over Birmingham City. Johnnie Jackson’s headed winner would have been meaningless without his solid defensive efforts.
Worst Moment: Deciding to Tweet “shit happens” with a montage of photos from his sending off against Reading, before quickly realising posting something like that wasn’t the best idea.
Supporters repaid: 166
Still a provider of special moments. The Fulham comeback, opening the scoring against Sheffield Wednesday, and scoring his 50th goal for the club in the victory over Birmingham City. In a dreadful season, the adored skipper has still been able to provide a handful of special moments that only he is capable of.
Unwilling to give up. While his teammates have sometimes been guilty of appearing completely beaten before the final-whistle, and therefore not applying themselves for the full 90 minutes, that is something you cannot accuse the committed Jackson of. Even in the defeats to Huddersfield and Hull, the skipper was not only relatively composed in his play, but showed no decrease in a desire to fight. Comforting to have a player you can continue to believe in during this period.
The perfect captain. Token gestures to some, but his rallying cries and leadership qualities have helped keep the fragile relationship between Charlton and its supporters from completely breaking this season. Repaying the supporters who travelled to Huddersfield a touch of class, and the sort of action needed to keep fans onside. He gets it, and he still does a damaged club proud.
Injuries. Persistent injuries have prevented Jackson from having an extended run in the side, which has not only limited his playing time but prevented momentum from building. Big contributions made, but you feel he could have made more if he wasn’t constantly struggling for fitness.
His handful of bad days have been particularly bad. The suggestion that the skipper is past it is, of course, well wide of the mark, but the 33-year-old does occasionally have days where the game seems to pass him by. During the goalless draw with Cardiff City at The Valley, for example, he struggled to compete with the Bluebirds’ midfielders, his passing was erratic, and a horrible headed miss from a position he’s regularly scored from in the past didn’t help.
Best moment: Scoring the winner, and his 50th Charlton goal, at St Andrew’s in November with a trademark thunderous header. We’ll ignore the 4/10 kneeslide that followed…
Worst moment: Each time he’s been deployed by the club as a human shield. Jackson, as the strong leader he is, has said what has been needed to be said in those occasions, but it is unfair on him to be placed in such situations as a result of the regime’s failings.
Blood and thunder battling in midfield. I feel I may have praised fighting qualities too much during this assessment of the POTY candidates, but it really is an important characteristic when the Addicks have been so weak this season, and Cousins has it in abundance. Constantly up and down in the middle, and never giving up on a lost cause, his efforts have the ability to inspire the crowd and those around him. A real battler.
Does the simple things well. Composure is another important quality given this season of crisis and chaos, and Cousins, particularly for a 22-year-old, has been calm throughout most of this season. Collecting the ball from a defender, turning, and picking out the next pass to get Charlton forward, as simple as that it is, is one of the things the midfielder does very well.
Thriving as a leader. A coincidence or not, wearing the armband seems to up Cousins’ performance levels dramatically. His fight, drive and determination have been even more impressive each time he’s stood in as captain, and he leads well for someone so young.
A disappointing first half of the season. While Cousins has been more like the player that won last season’s POTY in recent weeks, he struggled to make the same sort of impression in the first half of the season. The Addicks were weak in midfield during the lengthy winless runs under Guy Luzon and Karel Fraeye, which wasn’t helped by the academy graduate’s struggles. Misplaced passes and weak defensive work a regular occurrence.
A lack of goals and assists. Giving that Cousins has played alongside Diarra, Jackson, Diego Poyet, Ahmed Kashi and El-Hadji Ba in the middle this season, either less mobile midfielders or more defensively minded, it would have been preferred if the academy graduate had provided a more obvious individual attacking threat. Two goals and no assists isn’t a great return.
Best moment: A sensational performance, undisturbed by the protests of Charlton supporters, in the victory over Middlesbrough. Sky Sports awarding Cousins the Man of the Match.
Worst moment: Seemingly losing the ability to play football at Turf Moor in December, with a display against Burnley that was arguably his worst ever in a Charlton shirt. Simple passes becoming impossible, and his defensive contribution very weak.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson
The statistics support him. Involved in 14 of Charlton’s 36 league goals, and the first player in the division to ten assists, with three of those coming in a superb individual performance against Rotherham. That, particularly in a struggling side with forwards who aren’t keen on scoring goals, is mightily impressive.
More likely than anyone else to make something happen. Even in games where the Addicks have been at their worst, having Gudmundsson carry the ball forward down the right and cut inside means they still have some sort of threat. He still possesses the ability to change a game on his own.
Underwhelming. Despite those statistics suggesting otherwise, it is fair to say that Gudmundsson has been a little underwhelming this season. There was an expectation that he would build upon his often stunning performances of last season, but he hasn’t quite been able to emulate them. That isn’t to say he’s been poor at all, merely frustrating that he’s not quite lived up to the expectations he created for himself.
A questionable attitude. Suggesting protesting supporters need to support the team, whether meant as a dig or simply taken out of context, and on more than one occasion showing frustration towards the Covered End hasn’t done much to counter an argument that implies his attitude hasn’t been totally perfect this season.
Best moment: Scoring the dramatic stoppage-time winner against Hull City. I might even stop celebrating it soon.
Worst moment: Questionable, but his performance against MK Dons. The sort of tight and must-win game that a player with Gudmundsson’s ability should be able to decide, and instead he spent his evening running into dead ends and delivering horrendous corners.
Premier League clubs linked with: A lot
The shining light in a torrid campaign. The Addicks have provided few reasons to be cheerful this season, but watching an exciting young talent with an interesting back story has been a real joy. Lookman, playing Sunday League football just over a year ago, has rightly been linked with Premier League clubs after a number of outstanding performances in his breathrough season. The 18-year-old will go far, and we’ll be able to claim he’s one of us.
A genuine threat. There can often be a novelty value in exciting young talent, with an inconsitency ignored and mistakes overlooked, but Lookman has been a genuine threat each time he’s played. Only Gudmundsson can match his ability on the ball in this Charlton side, his delivery when playing out wide is excellent, and his four goals show him to be a composed finisher. In fact, Riga’s reluctance to use him in important games has caused huge frustration, not least his failure to introduce him sooner in the goalless draw with MK Dons.
A lack of minutes. Though Diego Poyet may have won the award two seasons ago having played half a season, Lookman has ever fewer minutes under his belt. Riga’s reluctance to use him means he’s started just 11 games at the time of writing – hardly enough to be considered a serious contender for a season-long award.
He’s still developing. As you might expect from an 18-year-old, Lookman is still developing. Sometimes he makes the wrong choices, sometimes his final ball is a little weak, and sometimes he get outfought by more experienced defenders. It’s hardly a criticism, simply an observation that damages his chances of being a serious POTY candidate.
Best moment: Displaying the extent of his talents for the first time with a goal on his full debut against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Worst moment: Displaying the fact he still has some developing to do with a terrible lack of composure during the defeat to QPR, which ultimately proved costly.
Stephen Henderson certainly deserves plenty of praise for his shot-stopping exploits that have kept Charlton in numerous games, but it’s hard to consider him a serious candidate when he’s failed to match the impact he had last season. Flapping at corners and Nick Pope’s success in the latter period of the season not doing his cause any good.
Had Jorge Teixeira been an Addick for a longer period, then maybe the defender would be a serious candidate. Though inconsistent, switching between looking composed and assured to rattled and fragile, he has certainly been an improvement on Naby Sarr and Roger Johnson, and contributed two important goals.
The same can be said for Callum Harriott, who has impressed since returning from a long needed loan spell at League One Colchester. Still possessing a frustrating habit to be a bit brain dead, he has at least added a more consistent threat to his game. His pace and quick feet giving the Addicks an extra dimension.
And speaking of players who have done little wrong in a limited number of appearances, Ahmed Kashi was excellent in his 11 appearances before suffering an achilles injury he is only just returning from. He’s definitely got goal of the season wrapped up, and has done since August.
Oh, and then there’s Flaggy the Corner Flag. Constantly deployed alongside the club’s pathetic statements, its resilience as Katrien Meire and Roland Duchatelet hide behind it is worthy of plenty of praise. A cult figure in the Charlton Twitter community.