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Player of the Year – A Two Horse Race?

Even in what is hopefully the final weeks of the Roland Duchatelet regime, there remains a commitment to alienating supporters, and devaluing those who have given so much to the club.

The Player of the Year event one that has been organised by hard-working and devoted supporters for some time, but has been cancelled this year largely as a consequence of Katrien Meire’s stubbornness and ignorance.

Jean Huelin, who has helped run the event for the previous six years, was informed by the club she shouldn’t be involved. An email sent that was accidently forwarded to a club official which Meire took exception to, and consequently decided to ban Jean. Those involved in the event deciding as a collective that they would not organise it without Jean being involved, and it therefore cancelled.

The email situation a bit of an embarrassing moment, and something that has been admitted to, but there no doubt that deciding that Jean, who was named supporter of the year last season, can’t be involved in the running of an event she has dedicated so much time to is outrageous.

Nonetheless, with seven remaining league games following this enforced two-week break, it seems a reasonable time to begin to consider who has shone in a miserable campaign. Who has succeeded, while others in Charlton red have struggled. Who deserves to succeed Jordan Cousins in being named as Charlton’s Player of the Year.

In the first few months of the season, before he suffered a hip injury, Declan Rudd might well have been a serious contender. The Norwich loanee proving himself to be an excellent shot-stopper, consistently making vital interventions and allowing Russell Slade’s unconvincing Addicks to remain competitive.

Alas, since Rudd’s return to the side, the goalkeeper has struggled. The occasional excellent save still being made, but mistakes racking up. Regularly being beaten too easily, fumbled crosses leading to goals against Rochdale and Scunthorpe United, and a weak attempt to keep out Mark Marshall’s strike allowing Timothee Dieng to equaliser during the draw with Bradford City.

Trust lost in the 26-year-old to the extent that many have called for Dillon Phillips to return to the side. The Rudd seen at the start of the season absent since his return to the side, and the goalkeeper’s efforts in recent weeks confirming he’s not going to be receiving many votes.

There possibly more serious contenders in front of Rudd, and not least Ezri Konsa. A teenager who has performed with the maturity and quality of someone with far greater experience, whether that be in the centre of defence or, what was originally an unfamiliar role, in the centre of midfield.

Defensively sound, physically strong and comfortable in possession, Konsa has rarely slipped below a consistent standard of quality that the 19-year-old has set for himself. A quite remarkable achievement for someone so young to perform consistently in a struggling side, in a position that demands a lot. An England U20 call-up and a new contract the very least his efforts have warranted.

Of course, as was always likely to be the case in his debut season, there were less comfortable moments for the academy graduate. As I write this, his miss at Bramall Lane is still fresh in my mind, while his slip and overall performance at The Den will be in my mind forevermore. But moments such as those barely measurable in comparison to his overall efforts.

If you include Konsa in your considerations, it’s probably only fair to also make note of Patrick Bauer. The German did well enough last season in the Championship, so it’s no surprise that he’s performed at League One level. His mentality correct, his efforts largely solid, and a likeable character.

Bauer not quite as consistent as the teenager who has accompanied him at centre-back for much of the campaign, not least during the run of eight games without victory. Numerous errors, bullied by opposition forwards, and a general lack of composure across the backline in that period. The German in particular appeared to vanish over that period of a month or so.

Whether it be Konsa, Bauer or even Jorge Teixeira, Charlton’s backline would have certainly benefited from the leadership and control of Jason Pearce. The value of the job he was doing only really noted after he sustained his groin injury. The summer signing hasn’t really played enough to be a genuine contender, though his efforts in the first half of the campaign do deserve recognition.

Maybe you’d place the injured centre-back on a list of contenders if you’re looking to fill it out, alongside Ademola Lookman after his January departure, and some of those who have performed consistently in Charlton colours, but without eye-catching quality. Chris Solly, Adam Chicksen and Fredrik Ulvestad fit into that category – no qualms at all with how they’ve played, but not done quite enough to be a genuine candidate for Player of the Year.

As such, Player of the Year appears to be a two-horse race. A contest between the match-winning (that is match-winning if we actually won games of football) Ricky Holmes, and the talismanic Josh Magennis.

Replacing Johann Berg Gudmundsson wasn’t meant to be possible, but Holmes’ attacking qualities, whether he be playing out wide or sat behind the forward, have gone some way to achieving that. A genuine roar of excitement each time he has the ball at his feet, consistently testing final balls, and the ability to score a goal out of nothing. Quality.

The sort of player you can give the ball to in a crisis and expect to produce magic. How he’s been hovering around League Two for much of his career is a mystery. Not least when it’s reasonable to feel a little concerned about whether he’ll be a Charlton player come August – he could certainly play at a higher level.

Magennis, meanwhile, would appear be to be the first forward Charlton have had since January 2014 who is capable of winning a header. Particularly capable, too. The summer signing from Kilmarnock has bullied several opposition defences, been dominant in the air, and held the ball up superbly.

All that, while being far from just a stationary lump of a target man. Quick, intelligent with the ball at his feet, and, as has been shown throughout the campaign, capable of a quality goal or two. His performance against Bristol Rovers a stunning effort.

The only disappointment for Magennis being his performances following his return from injury. You do wonder whether he was rushed back too soon, but even so, there were some dire efforts from the Northern Ireland international during the run of eight games without victory. Not least at Boundary Park – a crucial 1st-minute miss and an overall uncharacteristically weak performance.

While at the same time, Holmes has been next-to-unplayable. Three marvellous free-kicks, three goals in the defeat to Shrewsbury Town while his teammates offered very little, and endless running and effort both with and without the ball. It probably over the course of the previous six weeks that the summer signing from Northampton Town has made himself Player of the Year.

Where will my vote be going? Probably in line with the previous two paragraphs. Difficult to split the pair, but Holmes’ performances in a testing period have convinced me it’s he who warrants it more.

That is, of course, if we’re actually getting a vote.

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1 Comment

  1. tex says:

    Holmes for me. Pearce would have been a contender without the injury. Two key players who I hope stay injury free next season – assuming they are both still in SE7.

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