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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Charlton Athletic

Louis Mendez previews tonight's London derby at Griffin Park

7 July 2020

Putting coronavirus and the behind-the-scenes issues aside, what have you made of Charlton’s first season back in the Championship since 2015/16?

Overall, eventful is probably the right word. They came into the season with the lowest wage budget in the division under former owner Roland Duchatelet but started off really well and were second going into the first international break. But that’s when the injuries started creeping in. Lyle Taylor was out for 14 weeks and then they just kept piling up from there and, at one point, there were 13 or 14 players on the sidelines and players who were on loan at National League clubs had to be recalled and play Championship football. They started off well but then that caused the rigours of the league to really catch up with them and that’s why they found themselves in the bottom three just as we went into the coronavirus break.

As you mentioned, one thing that was particularly notable this season was how Lee Bowyer managed to keep the club above the relegation zone despite having to blood the likes of Alfie Doughty and Albie Morgan to get through a severe injury crisis. How important was it that he signed a new deal in January?

It was massive. The entire time he’s been in charge, he’s been firefighting in terms of the situation behind the scenes but has always managed to get 11 players out onto the pitch who will give their all. He’s a massive fans favourite as well. Charlton haven’t really had a manager they can really relate to probably since Chris Powell a few years ago. He started his career as a trainee at Charlton and everyone loves him. He’s got a good team around him in Johnnie Jackson, Andy Marshall and Steve Gallen so it was important that he hung around because he’s one of the most important bits of stability at the club at the moment.

We’ve got to touch on the fact Lyle Taylor has left the club after the expiration of his contract at The Valley. He justified his decision in an interview with Sky Sports but how do the Charlton fans feel about his departure?

I think a lot of Charlton fans are disappointed that he didn’t see out his contract. They always knew he was going to leave at the end of the season because he’d been messed around by previous owners in terms of contract offers and he was heavily linked with a move to Brentford last summer. A lot of people will be disappointed that his time at the club ended in the way that it did but I’m sure others understand his reasoning, because it’s a difficult situation for everybody at the moment.

Which player is looking likely to get your vote for Player of the Season?

That would definitely be Dillon Phillips, the goalkeeper, who’s been ever-present so far. At the time of speaking, he’s made the most saves in the Championship, which sounds good but also means he’s had to face an awful lot of shots across the campaign. He’s been really dependable and is another player who came through the academy, then went on loan once or twice. I saw him playing for Cheltenham against Bromley in the National League a few seasons ago and thought he looked really solid; he’s now taken that form into his Charlton career. He had to fight for his place halfway through last season but ever since then, he’s made the No 1 spot his. A lot of people will remember him for the mistake in the play-off final but he very rarely makes mistakes like that and I can’t think of any like that this season.

How is Lee Bowyer likely to set up his side?

That’s a really tough one because there are so many variables and it’s hard to say how he will set up at all, really. If I had to, I’d say he will set up similarly to how he did for the first game back after the restart against Hull: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja, McGeady, Pratley, Cullen, Morgan, Bonne, Hemed.

Brentford’s most recent home win against the Addicks came in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in December 2010 but what’s your score prediction for their final trip to Griffin Park?

I’m disappointed I’m not going to this one because I love going to Griffin Park and it’s going to be a shame to see it go. Brentford are a very good side, but I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.

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