Key player: Akin Famewo
Young left-footed centre-back Famewo joins Charlton on loan for the second season in a row, with Norwich offering the South Londoners an option to purchase this time round. He will be a crucial part of the Charlton defence in their campaign this season.
Because of an injury, he only played in 43% of available minutes last season for Charlton, but the stats don’t lie. While he was on the pitch, Charlton conceded 16 goals – they conceded 40 when he wasn’t playing. When Famewo was playing, Charlton’s defence was one of the best in the division, and when he wasn’t it was one of the worst.
If they both stay fit, Famewo will form a formidable partnership to the left of Ryan Inniss. 6’5” Inniss is a strong aerial presence, but Famewo is something classier. His ability to quietly break up play and bring the ball out of defence in an unhurried manner marks him as someone who could play at a higher level than League One.
It is key for Charlton that Famewo stays fit, if they are to challenge at the top end of the division.
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Manager: Nigel Adkins
No manager in League One has a better twitter presence than Nigel Adkins. He regularly uploads videos of himself delivering a monologue to camera, filled with inspiring messages (many of them about the virtues of exercise). These videos have been popular among Charlton fans, who clamour for a shoutout from their gaffer.
Off the internet, Adkins is a respected manager with Premier League experience. His first foray into professional management came in 2006, where he replaced long-serving Brian Laws as Scunthorpe manager. Unusually, he was the team’s physio before his promotion to manager – leading to the famous chant “who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio”.
Adkins spent nearly two years out of football before taking the Charlton job in March. The break seemed to do him good. After a few years with Reading, Sheffield United and Hull City that could best be described as a mixed bag, he lost just one out of the ten Charlton games he managed last season.
There is a much more positive atmosphere at the Valley than there has been for a while. A lot of this is because of their affable Scouse manager, and the attacking style he prefers his teams to play.
Creator: Albie Morgan
Charlton’s primary creative force, Jake Forster-Caskey, suffered an ACL tear towards the end of last season. It will be on the shoulders of the 21-year-old Albie Morgan to replace his production.
The academy product scored once and notched up three assists in his 14 starts last season. Typical for a young player, he is a bundle of energy who doesn’t always have the calmest head in the box – Charlton will be hoping he can add end product to his game.
Morgan has the right attitude. Over lockdown, he lost 10kg in weight. A leaner, meaner Morgan had his best season of his career in 2020-21. With Forster-Caskey out, he will be hoping he can kick on even further and make 2021-22 the campaign he blossoms into a reliable outlet for a good side.
If he does improve this season, there will be bigger clubs looking at him. There aren’t a lot of 21-year-olds who can lead a League One midfield. Charlton have invested a lot into his development, and he’s managed to establish himself as an important member of the squad. Morgan will hope to repay their faith in him.
Key departure: Chuks Aneke
Chuks Aneke had the opposite of a ‘difficult second album’ in his Charlton career. After a nightmare first season, scoring only one goal, he bagged 15 last campaign. This was made even more impressive by the fact he only started 11 games for the Addicks. His 0.88 goals per 90 minutes eclipsed even the division’s top scorer, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
His form earned him a move to Birmingham, where he will reunite with the manager who brought him to the Valley, Lee Bowyer. Charlton will miss his goals and they don’t have an obvious candidate to replace him.
Jayden Stockley was signed ostensibly as Aneke’s replacement. Like Aneke, Stockley is a tall and powerful centre-forward. Unlike Aneke, Stockley is not a proven goalscorer at this level. He scored a lot goals for Exeter City, but that was two-and-a-half years ago in League Two.
If Stockley can’t up his goalscoring output, Adkins will have to rely on either Conor Washington or Ronnie Schwartz. Washington’s waspishness is useful, but he’s never been a prolific goalscorer at any level beyond whichever league St Ives Town play in. Schwartz has struggled to settle in England since moving from his native Denmark.
Charlton’s new owner, Thomas Sandgaard, is a little eccentric. The Dane combined his two passions of football and heavy metal music to release a single that will serve as the club’s anthem this season. He is on vocals, of course. Surprisingly, ‘Addicks to Victory’ is not a terrible track – even if Crystal Palace and Millwall fans are inevitably comparing Sandgaard to David Brent.
Sandgaard is unashamedly in-your-face but marks a welcome departure from the anonymous Roland Duchatelet. The Belgian owned a raft of football clubs around the world and seemed uninterested in Charlton. Sandgaard may be a bit too enthusiastic, but it’s no wonder Addicks fans are more confident with him at the helm.
Adkins knows what he’s doing at this level. While goals may be a problem, a defence led by Akin Famewo should be solid if he stays fit. Another canny signing was made in goal – Portsmouth’s player of the season Craig MacGillivray should be an upgrade on Ben Amos.
Charlton finished one position outside of the play-offs last season. With a full season of stable ownership and Adkins at the helm, they should be aiming to do a little better this campaign. Expect them to be nearer the top of the table than the bottom.
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