Carl Jenkinson has not set the world alight since joining Arsenal last June. The young right back, eligible for both England and Finland, has featured in just eight league games and is yet to score. However, he deserves a great deal of credit for powering one club to an almost perfect season.
Jenkinson’s former employers, Charlton Athletic, invested the £1m received from the Gunners for the defender to completely overhaul the squad and secure an impressive automatic promotion. Eighteen new – albeit mostly free – players arrived at the Valley in the summer, with the ranks swelled by another ten loanees over the course of the season. Competing against more wealthy sides such as Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and the two Sheffield clubs, manager Chris Powell has galvanised a mix of lower-league journeymen and academy products into a record-breaking outfit. Promotion was secured at Carlisle with an astonishing fifteenth away win of the season, surpassing anything in the South London club’s history.
Powell, a figure already popular amongst the fans from his playing days, has enhanced his reputation even further, despite a shaky start to his managerial career. After taking over from Phil Parkinson last January, Powell presided over four successive wins followed by an eleven match winless streak, leaving the Addicks mired in mid-table. However, the recently-appointed chairman Michael Slater saw fit to give the former England left-back chance to build his own squad, and the board’s faith has been repaid.
Perhaps the most important factor in Charlton’s promotion is the club’s shrewd moves in the summer transfer window. High earners such as Jose Semedo, Miguel Angel Llera and Therry Racon were offloaded and replaced by young, hungry talent. Ben Hamer, signed on a free transfer from Reading, has been a revelation in goal while centre back Michael Morrisson has recovered his best form after an indifferent spell at Sheffield Wednesday. Danny Green, meanwhile, has added guile on the right wing after being plucked from the relative obscurity of Dagenham and Redbridge.
Perhaps the most surprising success story, however, is that of French forward Yann Kermorgant. An expensive flop under Nigel Pearson at Leicester City, Powell clearly saw enough from the 28-year-old during his spell as a coach at the King Power Stadium to offer the out-of-contract striker a new club. Ten league goals and a complementary partnership with the pacy Bradley Wright-Phillips have followed, and Kermorgant’s career has been resuscitated.
These additions have been supplemented by a number of effective loanees, with Hogan Ephraim and Dany N’Guessan both offering an injection of pace on the wings. Those players retained from Parkinson’s squad, meanwhile, have been rejuvenated under Powell. Johnnie Jackson, promoted to captain, has blossomed into an accomplished box-to-box midfielder, chipping in with thirteen league goals, including a decisive free-kick against Sheffield United. Up front, Wright-Phillips has shaken off his persistent injury problems to top the scoring charts with 22 goals.
Despite a slight slump in March, the Addicks achieved promotion from League One after three long seasons with three games to spare. The obligatory pitch invasion occurred, with Powell and his squad embraced by travelling fans on the Brunton Park turf. So the next time Carl Jenkinson reluctantly cheers on Bacary Sagna from his heated seat on the Arsenal substitutes’ bench, he might find comfort in knowing he played a major part in a team in red and white’s recent triumph.
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