BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Chuks Aneke has helped add the word ‘super’ to Charlton Athletic’s subs this season – but can’t put his finger on why he has been so highly effective off the bench.
The Addicks are top of the pile in England’s top four tiers when it comes to goals from players who have been introduced to the action.
Charlton have got 10 goals from substitutes – three more than nearest rivals Norwich and Hull.
The fact that the SE7 outfit are leading the way is largely down to Aneke. The former Arsenal and MK attacker has got all seven of his goals this season after being brought on, with six of those in League One.
Aneke is just happy to be contributing after an injury-hit first campaign for the South Londoners.
He notched 19 times in 41 matches for MK as they won promotion from League Two, but then only made two Championship starts for Charlton.
“I didn’t just have one injury, I had various ones – hamstring injuries, groin injuries – they were all different muscle and ligament ones,” said Aneke.
“Last season was quite tough. I was injured quite a bit and in and out of the team. It’s been good to be involved, score some goals and just be a positive help to the team. Last season I wasn’t really doing that.
“It was difficult but we move on to this season. I’m happy to be involved and showing the fans what I can do.”
Aneke has made 13 appearances in the current campaign – 11 of those as a substitute. Managing his minutes has helped him be available and involved in their last nine league outings.
“One of the fitness coaches told me this season is the longest I’ve stayed fit since I’ve been at the club,” he said. “That’s been a plus for me.
“It always happens when I’ve been at a club for a year – the physios get to know me and I get to know them. I get to know when to push my body and not to push my body.
“No [he doesn’t have a goal target]. I don’t really want to put pressure on myself like that. Every game we go into I feel I can make a difference and score. That’s what I’ll do and see where I end up.”
Aneke has no easy explanation for why he has been able to plug straight into the pace of matches and consistently impact them.
“It’s really strange, really weird – I’ve never had anything like that before in my career,” he said.
“But I’m a striker. I don’t really care how they come – just that they come. It doesn’t matter where, when, if I’m starting or coming off the bench. Long may it continue.”
One of Aneke’s absences this season was down to contracting Covid-19.
The former England U19 international tested positive after the EFL Cup loss at West Ham United in the middle of September.
“The first two or three days I was bed-ridden,” said Aneke. “I was one of those people who was quite sceptical about it before I had it.
“I was almost like ‘is it a real thing?’ It’s definitely a real thing.
“I was deffo very ill the first couple of days. After that I was fine.
“Then it was more the quarantine and having to self-isolate – being away from people for 14 days. I had no wifi at the time in my new flat – so that made it even worse! I had to use my iPhone’s 4G – we got through it.
“I’m quite a big, strong lad. So imagine if it is someone older with other issues? I came out of it with quite a lot of sympathy for people who have had it this year.”
Aneke signed a deal until the summer of 2021 at The Valley.
The Newham-born striker spent 13 years with Arsenal – coming through in the same age group as Benik Afobe – before being released in 2014.
“I’ve got no contract after this summer,” said Aneke. “I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about it.
“But you develop a resilience. I’ve been in the game, and this situation, many times before. You just focus on playing. If you perform how you can perform there will be a contract at the time that you need to sign one.
“Looking back, leaving Arsenal was a tough experience. At the time you do what you need to do. But with hindsight you see that Arsenal, the club, was a big part of my life for an impressionable part of my life.
“It was hard to get over but I’ve been in the game a long time since then and we’re doing different things.”
The immediate target is aiding Charlton’s push for an instant return to English football’s second tier. The Addicks are seventh but are only four points behind leaders Portsmouth and have two matches in hand.
Only seven points separate Pompey from 11th-placed Sunderland. There are plenty of twists and turns yet for a campaign that also has the wildcard of the pandemic disrupting the scheduling.
“I never tend to look at the league at the moment,” said Aneke. “I look at every game, if we can try and win. With the games in hand as a team we need to get that consistency we had for a certain period before one of the international breaks.
“We’ve got a few big players injured – Akin [Famewo], Ryan [Inniss] and Shins [Andrew Shinnie] as well – we need to get into a consistency again.
“We’ve dropped some points against teams we shouldn’t really. When we’re in the position like we were in on Saturday it’s not the best to drop two points. But all things considered we’re in a good position to still reach our goals.”
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