BY RICHARD CAWLEY
If there had been an award for the surprise package of Charlton’s 2017-18 season, then Tariqe Fosu would have surely walked away with the honour.
The 22-year-old had played just six times in League One when he signed for the Addicks just over 12 months ago.
And with the likes of Mark Marshall, Ricky Holmes and Ben Reeves all more experienced – and with solid reputations at League One level – Fosu was initially earmarked as an exciting and raw back-up.
But the Wandsworth-born winger turned out to be one of the best value-for-money buys by previous manager Karl Robinson when he was signed for a nominal sum from Reading.
While Marshall and Reeves struggled to repeat their exploits in the shirts of Bradford City and Milton Keynes respectively, Fosu seized upon his early hit of first-team football when the former suffered a knee injury in pre-season.
He finished up with nine league goals, only one behind top-scorer Josh Magennis despite playing 12 matches fewer than the Northern Ireland international as he was sidelined by injuries.
Not that Fosu is allowing his change in squad status to change his approach in pre-season.
“I want to do my best in every season – be the best I can be,” he told the South London Press. “I have always got to prove myself.
“It was good to have the year I did before but I have got to continue and maintain it.
“I want to score as many goals as possible. I’ll probably aim for double figures now.”
Fosu had scored seven times by mid-October. The decision to start him in a relatively unimportant EFL Trophy home tie against Portsmouth backfired on Robinson as his one truly in-form attacker picked up a quad injury. He went on to miss the next 11 league fixtures.
A knee injury also made it a race for him to be fit for the play-offs as he sat out the final two matches of the regulation campaign.
Fosu was only fit enough to play 28 minutes against Shrewsbury Town at The Valley and a shade over an hour in the return leg.
“I always want to play to help the boys,” he said.
“It’s a crucial part of the season. The physio department did a great job to get me back fit in time. Initially I thought it would be longer than that and I’d miss the semifinals.
“They got me back in time but it’s tough when you haven’t played in a few games and you come back and need to make a mark.
“You kind of need a few games to get your feet back.
“It was frustrating being out. You want to join in training with the boys but you can’t. It was my first time getting a few injuries, but it’s about dealing with them and coming back stronger.”
Robinson felt that Fosu’s first spell on the sidelines was due to his body not being used to a run of demanding League One matches.
“Possibly,” said the South Londoner when that theory is put to him. “There were lots of games, I played in a lot. It was my first time having a pre-season and ending up starting, stuff like that was quite tough on my body.
“I hope this season will be a good one. I think we have got a good chance – I believe we can get promoted. I’m sure the other boys believe. We came so far last season, we can do it again and make it happen.
“It took a couple of weeks to get over [the hangover of play-off defeat]. I was always thinking about the game and replaying moments. But we did really well to get there as well.
“It’s sad to lose but I take it as an achievement as well.
“We’ve got good players. We have signed Lyle [Taylor] and he has shown before that he is a top player at this level. He is a good addition to the team. I think he’ll get a lot of goals as well.”
Fosu sidesteps a question over contract negotiations as adeptly as beating a touch-tight full-back on the pitch.
Caretaker boss Lee Bowyer recently revealed that he had been offered new terms along with Joe Aribo.
Fosu has just under 12 months on his current deal.
“I’ve just been playing my football, enjoying my football and I’ll see what happens,” said Fosu.
“I went back to Ghana [in the summer] to be with my family. It’s nice to be with them, just chill and get my focus back. My nan and my grandad live out there.
“I try to visit them every year. They come back and forth. It’s good for them to see me playing games.
“This summer I have been itching to play football all the time. You start to feel a little lazy – we work so hard that when you get that time off then you don’t know what to do with yourself. I wanted to get back and start getting fit again.”
When asked to grade his first season in a Charlton shirt out of 10, Fosu barely pauses before replying with the highest score – breaking into a smile.
“I’m joking. It was just injuries and stuff that kind of affected me. I felt at my best at some parts. Before I got injured I would say about a seven. The injury was disappointing.”
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