BY MATT VERRI
When Charlton host AFC Wimbledon this weekend, they should be more aware than most of the threat Joe Pigott poses to them.
The Dons’ top-scorer made his professional first-team debut for the Addicks in 2013, after coming through the youth system at the club.
Opportunities were hard to come by for Pigott though, and he was loaned out to four different clubs over a two-year period.
During that time, Charlton had seven different managers. It was a period of instability that put paid to any hopes the striker had of making an impression in the first-team.
“I still love the club and keep track of things, even though they treated me really poorly,” Pigott said.
“That wasn’t the fault of anyone who is at the club now though, that was just how things were with the ownership and all the rest – it was a total mess.
“My career at the club not working out was just a by-product of that unfortunately.
“Being a young lad you just want someone to give you direction, and to put their arm around your shoulder at times. The game can be pretty brutal as it is. I just had way too many managers. That was really detrimental to me.”
The frontman’s final loan move while still on the books at the club was with Luton Town, managed by Nathan Jones who had coached Pigott as a youth player at Charlton.
His unsettled time at Charlton came to an end in 2016, when Pigott was released after the Addicks were relegated from the Championship.
The 27-year-old remains disappointed with the manner in which his departure was handled.
“I knew that no-one was going to contact me and let me know I was being released,” Pigott said.
“It seems a bit strange that at a club you came through at and spend seven or eight years with, come the end of your contract nobody contacts you to let you know if you’ve been released.
“I had a really successful loan move to Southend in 2015, we got promoted, and I thought that would kickstart my Charlton career when I came back but obviously that didn’t happen.
“I knew that things weren’t going to happen for me at Charlton– it just fizzled out.”
During his time coming through at the Addicks, Pigott was coached by Jones for a season as part of a talented crop of players. That group included Nick Pope and Semi Ajayi, now playing in the Premier League for Burmley and West Bromwich Albion.
Pigott was involved in the Charlton side that enjoyed huge success in the 2012-13 season, including winning the Development League 2, and he looks back on that period with real fondness.
“Nathan was a massive part of my career – I loved playing under him,” he said. “The team that we had that year was pretty unbeatable really.
“Everyone from it seems to have gone on and had a decent career, with quite a few in the Premier League.
“I’ve got some happy memories from the coaching I had coming through at the club, some really positive memories.
“Obviously, there’s some not so great ones about how I left and how I was handled when I eventually got into the first team, but coming through it was brilliant.”
When Pigott returns to The Valley on Saturday afternoon, he’ll do so as one of the top scorers in the division – his tally of eight League One goals this season has only been bettered by Portsmouth’s John Marquis.
His career after leaving the Addicks saw him play in the National League with Maidstone United, but Pigott was always confident he had the resilience to bounce back from those setbacks and believes he’s become a better player for it.
Since signing for the Dons in January 2018 he has netted 40 times in 123 appearances.
“I’ve massively improved compared to when I left Charlton,” he said. “I’ve always scored goals when given opportunities, but it’s just about the rest of the game, you have to get experience with that and develop.
“To drop into non-league was a massive deal, two or three years after starting with Charlton in the Championship.
“I knew I had the quality and the belief to come back, to put things right, and to prove people wrong.
“Wimbledon have been amazing with me to give me a chance back in the Football League, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
The Dons’ match with Charlton will be their eighth game in 22 days after cup fixtures piled up, and their first back on the road after four matches in a row at Plough Lane.
“I’ve never had a schedule like this before in my whole career,” said Pigott.
“We’ve hardly done anything in terms of training, it’s all been dedicated to the matches so it’s been really tough. The last few games you can see that fatigue has kicked in at certain times, but we’ve had a decent run apart from a couple of matches.
“It would be really nice to score this weekend, but I’m more concerned with doing my job for the team and getting us the three points.”
PICTURES: PAUL EDWARDS
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