BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Macauley Bonne has opened up about his Charlton Athletic exit – and why he had to be “ruthless” over his desire to stay at Championship level.
The 24-year-old striker signed for QPR a week ago in a deal worth up to £2million. And the Addicks also have a sell-on clause.
Bonne told our paper in August 2019 – shortly after a £200,000 move from Leyton Orient – that he was “nowhere near good enough for the Championship”.
But fast forward 14 months and he netted 11 times in 33 league appearances for Charlton.
Bonne also headed a stoppage-time equaliser on his QPR debut at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Not bad for a player who was seen as a development project when he first walked through the door in SE7.
“There are people who said I should’ve stayed [at Charlton] longer and people who said I went at the right time – but when is the right time?” Bonne told the South London Press. “A football career is a very, very short one.
“You’ve got to understand where I have come from. A year before I played [and scored] against Leeds I was playing in front of 1,000 fans at Maidenhead on a cold Saturday afternoon.
“At school I’d hear all about QPR because they were a Premier League team. I’ve even got friends who are QPR fans because of their Premier League days.
“I probably worded it slightly wrongly about my head being turned when I heard they wanted me – I apologise for that.
“But football is a ruthless game and things like this don’t happen to boys like me. I went from non-league to Charlton and then because of that I got an opportunity to go back to the Championship at a club like QPR. Things like that don’t come around often.
“There will always be good and bad said about you – people who slag me or love me. You can be the best player and there is someone who will always have something negative to say. But what would they do in my position? You’ve got to be put in my position to answer that. I grew up on a council estate in Ipswich. I played for a good club in Colchester but dropped down because I didn’t like football – I rebuilt my career and three years later I’ve been sold for £2million and I’m in the Championship.”
Bonne can remember watching the Addicks win their League One play-off final against Sunderland in May 2019. A month later and he became a rare cash purchase sanctioned by then owner Roland Duchatelet.
“I celebrated like a Charlton player and the deal hadn’t even gone through,” he said. “I knew I was signing – it was just what league we’d be in.
“It made it more of a jump. I thought I’d probably have more chance playing early doors for them in League One. There was talk about me going out on loan but then I got thrown in against Leeds. It was the best thing for me – just to go and play your natural game.”
Bonne got his shot against Marcelo Bielsa’s side after Lyle Taylor damaged knee ligaments on international duty with Montserrat. Tomer Hemed then also suffered an injury.
“We were doing shape work on the Friday and I remember Tomer walking out the room,” said the frontman, who played 2,352 Championship minutes last season. “Lee Bowyer told me I was playing – in front of everyone.
“I went from maybe getting a few minutes to starting in probably the biggest home game of the season.
“I feel like I’m miles ahead of when I first joined Charlton. I never expected my progression to happen this rapidly. I don’t think anyone did. I was brought in as a project on a three-year contract.
“I feel like I’ve taken all the information on board straight away that was handed to me by Lee Bowyer and Johnnie Jackson, rather than thinking ‘I’ll improve on that in the next few weeks’.
“I won’t lie – I only played that much because we had injuries. The first two, three or four matches I wasn’t up to scratch in the Championship. I was doing what had helped me before – running in behind and scoring goals.
“I’ve got so much to improve on but I’ve also got so much time.”
Bowyer did not hold back in post-match press conferences when Bonne failed to convert chances – particularly post lockdown.
The Zimbabwe international bagged three goals when football resumed but was criticised for misses against Millwall and Hull City.
“He gave me a rifling after the Millwall game and I went on and scored three times,” said Bonne.
“I’ll be my own critic.
“I should’ve scored more goals – that’s what kills me. I got 11 and I could’ve finished on 15. But if I had taken all of them then I’d be in the Premier League. That’s why I’m not the finished article.
“He [Bowyer] had his methods and in a way it worked. In the moment when he is screaming and shouting I thought ‘he hates me and it must be something personal’.
“But he rang me up when I signed for QPR and we had a good chat – he made it clear it was only to improve me. His words were ‘it’s some turnaround’.”
PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING
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