BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Jason Pearce knows it would be easy to blame outside issues for Charlton Athletic losing their Championship status – but the club captain isn’t about to do that.
The 32-year-old will be doing everything he can to make sure the Addicks’ stay in League One is only for one season.
Charlton’s relegation in July was overshadowed at times by an amazing power struggle in the boardroom which also impacted on Lee Bowyer’s ability to strengthen his squad in January.
Pearce was part of the squad which had celebrated promotion at Wembley in May 2019. Now the SE7 outfit need to rebuild and try and get back out of English football’s third tier. Not easy when the EFL have placed them under an even more stringent transfer embargo and with fears of administration.
There was good news on Tuesday evening as a Manchester court ruled that no injunction could be put in place by Manchester businessman Paul Elliott to prevent the club being sold – but then a seven-day interim one was imposed the following day.
Pearce, speaking before the case was heard, said: “Everyone talks about all the stuff off the pitch and lots of things didn’t help us externally – but I don’t like to blame other things. At the end of the day we weren’t quite good enough and that’s why we went down.
“We knew we didn’t want to take it to the last game of the season at Leeds, an old team of mine. They were flying and had been promoted, we knew it was a tough game and we might need other results to go our way.
“I was playing with a calf injury and Bowyer brought me off at half time. I was keeping an eye on the scores and it shows why football is such a rollercoaster of emotions. Barnsley were winning so we were down, Brentford equalised and we were staying up – then Barnsley scored in the last minute and we were down.
The changing room afterwards was so quiet it was ridiculous. Everyone knew that it wasn’t so much an end of an era but you knew so many players were going to be moving on. If we’d stayed up we had a chance of keeping some of them. We had a really good bond, so it was a tough time.”
Charlton lost another member of their squad this week with centre-back Tom Lockyer, who had already activated a relegation release clause, signing a three-year contract with Luton Town. The Addicks are left hoping a takeover happens quickly – with Danish businessman Thomas Sandgaard in the UK looking to strike an agreement – so that the signing shackles come off the Addicks.
“By the looks of things it is going to be last-minute again but Bowyer has got the nucleus of a squad if we can keep everyone fit,” said Pearce, who joined from Wigan in the summer of 2016.
“The lads who have come in – Alex Gilbey and Connor Washington – have been welcomed with open arms. Bowyer tries to bring in the right people who work hard. Hopefully we get a few more in and have a good go.
“We need some help because it is a long slog – League One is relentless and there are going to be injuries, suspensions and loss of form. We need a decent squad and we haven’t got a decent squad.”
Pearce is missing at the moment with a knee injury picked up in training. He looks set to miss the start of the league campaign on September 12.
Pearce said: “It was quite innocuous – I went to block a cross and my foot got caught in the ground. I heard a pop and thought I had done my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and that I’d be out like Jake Forster-Caskey.
“So it sounds strange to say I was delighted when I got told I could be back in six weeks. I’ve had a really good reaction and I’m hoping I can be back sooner than that.
“We are very light of centre-halves and I haven’t helped Bowyer by getting injured, even if I didn’t mean to do it.
“We need some reinforcements in that position, for sure. Darren Pratley came in there against Crystal Palace and played really well. Prats will always do a job for the team, whatever the position.”
Pearce launches his own academy at Eltham Goals on September 7 – with sessions held every Monday throughout the year.
“I’m thinking about the transition into doing something after football but also to give back what I’ve learned through my career,” he said.
“I know some parents can be quite pushy but my advice would be that from the age of five up to 12 or 13 it is important for kids just to go and enjoy football.
“If you look at the stats the amount of boys and girls who make it, the numbers are very small. That’s the harsh reality. It’s tough to become a professional and even harder to stay a professional. Parents need to have the mindset not to put all their eggs in one basket.
“The main thing is to improve as a player.”
Pearce, who is hoping to do his UEFA A coaching license this year, was released by Portsmouth but ended up re-signing for them just over a year later. He has clocked up 501 matches in his career.
“When I was younger I wasn’t enjoying it or giving the best account of myself,” said Pearce. “Maybe I just wasn’t good enough.
“I went and played for my local team and we were winning things – I loved it and found my confidence again. Portsmouth came knocking saying they wanted to take me back. I got an apprenticeship and signed pro.
“I’d like to be a coach at some level in the future – ideally at Charlton. We’ll have to see what happens.”
For more details on Pearce’s academy, go to www.jp6academy.co.uk
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