BY RICHARD CAWLEY
A lot of people piled on the pounds during lockdown – but Albie Morgan used that period to lose them.
The midfielder, 20, shed 10 kilograms during the opening months of the Covid-19 pandemic – a hugely significant turning point in his Charlton Athletic career.
Morgan, who has been on the club’s books since the age of nine, also reckons the tough approach taken by manager Lee Bowyer has helped him develop his game.
The Addicks chief had previously criticised the youngster for not doing the dirty side of his role, but has recently been handing out praise to the academy product for becoming more of an all-rounder.
“Sometimes it’s not nice to hear some negative comments but it has made me stronger and matured me,” said Morgan. “It has spurred me on to prove him and the coaching staff wrong.
“I wanted to show I can do it, that I’m willing to learn and improve. My family supported me and told me if I made changes that I could reach new levels.
“You scratch your head thinking ‘why always me?’ But the manager and staff just want to help me and get the best out of me. I’ve worked on quite a few things – my weight, my fitness, my tracking back and my defensive positioning. I know I’m not perfect in any of them, but I’ve come a long way.
“The real difference was lockdown. I had time to look at myself – not just my body but my game in general so that when we went back I was fully ready. I wanted them to be shocked at the changes. I lost a lot of weight.
“I got a few starts after the restart and I earned that, to a certain degree, because I put so much work in over lockdown. I could’ve easily gone the other way in that period, but the focus was there. Diet and sleep were the main two things. I started to see results and thought ‘I’m not stopping now – I need to carry on’.
“I got to the point where I was comfortable and happy. I saw real results out on the field in the first game at Hull – I felt a lot lighter in the way I drifted around the pitch.
“That’s when I realised that change was needed.”
Morgan made his 52nd appearance for the Addicks in their 1-1 draw at Shrewsbury last Saturday.
He has started five of their opening 16 League One matches.
The promotion-winning 2018-19 season was his breakthrough into the senior set up.
Morgan started six games and that included Bowyer going with him in the play-off semi-final first leg at Doncaster. He came on as half-time substitute in the decisive return in SE7 before missing out on the matchday squad for the Wembley showpiece against Sunderland.
“It is probably the best moment of my career,” he said. “I was involved in the two semis. And while it’s not nice to miss a final I was amongst it on the day – to do that in your first year was quite special, because not many people can say they have been part of a team that got promoted.
“I’ve still got the shirts I wore in the semis and the one that got made for me for the final, with the special stitching on it. I haven’t worn the boots since, a pair of red adidas.
“There are a lot of good memories of that day. The play-off medal is hanging up in my bedroom.
“I’m hoping we can do something similar this season.”
Morgan scored his first league goal for the SE7 outfit at the end of last month. His neat finish inside the area put Charlton on their way to a 2-0 victory over Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
Assistant manager Johnnie Jackson and first-team coach Grant Basey had shown him clips of Bowyer scoring goals during his illustrious career.
Morgan said: “We did a training game and a few of the midfielders, including myself, were hanging around on the edge of the box. We weren’t going into the box when there was enough back up for one or two of us to get in there.
“We could take that into an actual match – that we don’t need so many bodies around the edge. Someone like myself can get in there and score some goals. The example that Basey used was Bow, when he was a player.
“He showed me that nine out of 10 goals he scored were from runs into the box, running forward and one-on-ones. I think there were only one or two long-range goals.
“Ever since then we’ve been working on that. I’ve managed to get myself two goals this season – both in the box. I am trying to keep learning and find myself in the right position. I don’t score many – so any goal for me is a bonus.
“It’s about looking at the bigger picture and knowing you don’t always have to score the perfect goal. A little scrappy one or a flick inside the box is just as important in terms of boosting confidence.
“It was more of a relief [scoring at Ipswich] than anything.
“I’d been waiting for it. Me, Basey, Bow and Jacko had been working on it for a month or two – I was getting in the positions, but it was hard – I couldn’t quite get the chance.
“Luckily one fell to me, I hit it clean enough and it went in.
“Now knowing I can do that I am hungry to score more, definitely.”
If Morgan can add to his haul tomorrow it will be in front of Addicks supporters – with 2,000 allowed in for the visit of AFC Wimbledon.
“Fans are vital with any football game – they really do help,” said Morgan. “My family have missed coming, so hopefully they can be back there soon as well.”
MAIN PICTURE: PAUL EDWARDS
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