Charles Clayden has earned praise for the hard graft which has helped turn him into a left-back option for Charlton Athletic.
The 21-year-old winger played in a defensive role in pre-season and has taken his chance in the first team fold since the League One campaign started.
Clayden played the full 90 minutes in the EFL Cup win over QPR earlier this month and then repeated the feat in last Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Plymouth and Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Cambridge at The Valley.
The former Leyton Orient youngster signed for Charlton in May 2019 and has previously had loan spells with Dulwich Hamlet and Wealdstone.
Clayden was rested for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Walsall in the EFL Cup but looks set to once again start for Charlton at Wycombe Wanderers tomorrow with Fulham loanee Steven Sessegnon absent due to a hamstring injury.
The Addicks triggered a 12-month contract extension in May, extending Clayden’s stay in SE7 until the summer of 2023.
“He’s done really well in the role and that is massive credit to him and also to the coaching staff,” Charlton boss Ben Garner told the South London Press.
“There has been a lot of work done, particularly on the defensive side. Scott Marshall, in particular, has done a lot of work with him because he has not played there.
“He’s always been a winger. He played wing-back for a short period at this club last season and we’ve put him in at left-back in pre-season. So it is understanding the role from a tactical point of view – the pictures are slightly different in possession when you receive it deeper.
“He’s very, very good going forward – as we’ve seen. He’s got fantastic pace, he can dribble and he can cross.
“It’s about appreciating his strengths and trying to work around that and develop the other areas he needs to play as a full-back at this level. To have the two performances he has just produced in back to back League One games, probably he wouldn’t have expected that so early in the season.”
Clayden is unlikely to be beaten in a foot race.
“It certainly helps if you’ve got that athleticism in that area of the pitch,” said Garner.
“We’ve got that in Sean Clare down the other side. Mandela Egbo and Sess are certainly no slouches either. Charles uses his pace very well going forward and we’ve tried to develop him where he can use that effectively in a defensive sense as well.”
Charlton are sixth in the League One table and Garner believes his side are unfortunate to not already have a first away victory on the board in that competition.
“We could play those two games again, Accrington and Sheffield Wednesday, exactly the same way and we’d do well to just take one point again,” he said.
“If we keep that consistency to the performance away from home we will get wins and we will get points.
“Wycombe are always strong under Gareth [Ainsworth]. He has done a brilliant job – they are a great example of what a club can do if you allow a manager time and allow them to build a really strong culture.
“I watched them play against Shrewsbury today [Tuesday] on our way up on the coach [to Walsall] and they were excellent but actually lost 2-1. We know we’ll have to fight and battle but also we have to play with a lot of intelligence as well.”
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