Charlton AthleticSport

Charlton’s Daniel Kanu on new deal, sharing same pitch as Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah and wanting to be part of Nathan Jones’ Valley project


There are many reasons why the 2023-24 season will live long in the memory for Daniel Kanu despite the travails of Charlton Athletic.

The teenage South Londoner scored four goals in one game on loan at Southend United and also made his international debut for Sierra Leone, sharing the pitch with Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah in a World Cup qualifier.

But that isn’t all.

Kanu, 19, recently penned a new long-term contract with the Addicks and is playing a prominent role under new manager Nathan Jones.

The striker capped off an impressive individual display at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday by firing them into a 3-2 lead just after the hour mark although former Millwall frontman Jon Dadi Bodvarsson levelled the League One contest back up.

Kanu was selected to start ahead of Alfie May, who has notched 20 goals since his summer switch from Cheltenham Town, at Toughsheet Community Stadium and rewarded Jones’ faith.

The academy product has nine goals in 28 matches in all competitions this season, six of those  appearances coming in the National League for the Shrimpers.

Charlton are winless in 15 League One matches but last weekend’s draw at high-flying Bolton felt like a building block.

Kanu is convinced that the Addicks will be going places under Jones – and he wants to be be on the journey with the former Luton, Stoke and Southampton boss.

Picture: Paul Edwards

“It’s been very intense since he came in but that’s what we’ve needed – intensity and urgency,” said Kanu, who made his debut aged 17 against Wigan in February 2022. “He brings an abundance of that.

“He wants us to play with intensity. Everything we do, he wants us to do with intensity.

“You know the type of manager he is and the successes he has had. You know if you can impress him, find yourself in the team more often, then you’re going to be part of something very, very successful.

“I wanted to show my endeavour and that I want to be a part of it.”

Kanu had been due to be out of contract at the end of June before extending improved and extended terms in February that run until 2027.

He has been on Charlton’s books since U11 level.

Asked how he felt about committing his future for the long term, Kanu said: “Words can’t describe it, really.

“I’m just really, really excited for the future. It’s been a successful season for me so far, for many different reasons – scoring my first career hat-trick, playing for my country and I’ve been able to solidify a place in the team as well.

“This season, above everything, I’ve done a lot of learning. I’ve used my experiences from the back end of last season, and also my loan, to really help me establish myself in the team and have much more of a positive impact in games.”

Charlton Athletic v Lincoln City – SkyBet League One, The Valley, 13 February 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

Charlton have had plenty of trials and tribulations with the risk of relegation to England’s fourth tier.

But Jones, appointed on February 4, has turned to the likes of Kanu and Karoy Anderson, who have started the last two league matches.

And Kanu, despite his relative inexperience, is able to take the positives from a testing situation.

“Although I’ll be frustrated with results, at the end of the day I’m just happy to be playing football,” said Kanu. “Whenever I do play, I play with my heart on my sleeve. That’s because I love the game. It is something I’ll never lose – regardless of results.”

Kanu’s senior bow for Sierra Leone came in late November as they lost 2-0 to Egypt in Liberia. He came on to replace former Palace winger Sullay Kaikai.

Kanu qualifies to play for the country through both his parents.

“In the middle of October they (Sierra Leone) said it was looking likely I’d get called up and they needed me to sort my passport and any other documentation,” said Kanu.

“I’d already expressed an interest at the start of the season, about me joining the national team.

“They had done their homework. It was mentioned at the start of the season, after my goal against Port Vale, that I was of Sierra Leone descent and that was the first contact I had with them.”

Once the call-up came, Kanu knew he could be sharing the pitch with a Premier League great.

Salah has scored 154 goals in 252 top-flight matches.

“When I found out who we were playing in the qualifiers it was all I thought about,” said Kanu.

“To be on the pitch with someone like him is crazy.

Gillingham v Charlton Athletic Emirates FA Cup, Second Round , Priestfield Stadium, 02 December 2023
Picture : Keith Gillard

“I had a short conversation with him. It was just me saying: ‘You’re an amazing player – it’s a pleasure to play against you’. He said he always finds it difficult playing in west Africa!

“The fans really try and intimidate. When it comes to football in Africa, they are very, very passionate, because it is basically the only sport really that everyone recognises and everyone plays.

“It’s noisy and they had a pitch invader during the game.”

But when it comes to his most memorable moment, there is one that at least rivals it – netting four times in Southend’s 5-0 win over Solihull Moors in October.

“It was definitely the best day of my career so far,” said Kanu. “Making my debut for Sierra Leone is definitely up there. It’s between the two.

“It is one of those really rare occasions that my entire family had come to watch the game (at Southend). It just so happened that day that I decided to score four goals. Everything about that day was special.”

The challenge is to add to those memories and milestones.

“I want to keep pushing and if I keep putting in that hard work – I have no doubt that I will – then I can establish myself in the starting 11,” said Kanu.

“That’s what I want to do.”

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