Charlton AthleticSport

Connor Wickham exclusive: Former Crystal Palace striker on joining Charlton and having no doubts about impressing


When Connor Wickham made his Charlton Athletic debut on Saturday it was his first appearance in 10 months. The former Crystal Palace striker is confident that his stay in SE7 can show he still has plenty to offer the game.

Wickham, who turns 31 at the end of this month, has had short-term deals ever since he left the Eagles at the end of the 2020-21 season – at Preston, Milton Keynes, Forest Green Rovers and Cardiff City.

The ex-England U21 international  was released by the Welsh club at the end of last season and had been unattached until there was contact from the Addicks.

Wickham trained with Charlton for a couple of weeks and sufficiently impressed manager Nathan Jones to be signed for the remainder of the campaign.

“I got the call from my agent after he got the call from the club,” Wickham told the South London Press. “When that call came it was more a case of ‘go in there and get fit – see how it goes’.

Picture: Paul Edwards

“I haven’t worked with the manager before but I know people in the industry who have, and they have very good reviews. It wasn’t a case that I needed to speak to the manager and see what his plans were before I came in.

“We managed to get something done which is good for me. It puts an ease on the situation – I can focus on being here and hopefully everything falls into place.

“I have trained with the group for two or three weeks now and I know what the manager wants and the quality of the players.

“How the manager wants to play is suited to me. I’m not going to doubt myself. It might take me a couple of weeks to get up to match speed but in terms of my quality – and what my attributes are – they aren’t just going to disappear.

“I had access to Bisham Abbey, which is a top facility. I wasn’t just running down the park – I was doing good sessions with people I trusted.

“When I got the option to come here, I wasn’t worried about my ability, even though I had been out of the game for a little while. I was never concerned about where I would be when I went back, because I like to keep myself in good condition.

“It’s just a case of getting back on the training pitch and perfecting them again.”

Cardiff City’s Connor Wickham (centre) and Birmingham City’s Auston Trusty battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at St. Andrew’s, Birmingham. Picture date: Tuesday February 14, 2023.

Location was also a factor for Buckinghamshire-based Wickham,  who was only 18 when Ipswich sold him to Sunderland in a deal that was worth in excess of £12million, as he sized things up following his Cardiff release.

“I just kept myself ticking over,” he said. “I had a lot of options and places I could’ve gone.

“I wouldn’t say I’m local, but Charlton is close enough for me to commute or stay over. The move made sense to me for where I was.

“Travelling three or four hours is not good for me, it’s not good for my body. I wouldn’t say I’m getting on, but I don’t want to be sitting in a car for 12-15 hours a week.

“Most of the time I’m in a hotel, so I’m saving myself doing that driving, and it is easy to get home to family, when I want to do that then I can.”

Wickham penned a five-year contract with Palace in 2015.

It is in stark contrast to the couple of months that he knows he will have under the employment of their South London rivals.

“I’m at a stage of my career where I still feel as though I have a lot to offer,” said Wickham.

“I’m not just trying to see the game out. If Charlton say at the end of the season: ‘We want you to stay’ then I’ll happily sit down and have that conversation.

“It’s the case anywhere I have been, really (that he has had short contracts).

“People have reservations about my injury history. A lot of people just read stats and don’t know the backstory or things that have happened in the past.

Picture: Kyle Andrews

“That’s a major part of football now, and I think the short-term deals are more based on that.

“I just let my agent do that side of it. Then I can just turn up and concentrate on what I need to concentrate on, rather than thinking: ‘Am I going to get six months or two years?’

“This is one that suited me. Coming in towards the end of the season, getting myself fit and in a good position at the end of the season. If I sit down with Charlton, I sit down with Charlton.

“If they decide not to then we shake hands – it’s football.”

Wickham’s introduction last weekend helped Alfie May score a late winner against Carlisle to extend Charlton’s unbeaten run in League One to seven matches.

Ten points from a possible 12 have lifted the Addicks clear of the relegation scrap.

“We have looked at the fixtures and with the run we’re on, there might be a couple of draws, but I don’t see us losing any games,” said Wickham, who has scored 63 goals in 298 senior appearances.

“With the work that everybody is putting in on the training pitch I don’t see why we should settle just to stay in this league – that doesn’t do this group of players or the club any justice.

“The club has ambitions to make the step up. It has to start somewhere and I don’t see why we can’t start now. He (Jones) came in not long ago and has had a massive impact.”

Picture: Paul Edwards

So what are Wickham’s early impressions of Jones?

“He’s brilliant,” said Wickham. “I haven’t really sat down and hada one-on-one conversation with him. He’s a manager who has his ideas and he will speak with you when he needs to speak with you.

“Every manager has a different style and coaches in a different way. I came in with him having a good reputation on my mind anyway, but you can see what he wants and he wants things done how he wants.

“He came in not long ago and had a massive impact. His record and career speaks for itself. You don’t get those moves or go to those clubs without being good at what you do.

“When managers come in, there is a lift in the first couple of weeks because players are starting again and want to impress the new manager. But it speaks for itself when the results and performances have continued to go in that direction – they haven’t dropped off – considering where the club has been position-wise and performance-wise in the first part of the season.”

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