Charlton AthleticSport

Greg Shields on Josh Edwards’ move to The Valley – and challenges he faces from swapping Dunfermline for Charlton Athletic

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Josh Edwards is gearing up for the challenge of proving himself both in English football – and at Charlton Athletic – next season. And there is someone perfectly placed to make an assessment of the challenges he will face.

The 24-year-old completed his move to the Addicks last week when he put pen to paper on a deal running until the summer of 2028.

Charlton triggered a five-figure release fee in Edwards’ Dunfermline contract to leave the Scottish Championship side powerless to prevent his exit.

But Edwards is not the first to make the 481-mile journey from the Pars’ East End Park to The Valley. Fellow Scot Greg Shields did exactly the same a quarter of a century ago, then Addicks manager Alan Curbishley moved for his services after Danny Mills was sold to Leeds United in 1999.

Shields, who made 26 appearances in all competitions as the South Londoners won the Division One title to seal an instant return to the Premier League, only recently left Dunfermline’s coaching staff.

He was sent to run the rule over Edwards before he was signed from Aidrieonians in 2019.

“Stevie Crawford was the manager at the time and I was in his backroom team – I remember going to watch him,” Shields told the South London Press.

“My first impression, and Nathan (Jones) probably saw it, is that he is left-footed, good pace, very athletic and good delivery.

PICTURE: DAFC

“All of that and being left-footed…it’s like hen’s teeth. It’s very hard to find, even though Scotland’s national team has an abundance of that at the moment with Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and Greg Taylor.

“It’s a really good move for Josh. He’ll find it difficult but when he gets in his game he will impress.

“It will be interesting to see where his pathway goes from here, whether he stays with Charlton and they can get into the Championship – back to where they belong – and then hopefully the Premier League.”

Former Luton Town boss Jones, appointed at Charlton in February, is intent on signing players not just able to win promotion out of League One but also that can step up and deliver in the Championship.

The length of contract handed to Edwards suggests he is seen very much as part of long-term plans and aspirations.

“Look at Ipswich over the last couple of years – that is what they have done,” said Shields, who left Charlton for Kilmarnock in 2002.

“Right now it is a really good move for Josh. It’s a good level to come in, play at and improve.

“League One is different to the Championship – it’s more route one. He is athletic and he has got a good delivery. The physicality of playing in League One, he’ll have no problem with.

“Nathan Jones will see that. It is good recruiting – because the potential is there.

PICTURE: DAFC

“I don’t want a headline here that Josh is an Andy Robertson – he’s not.

“But if you look at the story of Andy, he went from getting released by Celtic, going to Queens Park, then going to Dundee United before Hull. His story after that is quite remarkable with Liverpool and the Champions League (winning it in 2019 and twice being a runner-up).”

Dunfermline had the second-highest average attendance in the Scottish Championship last season – 5,444. The Valley is a far bigger playground for Edwards, with Shields still vividly remembering his own transition.

“It’s understanding the size of London and the size of Charlton,” said Shields. “You won’t understand the whole picture of Charlton, the culture around it and what it means to the fans – a family club – and how much they want you to succeed.

“I never realised that. When I went down we played Fulham away on the Saturday, I’d arrived on either the Wednesday or Thursday, and it was the enormity of the club then – with your big-time players like Mark Kinsella, Graham Stuart, Clive Mendonca, John Robinson, John Salako, Andy Hunt and Dean Kiely. The list goes on.

“Going to other stadiums that are massive – compared to what you are used to here – it is a complete culture shock, unless you are playing Rangers and Celtic every week. The difference is that you are going to stadiums of that size week in and week out – with a good fanbase. You’re not going to grounds where there are regularly 4,000 fans, or less.

“It’s about having that understanding you’re in a proper league now and the expectations and pressures of playing in that become greater.

“When we went to Fulham it was sold out. The away fans were held in at the end and Curbs kept us on the pitch – Paul Peschisolido scored the winner. You went to the Fulham hospitality lounge afterwards and you’re next to Hugh Grant! That’s when you realise it is a little bit different to Scotland and you’ve kind of arrived.

“It is proper. There is going to be a settling period.

PICTURE: DAFC

“You have to get off to a really good start because all eyes are on you – people don’t know how he will play, what his tendencies are like. That is where it is very similar to when I went there – he has got to make an impression.

“The Valley is probably one of the best atmospheres I played in, because you have got 25,000 fans who are on top of you. They wanted to encourage you. If you go down and perform for them, they never forget.”

Edwards scored four goals and contributed nine assists for Dunfermline last season. He has been named in successive team of the seasons in Scotland, first in League One and then the Championship.

He is viewed as an option in a number of roles down the left – either in a wing-back or full-back role, as well as at centre-half or in midfield.

So what aspects of Edwards’ game does he need to work on?

“It’s wrong for me to comment on his weaknesses – because everybody has weaknesses,” said Shields.

“He was always good in one-v-one situations. It was adding the piece of composure in possession of the ball.

“He has very good defensive attributes and is good on the ball going forward.

“The game in England is completely different to Scotland – you get exposed very quickly for any weakness you have.

“I remember the time I was down there. I’m 5ft 10ins and the ball would get hung up to the back post – people would tower above you – because that is what opposition teams looked at. The detail down there is incredible.

Coventry City’s Gary McAllister (l) shields the ball from Charlton Athletic’s Greg Shields (r)

“That is what Josh will see pretty quickly.

“My one-v-one defending got better because I was training every day with Salako and Robinson.

“Josh will now be playing with players at a better level than he did at Dunfermline. He will only get better again. His weaknesses will come on way more than if he had stayed up here.

“He has to become a better defender. He has to get better going forward.

“The kid is a perfectionist. Don’t be too hard on yourself, that’s what I’d be saying to him – don’t be too hard on yourself too early.

“When we signed him he was signed as a left-back. The way Dunfermline played recently he was a left wing-back. He can adapt to both. He can get up and down the pitch. Even if he (Jones) is playing a diamond (in midfield) then Josh can get high on that side. A diamond is like a 3-5-2 anyway.

“I do like him in the wing-back role because he is very familiar with it and has a lovely delivery.”

Then Scotland boss Craig Brown was watching Shields, capped twice at U21 level, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury just five months after joining Charlton.

By the time he returned, the club were in the Premier League and there was even more sterner competition for a starting position.
Edwards’ switch to SE7 means Shields could be back soon as a spectator.

“He’s a level-headed boy,” said Shields. “He’s good fun. He’s come a long way and maybe he might want to bring me back down to Charlton to watch him at the weekend.

“I did say that to him. I’ve had some communication with him – I’ve been quite close to him and I was a part of bringing him into Dunfermline.

“I’ve said I’ll be down to The Valley and watch him. My son has moved to Ipswich in a sports science role, so I’ll be down at Stansted more often that not this year.”

PICTURE: DAFC

Shields, who ended his career at North Carolina FC, is at pains at the start of our interview to make clear that this article should be totally focused on Edwards.

He became commercial manager at Bitwise Group in February.

“I had 32 years in football and decided it was time to move on,” he said. “I wanted to try something different.

“I still look over my shoulder down south and Charlton, with how that played out in the end. It is a little bit disappointing that I never really fulfilled my full potential down there.

“It is what it is. I had a great time and did well, during the period I was in, then struggled after injury to get back into the group – which was tough going because I felt I had the ability to do that.

“The resources at Charlton meant they signed players during that period – it was easy for them then. They signed Luke Young for £4.5million – I’m out of it.

“I’m forever grateful I went down there and tried it. Charlton is a completely different club now than what it was then.”

PICTURES: DAFC AND PA


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing:

“A FREE COUNTRY NEEDS A FREE PRESS, AND THE NEWSPAPERS OF OUR COUNTRY ARE UNDER SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL PRESSURE”

If you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can make a donation which will allow us to continue to bring stories to you, both in print and online. Or please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.