Following the closure of the January transfer window, Manager Dean Holden believes the club have improved the quality and balance of his squad.
The Addicks made five additions in Macauley Bonne, Todd Kane, Matt Penney, Gavin Kilkenny and Michael Hector, while Jake Forster-Caskey, Craig MacGillivray, Jayden Stockley and Eoghan O’Connell left on a permanent basis and Conor McGrandles, Charlie Kirk, Sam Lavelle and Diallang Jaiyesimi completed loan moves.
Assessing the club’s business, Holden said: “I came into the job 10 days before the window opened so we came to the party a little bit late, in terms of once last summer's window shut clubs immediately start looking towards the next window, as they will do now.
“Obviously the club was working behind the scenes to recruit in January and then there was a change of Manager. There has been a certain style of play previous to me coming in. We worked really well in that timeframe. I had to assess the squad and I had some good ideas before coming in. Certainly the first few days and the amount of games that we had I was looking all the time and watching videos back of training in terms of where we needed to improve.
“Essentially, we went into the start of the window with, in my opinion, a squad that was too big. We were leaving five or six players, sometimes more, at home during away games. At times we were looking to do an 11-v-11 in training - say on a Tuesday with a Saturday game on the horizon - and we were having to tell three or four players that they wouldn’t be involved in that and that they would be training with the U21s.
“We talk about building a culture, a togetherness and a spirit within the group; footballers are competitive animals and they all want to be involved. We’ve now got a group which is tighter in terms of numbers. They will all have a feeling that, if they are not quite starting, they are only one chance away from getting in. That’s important in terms of training, the discipline, the standards, the winning nature and what that looks like.
“We wanted to lower the numbers and we’ve done that. We’ve brought five players in and eight have left. We needed some balance, which I’ve touched on before. We have that with Matt Penney coming in on that left-hand side and we’ve brought players in who have played at a higher level and who know what it looks like to get promoted and what it takes to get there. I’m not talking about results; I’m talking about daily standards.
“When you think about the youngsters that we’ve got within the squad, it’s important that they keep feeling that they are going to be involved, which they will be. I said when I came in that, if the youngsters are good enough, they will play. They need to see from the lads around them what that looks like in terms of the way they look after themselves on a daily basis and the standards that they set themselves. The self-awareness in terms of their honesty in their own performance and knowing that they can keep improving.
"That’s not to say that the lads that have left weren’t showing those capabilities; I just felt we were bringing better quality players into the group. I’ve spoken to every one of them who has left and we give them our best wishes. It doesn't matter how long you’ve been at this football club or how many games you’ve played, you’ve come here and you’ve signed for the right reasons and you’ve given your all for Charlton Athletic.
“It’s important that we go on record and say thank you to the guys that have played a part in the journey of this football club. Obviously some are on loan and will come back and we’ll keep tabs on them throughout the season with a view to re-integrating them for next season.
“To summarise, I think we exit the window with a slightly smaller group and with more balance in the squad, which is what I wanted, and for all these reasons I think it’s been a good window.”
Asked if the club had to fend off serious interest for key players, Holden said: “Yes is the honest answer. I said to the players this morning - because it was the first meeting we had since the window shut – ‘this is us now until the end of the season and this is the group that we’ve got.’ I said to every single player who was is in that meeting room this morning that they’re there because I wanted them at this football club.
“There were some enquiries and there were a couple of big bids that came in for some of our players,” he revealed. “We said we were never going to sell any of our young talent in particular. For these reasons I’m grateful to the club for keeping some of our best young players and long may that continue that clubs are coming in for our players because it shows that they’re doing well in their development.”
Charlton return to The Valley on Saturday, February 11th to take on Fleetwood Town (3pm KO GMT). Click here to purchase your tickets.
(Transcription by Alex Forrest)