Brendan Wiredu’s face after scoring for the U23s last week said it all.
In a photograph captured just after he scored a 24th minute equaliser for the Addicks, the 20-year-old’s joy and relief both shone through.
It has been a tough period for the youngster and the game was his first start for Jason Euell’s side this season after a spell on the sidelines with his first major injury.
The initial lockdown period followed by a medial collateral ligament tear, which kept him out of action for nearly three months, has meant it has been a difficult period for the youngster.
“It feels great to be back,” he beamed, “I can’t even put into words how happy I am to be back out on the pitch. Playing football is what you want to do but now it’s about kicking on, getting minutes and getting fit.
“I was in a brace for six weeks and then I was out building muscle and then I was out playing again. That was my first major injury and so seeing all the messages from the fans, I was really humbled. It keeps me going and lets me know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re injured, you get pretty lonely.”
As Wiredu continues to develop as a footballer, it has been important to him to give back. He came through the club’s Harris Academy and has begun mentoring two Year 10 pupils at the school.
He said: “One of my ex peers at the Harris Academy, Marley Ahmed, started up an inspire project to help the people who are less fortunate or those who are struggling in school through behaviour or academically.
“He asked me if I wanted to take up a role in mentoring some of them because at school, I wasn’t the best behaved and now I’m doing what I’m doing. At a young age like that, I know that it helps to have someone to talk to. For me, I had people like [Academy staff] Joe Francis, Steve Avory, Jason Euell or even Steve Daniels, who isn’t there anymore, speaking to me so I thought why don’t I give that to them.
“I go in and speak to them about anything and it’s humbling to see that they are able to speak to me and even though they haven’t known me for long they’re able to open up and speak to me about stuff. Not even about school but about outside stuff as well, like how things are at home. It’s a good insight into other people.
“They shouldn’t be going through what they’re going through in Year 10, so it’s good for them to go and let that load off and let them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve been there and went through some tough times and now I’m doing what I’m doing trying to kick on. So hopefully they can see me as a role model and do the same.”
The Addicks take on Fleetwood Town on Tuesday. Click here to purchase your pass to watch the game.
Photography by Tom West