Washington: "There’s a real nice buzz around the place"

Conor Washington has waxed lyrical about the unity among Johnnie Jackson’s squad ahead of Saturday’s encounter against Wycombe Wanderers at The Valley.

The New Year’s Day fixture marks the start of the second half of the Sky Bet League One season - and Washington is confident the Addicks can kick 2022 off in style as they bid to secure a top-six finish.

“I think it’s really important to get the second half of the season off on a good footing,” the Northern Ireland international says. “Just carry on the form, keep trying to get the fans into the stadium, giving them something to cheer for and you just never know where it will take you, really. 

“With 23 games left, I don’t think we’ve got much room for error to be honest with how things are and the sort of enormity of the task we’ve left ourselves,” he adds. “But there’s not many squads at this level that are better than ours and I think we’re well equipped to give it a real good run.”

Spurred on by bumper crowds with an electric atmosphere, the Addicks have made The Valley a real fortress of late, accruing 13 points from a possible 15 in the league on home soil under Jackson’s tenure.

“The atmosphere is one of the reasons you sign for Charlton,” the 29-year-old admits. “At a club of Charlton’s stature you want to play in a great stadium in front of not just great fans, but a lot of them as well. There’s not many at this level; obviously I know we don’t see ourselves as a club being at League One level if you like because everything other than the on-pitch performances are Championship level so that’s where we want to get back to. 

“I know that the start of the season was tough and I think there were a lot of rumblings that the fans weren’t getting behind us,” continues the forward. “But if I’m honest it was justified because we weren’t giving them anything to get behind. 

“It’s very tough as a fan - obviously being a football fan myself - to get behind a team when it doesn’t really seem to be working. There wasn’t obviously a lot of attacking threat and things like that. You can see the difference they make when they do get behind us when we’re giving them something to cheer for and get behind.” 

Since assuming charge in late October, Jackson has palpably galvanised the entire squad, something Washington says is testament to the 39-year-old.

“That has been a funny transition to be honest,” the Addicks’ number 14 admits. “I’m consciously trying to do that, trying to call him gaffer rather than Jacko is not always the easiest thing to do but I think he deserves that respect and he’s earned that which is great. You can see how much the lads love playing for him and obviously the fans as well with him being such a club legend. 

“Gilbs [Alex Gilbey] celebrating with him was obviously a big moment and things like that are so important for a squad. We want to give the fans and obviously the gaffer more moments like that to be honest. It’s been really enjoyable training and playing under him, Euelly [Jason Euell] and the rest of the coaching staff as well. There’s just a real nice buzz around the place now, which I think is probably pretty evident in the results.” 

Operating alongside strike partner Jayden Stockley in Jackson’s fluid 3-5-2 system, Washington has been a vital cog in a Charlton side that have already climbed 10 places in the third tier.

“Since the gaffer has taken over I’ve scored six in eight league games,” beams Charlton’s marksman. “I’ve started playing up front and I feel like I’m a one-in-two striker, especially at this level. If I carry on with the form I’ve got that will get me right up near 20 goals, if I manage to play every game obviously. So, that’s where I want to be, that’s what I expect of myself and I think it’s probably what the team expects of me as well. 

“It’s something I’ve not done enough of in my career to be honest but I’m in a really good place, I’m getting chances and I knew at some point they’d end up going in. Thankfully that’s been the last three or four weeks!

“I think it’s no real coincidence that Jayden and I both look better when we’re playing together. We’ve managed to strike up a relationship and I think that’s really important, especially with it being a bit of a dying breed now to be honest - playing two strikers. 

“The fans have been demanding that since I’ve been here and we’ve obviously managed to make it an effective partnership so far,” Washington explains. “We just fit each other well in terms of attributes but we also obviously get on really well off the pitch as you can see in the celebrations. I think you just run that extra yard when it’s your mate and I think that’s sort of shown with how it’s been in the last couple of months.”

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