After a slow start in the transfer window, a flurry of Deadline Day additions meant that Thomas Sandgaard, Nigel Adkins, Steve Gallen and Co eventually made enough summer signings to fill a starting eleven.
Fans spent most of the summer wondering where all the new signings were, some more vocal than others, and rightly so to some extent. Seven players left on free transfers and a further five returned to their parent clubs following loan spells, and all needed to be replaced.
In truth, The Addicks’ dealings started with a bang all the way back in June when Jayden Stockley signed permanently from Preston for an undisclosed fee following a successful loan spell last season. Stockley’s (headed) goalscoring exploits nearly propelled Charlton into the play-off places last term, and already this year he has shown that he is one of, if not the best number nine in League One.
This was swiftly followed by the signing of goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray on a free transfer, a position which previously looked light after Ben Amos’s departure. It was especially satisfying to secure the Scot’s services ahead of his previous club and promotion rivals Portsmouth, where he had been named their most recent Player of the Year. After a slightly shaky start, MacGillivray appears to be settling in well with a couple of assured performances.
Stockley wasn’t the only 2020/21 loan signing to return. Akin Famewo briefly formed a formidable partnership at the back with Ryan Inniss last season, which was cruelly cut short due to long-term injuries to both. They’ll get a chance to rekindle though as Famewo signed for another season-long loan from Premier League new boys Norwich, this time with the option to make the deal permanent. The 22-year-old’s pace and calmness on the ball will be integral to the balance of Charlton’s back four this term.
Either side of Famewo’s signing in early July, Adkins picked up a couple of combative young central midfielders in George Dobson and Sean Clare, both for undisclosed fees and both on two-year contracts. At just 22 and 24 respectively, they should add energy in the middle of the park. The former Sunderland and Oxford men have experience at this level, both impressing on loan spells at AFC Wimbledon and Burton Albion last term. Unfortunately they have received less than glowing reports from some sections of the Valley faithful after their first few performances, but it’s early days and they will hope to kick on after the international break.
It was over three weeks before the next announcement, but it was the one that everyone had been waiting for. Charlie Kirk arrived from Crewe on a whopping four-year deal after what felt like months of rumours. The fee is believed to be around the half-a-million pound mark, which is a substantial amount of money at this level. The 23-year-old contributed plenty of goals and assists during his time at Crewe and Addicks fans will be hoping for more of the same this season. Kirk was followed swiftly through the door by Corey Blackett-Taylor who had been training with the club for a few weeks and should provide solid cover on the wing.
Attacking talent was arriving thick and fast now, and Elliott Lee was next to pull into Sparrows Lane. On a season-long loan from Luton Town, Lee has a lot to live up to if he wishes to be held in the same regard as dad Rob, himself a true Charlton legend. The prodigal son has made a good start though, showing some exciting touches during his brief debut against Crewe and then scoring in the Papa John’s Trophy earlier this week. Just the 341 games and 64 goals to go in order to match his father’s figures.
Then came Transfer Deadline Day, so often an anti-climax in recent seasons. No Matt Smith this time round, but instead three very promising signings. Rumours of a Valley return for Harry Arter had been swirling around South East London all week, and on Tuesday he signed on a season-long loan from Nottingham Forest. The ex-Bournemouth man has bags of Premier League experience and is still only 31. If he can stay fit he could be a real asset to Adkins’s side this season.
Charlton fans may have been satisfied with the return of Arter and a 6-1 win on Tuesday, but the day was far from over. Morecambe captain Sam Lavelle signed on a three-year deal to take Sandgaard’s summer signings to ten. While there may have been more obvious positions to strengthen than centre-half, Famewo and Inniss both have histories of injuries and depth in this position is key. Lavelle is also just 24 and is yet another exciting young signing.
Even more surprising, and even later in the day, was the return of tricky winger Jonathan Leko on another year-long loan deal, this time from Birmingham City. Leko was a real fan-favourite during his spell at The Valley in 2019/20 when Charlton were a Championship side. Now recovered from his season ending ACL injury but seemingly out of favour in the West Midlands, Leko will be licking his lips at the prospect of running at League One defences all season long.
Some will bemoan the absence of a second senior goalkeeper and no back up on the left-side of defence, but some will always find a reason to complain. The free transfer market is still available to Gallen and Co, so don’t be surprised to see a couple more new faces over the next few weeks. It took a while for Adkins to get the squad he desired, but it always does, and surely it is better to wait for the players you want instead of settling early in the window. What is most exciting is that the vast majority of signings are in their early-to-mid-twenties and for the first time in a long time long-term contracts are being handed out.
It hasn’t been an ideal start to the campaign, but two wins in a week is a sign that things are starting to come together. New signings also means more competition for places, and that can only be a positive as players start working harder to keep hold of their place. Now it’s time to hopefully enjoy watching the new boys hit the ground running and inspire a speedy rise up the table where they belong!