Tag Archives: Charlton Athletic

Checkatrade Trophy: The graveyard of English football

The short walk from Charlton train station to The Valley is usually marked by the familiar, life-affirming buzz of match-going fans.

Normally, chants of support are carried from the station platform all the way to the turnstiles. Children yap excitedly about the forthcoming to their parents. Scents of pie and beer are borne by the breeze, along with the shouts of programme sellers and charity collectors.

But ahead of Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy match against the might of Swansea City U21s,  there is none of that. The footsteps of the few diehard supporters puncture the silence in the approach to the stadium, which stands illuminated against the November night. The masses which usually surround it are nowhere to be seen. Tonight, The Valley is a mecca to no-one.

Of course, none of this is remotely surprising. The Checkatrade Trophy, formerly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, has been the bane of clubs’ and supporters’ lives since its change in format in 2016.

That restructuring allowed Premier League and Championship clubs to enter age-group teams in a tournament that used to be strictly the preserve of those in the third and fourth tier of English football. The addition of a group stage to what was once a purely knockout competition has eradicated the appeal of a straight forward cup tie.

Braving the cold

The empty concourses at The Valley spoke volumes

That said, the competition had, until this clash, thrown up some interesting occurrences for the Addicks. A club-record 8-0 win was notched up against Stevenage, while bizarrely, a supporter proposed to his girlfriend at half-time of the 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon.

But whatever interest or excitement in the competition that had been generated in those two matches is undone by the arrival of the U21s of Swansea, a club just one division above Charlton.

With just 740 supporters (28 of whom are dedicated Swans fans) descending upon the 27,000-capacity Valley, this match feels more like a pre-season friendly than a key, group-deciding EFL Trophy match.

Only a limited portion of the west stand is open. The rest of the stadium stands bare as the shouts of players, coaches, and referee rebound across the ground’s emptiness and reverberate. Occasional cries of ‘come on you Reds’ from the more eager home supporters float hopelessly into the cold, dark sky.

The players do little to spark the small crowd into life. Swansea dominate the early exchanges, displaying the kind of crisp passing football the club has become famed for, but without ever applying the finishing touch.

Charlton, who have named a team far from their strongest, hustle and bustle but produce little in the way of quality.

Addicks anonymous

At half-time, the sense of boredom among the spectators is notable. In theory, this is a competition that should excite. The chance to win silverware is one that doesn’t come around all that often. Why, then, can the club barely attract 700 to a match with much at stake? Charlton need to avoid defeat in order to progress, so why can the Addicks’ faithful not be bothered to leave the house and cheer on their side, despite the low ticket prices offered by the club? 

The EFL have devalued and debased a trophy that was once coveted

The answer lies in the fact that the EFL, in their bid to increase the competition’s appeal by adding U21 teams from the big, shiny, attractive Premier League clubs, have only served to devalue and debase a trophy that was once coveted.

It’s frankly perverse that the young talent of Chelsea or Southampton should be able to deny lower-league clubs the chance to compete in a cup final at Wembley.

Having said that, the appeal of playing at the national stadium is one that seems to diminish season upon season.

The overuse of Wembley — for cup finals, cup semi-finals, play-off finals, not to mention the fact that Tottenham have used it as their home stadium, and welcomed a number of lower league sides in various cup ties — has stripped the home of English football of its mystique.

In reality, an appearance on the Wembley turf is a far cry from the footballing holy grail the FA seeks to present it as. The chance to play there, for many clubs, will not be worth the ordeal of having to negotiate the various stages of the Checkatrade Trophy.

At The Valley, a 20-yard strike from Swansea’s Adnan Maric ultimately condemns Charlton to defeat, knocking them out of the tournament at the group stage.

It’s a match defined by indifference. Indifference from the players, indifference from Addicks’ manager Lee Bowyer and his staff, and indifference from the few supporters who have braved the cold. The simple and sad truth is that no-one cares about the Checkatrade Trophy.

Photo of The Valley concourse by Ben Sutherland via flickr , and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The Valley

Charlton in the play-offs? Not unless Duchatelet sells up

Roland Duchatelet needs to sell Charlton Athletic – and before the end of month – if the Addicks are to achieve a top-six finish in League One.

The team currently occupy the final play-off place following back-to-back wins against Oldham and then away at Bury. But those wins came after a torrid end to 2017 which saw their grasp on the play-off positions weakened.

Before their win against the Latics on January 6th, Charlton had collected just three points from a possible 24, losing six times in a damaging run from the end of November.

Following their 2-1 victory over Rochdale at The Valley on November 21st Karl Robinson’s men sat fourth in the table, just five points off the automatic promotion places.

But now they find themselves in a battle just to ensure they are in the play-offs mix at the end of the season.

Duchatelet needs to do a deal

CEO Katrien Meire left the club last month to take up a similar role at Sheffield Wednesday.

As Duchatelet’s right-hand woman, fans disliked her almost as much as their Belgian owner, whose four-year tenure has been hugely unpopular among the Valley faithful.

Reports suggested he was upset about Meire’s departure and ready to cut his losses and move on.

Roland Duchalet
Charlton owner Roland Duchatelet

But whilst he plays hard ball over his asking price for the former Premier League outfit, he is significantly damaging their prospects of success.

With the club up for sale, Duchatelet is refusing to sanction spending during the January transfer window.

However, he was happy to see 2016-17 player of the season Ricky Holmes – who has scored six goals so far – sold to Sheffield United for around £400,000, while blocking a move by Samir Curruthers in the other direction.

So Charlton lose one of their best players and aren’t allowed to buy a replacement, even as their promotion rivals are strengthening their squads.

Robinson has already stated he had four or five targets who were ready to sign in SE7 but deterred by Charlton’s current situation.

That’s why Duchatelet must sell quickly if a new owner is to come in and fund the deals Robinson needs to strengthen his side.

If they don’t, then Charlton will struggle to gain promotion and be doomed to spending at least another season in the third tier.

Injuries and slump

A succession of injuries was a major factor in Charlton’s mid-season slump. First teamers Holmes, Jason Pearce, Tariqe Fosu, Ahmed Kashi, Mark Marshall, Jake Forster-Caskey and Patrick Bauer, amongst others, have all been injured at various stages.

Lewis Page, Leon Best and Billy Clarke are all sidelined for the remainder of the campaign, leaving Robinson with a huge headache.

Manchester City managed Pep Guardiola recently bemoaned having a couple of injuries in his star-studded title-chasing squad, so imagine how hard it must have been for Robinson.

No club would have been able to keep up a viable promotion challenge while dealing with that kind of mid-season injury crisis.

Vital January

That is why January is so important for former MK Dons boss Robinson – it gives him a chance to bolster a squad already stretched to the limits.

The only issue with that is that he can’t – at least surely not in a way that will significantly impact on his team’s fortunes.

Yes, Charlton have managed to bring in Stephy Mavididi on loan from Arsenal, with the 19-year-old striker scoring the winner on his debut against Oldham.

But they can’t bring in anyone in permanently whilst Duchatelet is pursuing the sale of the club, as he won’t agree to finance it.

Reports have suggested that an Australian-based consortium, as well as a group of British buyers, are interested in taking over from him at the Valley.

For Charlton’s long-suffering supporters, any deal that sees Duchatelet cutting his ties with the South London club can’t come a moment too soon…

Feature image courtesy of adam.webb2 via Flickr Creative Commons.

Valley return ‘biggest game in Charlton’s history’ – Scott Minto

December 5th, 1992 – 3.07pm. It’s a date and time that will be forever etched in the memory of every Charlton fan.

With a crisp left-footed shot, Colin Walsh fired past Portsmouth goalkeeper Alan Knight to score the first goal following the Addicks’ emotional return to The Valley.

They had spent seven years away from their home in SE7, struggling to survive as a club and playing at other grounds whilst their own fell into disrepair.

“There have been some great days in Charlton’s history, but that Portsmouth match is the biggest game,” says former Addicks full-back Scott Minto.

“I’ve played in some big matches, played in front of 80,000 people more than once, but the atmosphere on that day was something different, it was just fantastic – we wanted to win.

‘’We were relieved to win, because we wanted to do it for the fans; it was a reward for them. If we had lost it wouldn’t have been a disaster because it was the first game back at The Valley, but we were delighted to win. We had a great night that evening – a few sore heads – it was a great feeling.’’

Selhurst exile

Minto, 46, now working as a pundit for Sky Sports, arrived at Charlton as a trainee in 1988 – but had to play with his side away from their spiritual home.

Despite having England’s biggest stand in the shape of the old East Terrace, which held up to 30,000 in the 1960s, by 1977 the stadium was in a forlorn state and, due to the Safety at Sports Grounds Act, The Valley’s capacity was reduced to 20,000.

Four years later it was reduced again to 13,000 and in 1985, in wake of the Heysel disaster, Charlton could not afford repairs that were required by the Greater London Council, with the East Terrace declared unsafe and closed.

Rob Lee scored Charlton’s last goal at The Valley as they beat Stoke 2-0 before the Addicks moved to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park to play their home matches.

The Valley became derelict while Charlton played in exile from SE7

‘’I was just a young 14 or 15 year old when Charlton moved away, so I was used not to playing at The Valley. I was used to playing at Selhurst Park,’’ says Minto. ‘’I was just a professional playing – I would have played in a mud park. I always gave 100% no matter what.

‘’There wasn’t the greatest of terms between Charlton and Crystal Palace.

‘’There was always talk of The Valley and us going back. It was only on the day of going back that I really understood the identity of The Valley and what it meant to everyone connected with the club.’’

Valley party

With the club struggling at Selhurst Park, The Valley Party was formed in 1990. Fans contested seats in the local elections with the aim of getting the support they needed to move back to SE7.

No seats were won, but with around a 15,000-strong backing, the council had to take notice. The chairman of the council’s planning committee was deposed, and planning permission for redevelopment was granted.

Thousands of fans turned up to The Valley to help clear the derelict ground as they made it clear they wanted to return home.

“The fans are everything – we must never forget that,” says Minto, who played over 200 times for the Addicks before leaving for Chelsea in 1994.

“Clubs, owners, even players sometimes forget the supporters. There was 8,000 on the day – full capacity – and they generated an amazing atmosphere. It was all for the fans and we must never forget the role they played. I am very proud to have been a part of the match.’’

In August 1991, Charlton moved to West Ham’s Upton Park. “We were just concentrating on playing football. We knew behind the scenes something was happening, but the manager [Alan Curbishley] kept us focused,’’ said Minto. “I was still young, but we all wanted to get back to The Valley.’’

Going home

Charlton went into that first game back at The Valley in poor form, slumped in mid-table in Division One. Their aim was three points and while Minto says they were concentrating on the football, they knew it wasn’t just another game as 750 fans marched from Woolwich Town Hall to mark the occasion.

“We were concentrating on playing, we knew we had to win. The atmosphere was just something incredible. We had trained there a few days before and the cameras were turning up to training – it was something I’d never seen before.

‘We were home and it was so important and special’ – Scott Minto

“We were still in portacabins and although the pitch was fantastic we weren’t sure if everything else was going to be okay.

“It was almost like an away game in terms of having never played there before. I didn’t feel much of it up until the warm-up. But as I was doing up my shin pads and getting ready I could hear this heavy music – almost like a fairground. There was so much razzmatazz, with balloons going off – and it was then I realised the enormity.

‘’We really wanted to win it and it wasn’t the greatest of games, but we did it. We were home and it was so important and special.’’

25 years on

The Valley is now a 27,000 capacity stadium

Coincidentally, Charlton’s opponents for Saturday’s anniversary fixture is Portsmouth. The Valley is now a 27,00 capacity stadium, and Minto is looking forward to going back. 

‘’I’m really excited,’’ says Minto. ‘’I was going to West Ham v Chelsea, but I’ve cancelled that to be in SE7.

‘’I think Charlton are doing really well and Robbo [manager Karl Robinson] knows the division inside out and has brought in much-needed stability. He’s a good guy and I’m really pleased for him.

“I’d love to see Charlton in the top two [automatic promotion spots], but there’s some great teams, and top six would be a success.

“The club has made some mistakes in the last few years, there’s been chaos and it hasn’t been Charlton. So we need to pull together as one and I think this season could be a great one.’’

Charlton’s LGBT-friendly link-up aims to tackle homophobia

After years of campaigning against racism in the game, football is turning its attention to tackling homophobia.

One of the clubs at the forefront of the battle is Charlton Athletic, who became the first professional football club in the country to have an official partnership with a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) friendly side in August 2017.

According to CACT Invicta FC player-manager Gary Ginnaw, the alliance is helping to fight football’s homophobia problem.

Previously named Bexley Invicta FC, the initial partnership with the Addicks was established thanks to the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) and Charlton Athletic Race Equality Partnership (CARE).

Charlton have a huge heritage of fan action and community-based projects, so it is not surprising that the club were the first to announce a partnership of this kind.

Community

Ginnaw, a life-long Charlton supporter, explained that training and playing at the club’s training ground is one of the benefits Invicta have gained.

“We train every Tuesday night alongside the Charlton Deaf Team and Charlton’s women’s teams. On the pitch before us are the academy teams. There is a real community aspect,” he said.

Despite being an LGBT-friendly side, players are not required to be LGBT to play for the club. Invicta have competed in the London Unity League since 2012.

‘It’s about everyone being equal and supporting each other’ – Gary Ginnaw

“I didn’t want the re-branding to CAFC Invicta FC  to deter from the football. We worked hard in pre-season and consequently have had our joint-best league start in six years,” explained the 34-year-old.

“CACT have also provided us with some structured sessions with one of their qualified football coaches.”

Ginnaw, who is also the vice-chair of Charlton’s LGBT fan group The Proud Valiants, said some of the fixtures dedicated to tackling discrimination have been organised through CACT’s support of the club.

“We have the annual Football v Homophobia-dedicated CAFC game at The Valley in February which we will be part of alongside CACT and Proud Valiants. In conjunction with this, there is the end of season CAFC v Homophobia football tournament. To play at The Valley is a huge honour.”

New beginnings

Ginnaw took over as manager of Bexley Invicta in 2015, with the club short of money and several players leaving. He explained the turning point which effectively led to his idea of speaking to the south east London club.

“We needed something to rejuvenate the club. I had contacts at CACT and arranged a meeting at the training ground,” he recalled.

“I used my knowledge and loyal support of the club over the previous 20 years to demonstrate how passionate I am, and show that with their support we could make a team to challenge for and win trophies, whilst also making a difference to people. 

“It was slow to start with but eventually things progressed to where we are today.”

So will other professional clubs follow Charlton’s example?

First of many?

“I’d be shocked if other teams didn’t follow suit,” Ginnaw said. “I would like to see every professional football club launch their own LGBT-inclusive team much like the way the women’s game has expanded.

“We are raising awareness in the mainstream media. The response hasn’t always been positive, but at least it’s a headline in the news and causing debate amongst football fans. That has to be good rather than ignoring the issue.”

‘The governing bodies need to adopt a similar approach to the racism campaign. They need to raise awareness of the routes to report homophobic abuse’

He also feels more should be done by football’s governing bodies in the fight against discrimination.

“It starts from the top. The racism in football campaigns would not have been successful without the full support of the governing bodies.

“In England, we need the Premier League, EFL and FA to be 100% behind stamping out homophobia in football – from the pitch to the terraces.”

So what does Ginnaw feel needs to be done to banish incidents of discrimination in the game?

“The governing bodies need to adopt a similar approach to the racism campaign.

“They need to raise awareness of the routes to report homophobic abuse – to educate stewards and, when an instance of abuse is reported, deal with it in such a way that it is deemed a major issue and if need be implement a ban to football grounds.

“If we can all be inclusive, then eventually LGBT-friendly teams and leagues will no longer be required. It’s about everyone being equal and supporting each other.”

You can follow Charlton Invicta Football Club and Gary on Twitter @CharltonInvicta and @GRGin1983

‘We’d have won with Zidane on the pitch’

Ten years ago this summer, Alou Diarra was a whisker away from becoming a legend – because that’s what a World Cup triumph transforms you into.

Even a fairly ordinary career can be turned into a memorable one if you are part of a team that sews a new star on the country’s football jersey.

“We dominated but Italy resisted and won which was tough to stomach for us because even at 11 v 10 we played better”

But it wasn’t to be for the French squad that Diarra was part of in 2006 final in Germany, with the finger of blame pointed firmly at Italy’s star defender Marco Materazzi.

His insults goaded France talisman Zinedine Zidane into getting himself sent off, damaging his team’s hopes of being crowned World Cup champions for a second time.

Sure enough, the legendary number 10’s dismissal saw the Italians grow in confidence as extra time ticked by, and they went on to win the deciding penalty shoot-out.

Started badly

“Before Zidane’s expulsion, we were in control of the game and the better side,” said Diarra, now 34 and plying his trade at Championship outfit Charlton Athletic. “His sending off complicated things.

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“Looking back, the despair of losing the World Cup is of course bigger than the joy of winning it, obviously because if you reach the final you want to win it also.

“We rose as the tournament progressed as we started off badly with two draws [against Switzerland and South Korea]. But our win against Togo in the last group game set the tone for the knock-out stages as we got a confidence-boost and managed to reach the final.

“In the final in Berlin, Italy were more efficient and their way of playing [defensive-minded catenaccio] did the trick.

Headbutt

“Italy were tough to beat anyway, but I’d have preferred if we hadn’t been a man down, 11 against 11 it would have been another story.

“I think hatred is a strong word… if Materazzi walks by I’d shake his hand because football is just a sport”

“We dominated the encounter… but Italy resisted and won which was tough to stomach for us because even at 11 v 10 we played better. We would have won it with Zidane on the pitch.”

Whatever Materazzi said to Zidane that day, it made the Frenchman plant a headbutt squarely into his chest.

“Still today we don’t know what he told him word for word,” Diarra said. “But it was enough at the time to make him lose his mind.”

No hatred

Given his antics, the French nation still holds a grudge against Materazzi, but midfielder Diarra, who came on for Patrick Vieira on 56 minutes that night and saw the incident at close hand, dismisses talk of hatred.

“I think hatred is a strong word… if he walks by I’d shake his hand because football is just a sport and you can’t mix the two things.”

Diarra concedes that he had a sleepless night on the eve of the big game, such as Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso had for the Azzurri.

“They didn’t sleep? I didn’t sleep either,” he told me. “I had a difficult night and I struggled to close an eye… it was a unique game awaited and watched by the whole world.

“When I was a kid I always dreamed of playing in a World Cup final. Thanks to a lot of work, dedication and ambition, I managed to fulfill this dream, so the tension before it was double.”

Vintage years in Bordeaux

After putting his World Cup disappointment behind him, Diarra went on play a leading role in Bordeaux winning the French title in 2008-09.

“Blanc created a great unit and a team spirit. Together we were afraid of nothing”

With him as their captain, Yoann Gourcuff as their midfield architect and Fernando Cavenaghi tormenting defences, Laurent Blanc guided them to their first league crown in a decade.

“That season was the peak of my career,” Diarra recalls. “I have so many great memories as we won the league and did well in the Champions League.

“At that time, Bordeaux were a well-respected side in Europe. On paper, we were probably not impressive, but with Laurent Blanc everyone progressed as he managed to get the best out of every single player.

“He created a great unit and a team spirit. Together we were afraid of nothing.”

Legend

Diarra believes that his old boss Blanc – who earned 97 caps for France and helped them win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 – has what it takes to steer Paris Saint-Germain to unpredecented European glory.

“Blanc? As a player, a legend. And since he took over, PSG have never played as good as now. I faced PSG numerous times when they had other managers but  thanks to Blanc there’s a great unit in the team now.

“What strikes me is how he can handle big egos and personalities like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Edinson Cavani. He was not the first choice when he arrived but we have to concede that he is a great technician who has made the whole team progress considerably.

“In my opinion he has the skills to guide PSG very far in the Champions League… even if I see Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the driving seat to clinch it. But PSG can win it too.”

Too weak

The one thing holding PSG back, Diarra believes, is the quality of Ligue 1 – seen by many as second-tier and way behind the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A, despite PSG’s money and star-studded injection of talent in recent years.

“If I have to give my career a vote from one to 10, I’d say that before West Ham it was seven or eight and after my time at Upton Park four or five”

“PSG’s problem is that Ligue 1 games don’t prepare them enough for the big Champions League clashes,” he said.

“PSG is too strong for the French league, they are heads and shoulders above the rest and the excitement in France is gone, unlike at my time in Bordeaux when teams such as Lille, Marseille or us won it in the years building-up to the Qatari era at PSG.

“Now I don’t think it’s possible [other teams winning Ligue 1].”

Life at the Valley

Diarra is currently preoccupied with life at the foot of the league, with Charlton rock bottom and their fans protesting against Belgian owner Roland Duchatelet.

Despite the club’s struggles, Diarra doesn’t regret opting for a move to the Valley a year ago, especially after failing to make the grade in England, first at Liverpool in 2000 and then at West Ham 12 years later.

“After my negative experience at West Ham from 2012 to 2014, I lost two years of career,” he said.

“Here at Charlton I have the chance to live in London and play for a good squad. Let’s say it, it’s a life choice that I made.

“When I played for Liverpool at the age of 19 I was very young, my position at the club was uncertain. I wanted to play and not just in cup games.

“After being marginalised for some time I took the decision to return to France to play regularly because as a young player you only progress when you play and not when you sit on the bench.

Regret

Now in the final years of his career, Diarra says he remains hungry and motivated to play despite his “seasoned passport”.

” I think I could have established myself at a top European club… this is my regret”

“I want to keep on playing for a few more years and then I’d like to become a manager. I think I have a lot of things which I learned in my career to pass on to young players, and also many things to learn.

He offers a frank assessment of his career, saying: “If I have to give it a vote from one to 10, I’d say that before West Ham it was seven or eight and after my time at Upton Park four or five.

“Going to West Ham and not having had the opportunity to feature for a top European side in Spain, Italy or England are the biggest regrets of my career.

“I had the potential to do so because if you are a regular starter for France for many years and if you see the list of players for Les Bleus… then I think I could have established myself also at a top European club as well. Yes, this is my regret.”

As, of course, is the 110th minute of the World Cup final in 2006. Without that ill-fated episode, we’d probably be speaking about a legend now.

Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Phillips Experiences Highs and Lows of Life on Loan


Football is, as they say, a funny game and it can lead to a mixture of conflicting emotions at the weirdest of times.

One player riding that rollercoaster is goalkeeper Dillon Phillips. Currently on loan at National League outfit Cheltenham Town from Championship Charlton Athletic, he is enjoying the highs with his current team while his parent club experience some brutal lows.

“As well as young talent, we have a lot of experience in this group. They have helped us stay at it”

Down at The Valley, relegation looms, with a run of poor results and a managerial revolving door fuelling fan protests against owner Belgian Roland Duchatelet.

Meanwhile, in Gloucestershire, Cheltenham are contesting the automatic promotion spot with Forest Green, having only lost two of their 28 games in the league this season. Things seem like they couldn’t be going better for Phillips.

The Robins currently have the best defensive record in the league (just 19 goals conceded), with their 20-year-old goalie keeping 12 clean sheets – not that he wants to take all the credit.

“Tight-knit is a great way to describe us,” he told me. “As well as young talent, we have a lot of experience in this group. They have helped us stay at it and they all know what it takes to do well at this level and higher

“There is no easy game in this league you have to go to some horrible places and pick up valuable points so yes we will stay very grounded.”

 Struggles

However, it’s not surprising that despite his focus on the job in hand at Cheltenham, Phillips’ thoughts turn to the struggles of Charlton, where he’s since the age of seven.

” I like to think that there are people at Charlton who believe in me too”

Currently sitting second bottom and four points off safety, there’s no sign of a revival happening anytime soon. But their young keeper remains hopeful over their plight.

“Obviously, I’ve seen some anger from Charlton fans. At the moment it’s a sticky patch and the results haven’t been great, but I’m sure they will pull through with the quality in the dressing room.”

Phillips is not looking to walk away from his childhood club, either. “Signing my scholarship at 15 and moving into full-time football is when I saw that the club were really investing in my potential.

“I’m confident that hopefully one day I will make my professional debut for Charlton, and I like to think that there are people at the club who believe in me too. So I’m quietly confident that I’ll be able to break into that first team in the future.”

Top drawer

Phillips is keen to stress how much he has learnt from other goalkeepers at Charlton – lessons he is currently putting to good use at Cheltenham under boss Gary Johnson.

“When I was eight I trained with probably four or five different age groups of goalkeepers to work on specific aspects. All of the goalkeeping pros that I’ve worked with have been top draw.

“I learned from all of them in different ways. Ben Hamer, Ben Alnwick and Stephen Henderson have all been Charlton’s number ones whilst I’ve been a pro and I look up to all of them. I still keep in contact with all three even though two are not at the club anymore.”

Having recently extended his loan until the end of the season, Phillips is hoping that he can cap off a great campaign by helping Cheltenham return to League Two.

“I’ve had a taste of being in a winning team I want to it continue this, to improve in aspects that I need to and just eventually fulfil my potential and play to as high a level as I can,” he said.

Good omen

Phillips stresses again that Cheltenham’s success is down a real team effort, with experienced players such as striker Danny Wright and Aussie defender Aaron Downes combining with young talents such as former Spurs youngster Jack Munns and Welsh midfielder Billy Walters.

“If the example Jack Butland has set is in any way a good omen, Phillips has nothing to worry about in terms of making a name for himself”

Whether their goalkeeper will remain part of the team beyond this season remains to be seen. The end of his loan spell will also signal the end of Phillips’ current deal at Charlton, but Phillips says he is not worried about the possibilities that lie ahead.

“My five-year plan would ideally have me in there somewhere making my debut at Charlton, but for now my main objective is to keep playing games now and not stop to sit and be a number two keeper.

“So if it means moving up the league slowly, that is what I’ll do. As all goalkeepers will tell you, you need experience as well as quality.”

The last ‘keeper of note that was on loan at Cheltenham was a certain Jack Butland – now Stoke City’s first choice between the posts and seen as the natural successor to Joe Hart in the England team.

If the example he has set is in any way a good omen, Phillips has nothing to worry about in terms of making a name for himself.