Gary Haines reports
“You never forget your first.” That was the affectionate response of Charlton manager Chris Powell when addressing the departure from the club of Bradley Wright-Phillips on July 1st.
The popular striker, who scored the goal at Carlisle United that sealed promotion back to the Championship in April 2012, recently left The Valley at the expiry of his contract.
But Powell’s first signing in football management certainly made an indelible impression during his two and a half years at the club.
A superb overhead kick against Colchester United saw him hit the ground running, and his flying start continued with strikes in each of his first three games – and his final scoring stats for the club were a hugely healthy 32 goals in 87 outings
“Bradley was my first signing [at Charlton] so whatever happens with me and my managerial career, you never forget your first,” reflected Powell.
“I remember when I had the opportunity to bring Brad I said ‘right, let’s do it’. He came in scored goals straight away and fitted in with the group immediately and then scored 22 goals when we got promoted from League One.
“He’s a terrific character and in some ways you’re always sad to see lads go because you get attached to them,” he added.
“Fans do, and I do, as a manager, but of course you have to make these decisions. Sometimes they’re forced, sometimes the player wants to do it and sometimes it’s financial so whatever reason it is, you still like these lads and wish them well.
“On behalf of myself, all my staff and all my players I want to thank Brad for his contribution. There’s talk maybe of going abroad but we don’t know. I really wish him well because he’s a fantastic young man and a fantastic character and we thank him for his contribution to our wonderful football club.”
Wright-Phillips joined the club shortly after Powell’s arrival in January, 2011, and followed up his 13 goals for Plymouth Argyle with nine for the Addicks in the second half of the season. His free-scoring exploits would see him voted into the Professional Footballer’s Association League One team of the year.
His first full campaign at The Valley saw him bulge the back of the net 22 times, including a first senior hat-trick in a convincing 4-0 win at Chesterfield and he then etched his name into Addicks folklore with that poacher’s effort at Brunton Park.
The frontman scored in the opening Valley match back in the Championship against Leicester City last August, but that would prove his only goal in a frustrating campaign that ended with a loan spell at Brentford.
And with the Bees he suffered play-off agony against Yeovil Town in the Wembley final in May.
“Last year was a mixed bag, and he was desperate to go out and play some football,” continued Powell.
“But we shouldn’t forget that there were a lot of important goals that Brad scored for us. His first one was against Colchester at home. He scored an important one against Southampton when we were really under the cosh and he scored some wonderful goals for us.
“The majority of fans will talk about that Carlisle game, though, and how he was the man that scored the goal [that clinched promotion].
“He should be very proud of his contribution to us. He’s got a lot of friends here as well which I’m sure will continue and we’ll see what develops for him because I think he’s a player that will always score goals no matter what level.”
While Wright-Phillips will be a notable absentee when Charlton kick off their pre-season campaign against Welling United at Park View Road on Saturday (3pm), one man that could pull on an Addicks shirt is defender Richard Wood.
The former Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City centre-back, 28 on Friday, has been training with the club in the first week of pre-season and Powell is likely to take a closer look at him in match action against the Wings.
“He came in on Tuesday, so he’s had three days with us,” he said. “We’re just having a look at him and he’s having a look at us. He’s fitted in well, though. He’s training to get up to speed so we’ll just see how it goes.
“He’s captain material, and he’s a bit of a leader who has got a lot of games behind him. He’ll be involved at Welling and we’ll see how it goes from there.”