Look Hughes firing Charlton chase

Date published: Monday 22nd April 2013 1:41

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A new hero has emerged at The Valley, as Charlton turned their form around to go six games undefeated and now even have an outside chance of a play-off place.

After the ignominious home defeat against much-loathed Millwall on 16 March only those fans officially diagnosed as psychotic or suffering from serious substance abuse issues would have predicted that.

And the astonishing improvement in form has been widely attributed to one Charlton player – midfielder Andy Hughes.

For football fans of a certain age, Hughes is a name that is associated with character, honesty and determination; the late great Emlyn ‘Crazy Horse’ Hughes, Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes, Aaron Hughes of Fulham and Northern Ireland and what about Lee Hughes of Notts County? Well, there is always one exception to the rule.

Few doubted Andy Hughes was a strong character but you could still hear the collective groan across SE7 when Chris Powell included the 35-year-old in the four-man midfield to face in-form Bolton Wanderers at Easter.

Hughes had not played for months after an injury had sidelined him and was only an occasional fill-in player last season after joining in the summer on a free transfer from Leeds United.

What was our beloved Powell thinking of, selecting the knackered old veteran for this key match with the relegation zone looming?

Highly regarded for his extended touchline warm-ups as a substitute, Hughes is an unlikely hero. His dark black hair hints of Grecian 2000 and his shorts look slightly too big for him. He has no appreciable skill, hardly anything in the pace department and is not even a ferocious tackler. Indeed for the first 10 minutes against a slick Bolton side he was even further behind the game than referee Kettle – and that’s really saying something.

Then he just seemed to settle down and do what no Charlton midfield player has been able to achieve all season – win the ball and pass it to one of our own players. The most basic of football concepts but one that is essential for any successful team, and one that had eluded the Addicks for months.

Six games later Charlton Athletic remain unbeaten and are even winning matches at home. The impressive Trotters were despatched at home as were Leeds United and the awful Wolverhampton Wanderers. Poor Barnsley were clobbered 6-0 away and we even managed to hold an attacking Brighton side and Cardiff away. This was on the night that Malky Mackay’s team secured promotion to the Premiership in front of 26,000 roaring Welshmen and a handful of anxious Malaysians (many congratulations to them, by the way).

Hughes can answer to almost every lower league cliché – he is a journeyman, a utility player, a seasoned pro, a box-to-box man with a good engine. He just does the simple things and of course, he’s good to have around the dressing room. In other words, he never scores, rarely makes a pass measuring more than 10 yards and is rarely in the spotlight.

Even so, “we never lose with Andy Hughes” is the latest chant of the covered end choir.

And it’s true. Charlton Athletic have never lost a league football match home or away when Andy Hughes was playing, so imagine the horror and panic when he slumped to the turf injured after 10 minutes against the hugely disappointing Wolves and had to be replaced.

The fact that we won anyway and now even have an outside chance of a play-off place proves to the superstitious Addicks that as long as Hughes has been on the pitch in a playing capacity at some stage we just can’t lose.

So don’t be surprised to see him stretchered out with drip attached or even dragged on by his ankles for the kick-off against Middlesbrough.

By Stuart Heaver, FanZone’s Charlton blogger

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