Charlton Athletic’s Classic XI

Every club has its heroes. But equally, there are players who you might have forgotten about. These are the players that we love at Forgot About Him, and this feature is dedicated to them. It’s Charlton’s turn to reminisce now.

Charlton Athletic were promoted to the Premier League in 1998, but their first spell in the top-flight didn’t last long. Just one season in fact, as they were relegated back to Division One in 1999, before returning a year later as champions of the second tier. Most football fans will recall the Addicks under the guidance of Alan Curbishley, who was manager at The Valley for 15 years between 1991 and 2006 – arguably the most successful years in the club’s history. Notoriously a mid-table side during the Premier League years, Charlton now dwindle in League One, with their top-flight status a mere memory. Looking back to when things were slightly rosier in East London, this is their classic XI.

Mark Fish (left) with South African President Jacob Zuma and former Leeds defender Lucas Radebe. Photo: World Economic Forum

GK: Sasa Ilic

Australian Serb Ilic signed for Charlton in 1997  after spells in the Bosnian and Serbian lower leagues were the only notes on a low-key. Despite this, he quickly established himself as number 1 in Charlton’s promotion-winning season of 1997/98, keeping a nine clean sheets in a row as the Addicks marched to play-off final success. After the arrival of Dean Kiely in 1999, Ilic found his chances limited, and proceeded to play for a further six British sides, including Leeds, West Ham and Portsmouth, before retiring, aged 33, in 2005. He is now an entrepreneur and budding actor, having starred in the 2010 film, A Day of Violence.

CB: Mark Fish

Having arrived in England in 1997 when he signed for Bolton, South African defender Fish transferred to The Valley in 2000, and spent five successful seasons there, as Charlton evolved into a consistent Premier League outfit. He earned 62 caps for Bafana Bafana in an international career spanning 11 years, and represented his country at two African Cup of Nations (1996 and 1998) and in their first ever World Cup in 1998. After over 100 appearances for Charlton, Fish was forced to retire in 2005, aged just 31, after picking up a knee injury whilst on loan at Ipswich. He was an ambassador for last year’s World Cup in his native South Africa.

CB: Talal El Karkouri

Alan Curbishley shelled out £1million for El Karkouri’s services in 2004, and the club instantly reaped the rewards from the Moroccan’s arrival. In his debut season, he managed to score five times from centre half, and even won the club’s goal of the season award with this effort against Arsenal. After three seasons at The Valley, in which he notched up 87 appearances in all competitions, El Karkouri left England to sign for Qatar Sports Club – a club who in the past have had the likes of Marcel Desailly, Christophe Dugarry and Eric Djemba-Djemba on their books, and where, aged 34, he still plays today.

CB: Richard Rufus

Having began his career with Charlton at the age of 18, Rufus is one of the club’s most loyal servants, having spent 11 years at The Valley, making over 300 appearances before he was forced to retire at just 29 in 2004 because of a knee injury. As a youngster, the Lewisham-born defender captained the England under-21 side, and was regularly tipped for a place in the senior squad, but never got the call-up many thought he deserved. He was voted Charlton’s greatest ever defender at the club’s Centenary Awards in 2005. A born-again Christian, Rufus is now a trustee at the Kingsway International Christian Centre in London.

RM: Shaun Newton

Former England under-21 international Newton spent eight years at Charlton and the south Londoner quickly established himself as pacey, dangerous winger. The 288 appearances he made for Charlton in the 1990’s and the plaudits that accompanied them were tainted in 2006 during his time at West Ham, when he was banned after testing positive for cocaine. Leicester City offered Newton a route back into football after his suspension, but released him in 2008 and Newton has yet to play professionally since.

CM: Omar Pouso

Signed off the back of this stunning strike against England in a friendly in 2006, Pouso was one of Iain Dowie’s first signings at the Valley after joining on loan. The midfield general failed to enforce himself on the Addicks dressing room and made just one appearance in a miserable season in the Premier League. The Uruguayan returned to South America in 2007 with Paraguayan side Club Libertad where he still plays to this day.

CM: Claus Jensen

In his nine years in English football, Jensen was perceived as one of the most consistent central midfielders. Upon promotion to the Premier League in 2000, Charlton parted with £4million to sign the Danish international from Bolton Wanderers. He spent four years at the Valley, establishing himself as a fans’ favourite with delicious goals like this one against Arsenal at Highbury. He left to sign for Fulham in 2004, where his chances were limited by injury, before he retired in 2007 after being released by Lawrie Sanchez who failed to see how Jensen would fit into his direct system. He now works as a Premier League pundit for Danish television.

CM: Zheng Zhi

A £2million Alan Pardew buy, the versatile Zheng Zhi was prolific at Shandong Luneng in his native China, where he scored 29 goals in 44 appearances. He failed to replicate that form in the Premier League, as Pardew insisted on playing the Chinese international captain in a midfield role. He contributed ten goals in two years in London before joining Celtic on a free transfer in 2009. After one season at Parkhead, he transferred back to China with Guangzhou Evergrande, who he has helped to top spot in the Chinese Super League this season.

LM: Graham Stuart

Stuart was part of the furniture at The Valley for six years between 1999 and 2005. His spell at the Addicks coincided with the club’s most successful period for the last 50 years. He made over 150 starts for Charlton after a £1.1million move from Sheffield United, scoring 24 goals in the process. His Charlton career came to an end in January 2005 when, after being bumped down the pecking order at the club, he was allowed to join Norwich on a free transfer, ending his career at the end of the 2005-06 season.

ST: Martin Pringle

Alan Curbishley brought in Pringle on loan in January 1999 – a transfer which inspired the Addicks’ momentary resurgence in the Premier League, with a last-minute goal from the Swede in his first start ended a nine-match losing run. After signing permanently just two months later, though, the 28-year-old wasn’t able to prevent Charlton’s relegation to Division One at the end of the season. He was then ruled out for a year following the Addicks’ return to the top-flight at the end of the following campaign, and was subsquently loaned out to Grimsby, where a double leg break would go on to end his career, aged 32. He is now manager of Swedish fourth tier side, Vastra Frolunda IF.

ST: Jonatan Johannson

Johannson signed for Charlton in the summer of 2000, as the club looked to consolidate their top-flight status on the back of their promotion back into the Premier League. A return of 14 goals in his first season in England helped the Addicks finish an impressive 9th in the 2000-01 season, but despite staying with the club for a further five years, the Finland international never managed to repeat his goalscoring prowess of his debut campaign, adding just 17 more goals in 132 appearances. After a short loan spell at Norwich, Johannson left England to play in Sweden, Scotland and his native Finland – for whom he earned his 105th cap in 2010, before retiring in March this year.

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