By Chris Slavin
Darius Charles has revelled in being back among the first-team squad on match days recently – and he is very impressed by the impact young players have made at senior level.
The 29-year-old got 90 minutes under his belt yesterday by playing for the development squad against Crawley, with Tom Soares also continuing on the comeback trail in the same game.
Neal Ardley has wasted no time bringing both back into the group and Darius has enjoyed watching younger players step-up to the first-team.
"I don't want to say that we have been tasked with boosting morale, but the manager has wanted to add a couple of big characters to the dressing room. I'd like to say that we have done our jobs with the last couple of results! It's a compliment from the manager to think so highly of us by bringing us into the changing room before those games.
"I think one of the big things about us this season is that there is a lot more competition. It is brilliant to see the young players emerging. A lot of clubs talk about bringing players through the youth set-up, but this is definitely one of those clubs doing that. We have Will Nightingale, Alfie Egan made his debut last season, and Jayden Antwi and Toby Sibbick are also with us. I think Anthony Hartigan has been brilliant and he has shown phenomenal character.
"For Anthony to come back after making a little mistake the other week and produce a performance like that away to Blackburn was unbelievable. It is testament to the club and to the young players themselves that they can go out and perform like men."
Following a lengthy spell out, Darius is relishing being back involved, but he knows that a first-team opportunity will have to be earned.
"It was frustrating for me to come back in pre-season raring to go and then suffer a setback," Darius added. "It was disappointing, but you use it as a learning curve to come back and make sure that you do everything to stay fit and healthy. I was disappointed with the result (against Crawley), but that's part of coming back to full fitness. It was pleasing to get through 90 minutes. It is massive because you do can do running as much as you like, but you cannot replicate playing games.
"There is more competition for places this season. If you don't have competition within the group, then you will not get better. Deji, Robbo, Will, and me all need to challenge each other and that will therefore be better for the team."