By Richard Cawley
“I’m nowhere near good enough for the Championship.”
It’s clear from that quote that Macauley Bonne is not taking it for granted he will make an instant step up from Leyton Orient to Charlton.
The 23-year-old striker scored 23 goals for Leyton Orient last season as they won the National League.
Charlton paid £200,000 to sign the Ipswich-born frontman earlier this summer on a deal until 2022.
“This is a chance to go and express myself in a higher league,” said Bonne. “I felt I needed to step outside of my comfort zone.
“It is about trying to get myself to be at the level of a Championship footballer one day.
“I want to be playing at that level week in and week out. But there is no rush for it. I have got so many years. I’m not saying I’m going to go and play straight away.
“I’ve got lots of time. I’m nowhere near good enough for the Championship. I know I’m not. But I’ll push to get to where I want to be.
“That’s me being honest. I’m not going to say I came from the National League and I’m ready to go and play in the Championship – of course not.
“I’m not setting myself up for failure by saying I’ll come straight in and start. I’ve come from non-league. Yeah, I can score goals – but there are areas of my game where I need to sharpen up.
“And by that I mean simple things. I’ve got to go back to basics – hold-up play and link-up play. I’m working with new players and it is like starting over again. I’ve got to accept that is going to take time.
“It’s about being real with yourself.
“Any minutes I get is a big box ticked – even if it is one game. Coming from where I have come from, I’d be proud of myself. It’s a big learning curve. If I play in five, 10 or 15 matches that is a bonus. I’d give myself a big pat on the back for doing that.”
Bonne’s move to Orient was a huge success. He hit 22 goals in his first season with the east Londoners. But he was ready to walk away from it all when he left Colchester in 2017.
“I nearly quit football,” he said. “I just fell out of love with it. I hated it when I left Colchester – I wasn’t playing, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was travelling and being left in the stands. Orient gave me a lifeline. They talked so positively and told me I would be the main man and striker. They told me before I signed I was going to score 20 goals.
“It was a gamble dropping down a league, but it’s paid off.” Bonne came back from Charlton’s training camp in Spain to be at the funeral of Orient boss Justin Edinburgh. The 49-year-old died of cardiac arrest at the start of June.
“It was a shock,” said Bonne. “I still can’t get my head around it. “He has clearly affected my life in the short period I knew him.
“I have so much respect for him and his family. I can only thank him because he has helped me get to where I am now.
“He made me hungrier. Even if I wasn’t having the best of games then he would be on the sidelines spurring me on. He had his ways of doing it! But he always found a way.
“If you weren’t playing well but were giving 110 per cent then he would be happy.
“When it came to my responsibility in the team he never made a massive thing of it. He never said go and score the goal today and win me the game. “He was just a big encouragement. In training he was always helping me in areas I wasn’t so good at.
“He made me the player I am today.” Bonne was on Ipswich’s books from the age of eight until moving to Colchester’s academy at U14 level.
“I just don’t think they [Ipswich] fancied me at the time,” he said.
“One comment I do remember – and it stayed with me a long time – was that my bleep test, my fitness scores, weren’t high enough.
“When Lee Bowyer signed me, they signed me because of my fitness levels – because I work hard. That’s why I make sure I always run about and that I’m being busy, being a nasty centre-forward. I don’t stop working.”
Passport issues prevent Bonne, who is a Tractor Boys fan, from being part of Zimbabwe’s African Cup of Nations campaign.
He has been capped twice by the Warriors. Bonne was so keen to put pen to paper for the Addicks that he flew back from his holidays for one day.
And it was long-haul – jetting in from Mexico before heading out to Thailand.
“He [Lee Bowyer] has taken the pressure off me,” said Bonne.
“He has said that every day in training he is going to make me a better player.
“People might have thought I am going to score a shed load of goals straight away but he has said that is probably not going to be the outcome when I first start.
“I think he sees me as a project and that I’ve got years to grow into the player he wants me to be.”
Pictured: Macauley Bonne takes on boss Lee Bowyer in training