It’s fair to say that it has taken Josh Parker a while to win over some Charlton fans since his switch from Gillingham in January.
The 28-year-old forward has struggled to nail down a place in the side, making just three starts as Igor Vetokele cemented himself ahead of the Antigua & Barbuda international in Lee Bowyer’s pecking order.
But with Vetokele side-lined through injury, Parker has finally made back-to-back starts for the South Londoners – against Rochdale on the final day of the regular season and in the first leg of the play-off semi-final with Doncaster.
An industrious performance during the 2-1 win at the Keepmoat Stadium, in which Parker came close to finally opening his Addicks account on a couple of occasions, had sections of the away end singing Parker’s name as he was withdrawn due to cramp just over twenty minutes from time.
“It was unreal for me because the fans haven’t got to see a lot of me,” said Parker.
“That’s no fault of my own, it’s just because other people have been doing their job well. For me it was a very nice reception and one that I’ve been trying to work for, for a long time. Now I’ve got two games back to back and it feels like I’m getting there slowly.
“I’m happy to be in the team now. It’s frustrating [needing to wait for a chance] but at the same time you have to enjoy being a part of it because I came into a team that was winning, winning, winning, so I couldn’t be knocking at the manager’s door saying that I want to be playing. I just have to enjoy it and any time that I’m given, make the most of it. Unfortunately, Igor got injured but for me it’s my chance to help the team to get towards the target.”
Parker hasn’t been able to find a scoring touch in front of goal for the Addicks yet but hopes to go on a similar journey to Vetokele, who had scored two in three games before his injury.
“Me and Igor are quite close,” Parker explained.
“He had two or three games where he was missing sitters for him. In training he was scoring for fun but when you’re tired and when the tempo gets on top of you, you can have a lapse of concentration. After two or three games he started hitting his form and he was unplayable. I think it’s similar for myself. I came off with cramp today, I was tired. I could feel myself getting closer to it and with hard work the rewards will come.
“If I’m honest, no [it isn’t easy to stay motivated when you’re not in the side] because everyone feels like they should be playing. But I’m not going to sit here and say I deserve a place. The team was winning when I came in and when I haven’t been playing the team has been winning. I’m not one to sit here and be unrealistic. That I should be playing more here. My mind doesn’t work like that because I’m a realist. I just had to bide my time and train hard. Try and keep myself as fit as possible, which can be difficult when you’re not playing in the tempo here. Reserve games aren’t the same. For me it was a matter of staying quiet, looking what Igor has been doing. His work rate when he was playing and trying to pick up where he left off.”
The striker’s short-term deal is set to expire at the end of the current season but he isn’t concerned about his future just yet.
“I try not to think about that stuff. When you think about that stuff, you add an extra pressure that isn’t necessary. If you perform and do well then those things come alongside it. If the team goes up then we all stand a good chance of being here next year. So, for me I’m just focused on getting the team up there first.”