email@example.com One man’s injury misfortune is another man’s opportunity – and George Lapslie certainly can’t be accused of not seizing his moment at Charlton Athletic.
The midfielder, who turns 21 on Wednesday, has been one of the big beneficiaries of the Addicks running with a smaller squad this season and Jake Forster-Caskey being ruled out with cruciate knee ligament damage.
Charlton caretaker boss Lee Bowyer had talked about the likes of Lapslie and Albie Morgan not being ready for the harsh realities of League One football before the campaign kicked off.
But both have had game time in the opening weeks. Lapslie started the first three fixtures and was not overawed by a first League One start on the opening day at Sunderland.
“In terms of Bow’s saying we were not ready, I remember talking it through with some of the other youngsters and it did not feel like a kick in the teeth. It was a bit more like ‘let’s show we are ready’.
“We try not to read too much into what is said but it serves as motivation.”
Lapslie scored on his debut for Charlton in the EFL Trophy at Crawley Town in August 2018.
In total he made four appearances in the competition last season as well as a first EFL outing as a substitute against Blackpool in December.
“A lot of people look down on that trophy but it is great for us young lads to get a bit of experience around the first-team,” said Lapslie. “I framed my shirt from the Crawley game. I got all the squad that day to sign it.
“Then I went off to the office to get it signed by Karl Robinson and Bow, who was assistant manager at the time. Bows said it was the first of many. I have watched some highlights of him as a player. I wouldn’t say I have sat down and analysed his performances. But he was an aggressive midfielder.
“The amount of time that him and Jacko [Johnnie Jackson] have given to me, Albie and Taylor [Maloney] is crazy. They pull me aside if something happens in a game and they want something else.
“I watched Jacko for so long and looked up to him. Everything he says to me, I just try and take it on board and apply it to my game.”
Lapslie was 11 when he signed for Charlton, joining after his release by Chelsea.
That progression through the academy youth system is a series of hurdles, with the ultimate goal to secure a professional contract.
“All the age groups play the same system and we are taught the same messages,” said Lapslie. “I’m very grateful because a lot of the hard work of the staff goes unnoticed. Steve Avory [academy boss] is unbelievable. I was talking to Karlan [Grant] the other day. We are the only ones left from when we first came through. It is ruthless, relentless and hard work.
“If you apply yourself then you get success and the rewards.
“There is always pressure when you are playing and wanting to get contracts but you have got to leave that all at the back of your mind and focus on the football.
“Every touch in football matters – it is something Simon Clark [ex-Charlton coach] told me. If you get caught up with other things, like thinking about getting a contract to play for the U18s, then your focus is not going to be right.
“I can still remember getting my pro deal. I had a meeting with Steve and Paul Hart. They called my mum and dad into a separate room and said: ‘We’re very happy with George’s progress, we’d like to offer him a professional contract’. I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe it. Obviously I was buzzing. I said: ‘We can’t renegotiate money – I don’t care about money. Let me sign the contract’.
“I’m really pleased with how my development has gone. It has all happened quite quickly. I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground. It is what I have wanted for a long time. I don’t want to look at it that I have achieved my target – I want more.”
Lapslie was an unused substitute last midweek against Peterborough and only featured for the final 12 minutes in Saturday’s stalemate with Fleetwood Town.
“It is a long season and I don’t look at it that I’ve been dropped from the team – at all,” he said. “Bow did pull me before the Peterborough game and gave me his reasons.
“I accepted that and agree with what he said. We have all got to be reading from his script. I’ve got no ego or hard feelings.
“I haven’t really got a target of how many games I want this season, that is out of my control. When I do get the opportunity I will try and perform to the best of my ability and give 100 per cent for the club.”
Lapslie’s older brother Tom plays for Colchester United. And their grandfather – John Johnson – represented England schoolboys and played alongside Fulham legend Johnny Haynes.
“He could’ve played for Spurs but he earned more money as a welder,” explained Lapslie. “I don’t think he had any regrets – he just did what his mum, my great grandmother, told him to do.”