BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Joe Aribo was unable to make any promises about his Charlton future in the immediate aftermath of the club’s League One play-off final win.
The Addicks will be a Championship side for the 2019-20 campaign. But whether their all-action midfielder will still be on the SE7 payroll is heavily in doubt.
There is every chance that Aribo could be part of a Premier League squad next season – such have been his impressive displays for Lee Bowyer’s side.
And he has also been linked with Scottish football’s big two – Rangers and Celtic.
Only a knee injury suffered in December put transfer talk on the back burner before the January window.
Aribo stopped to speak to the press after Sunday’s 2-1 win over Sunderland, but insisted that his thoughts had not been trained on where he will be plying his trade in August.
“I haven’t really been looking at what’s been going on,” said the 22-year-old, signed from Staines Town in 2015. “I’ve just been focusing on my football.
“I don’t know what the future holds. I just want to enjoy my summer and then come back and look at what I have to be doing for next season and where I’m going to be.”
Asked if Charlton’s return to English football’s second tier – ending a three-year stay in League One – would boost the prospects of him re-signing – Aribo responded: “Yeah, definitely.
“I want to push and play Championship football. Under Lee Bowyer I’m learning every day, because everyone can see it. He was a centre-mid and he helps me and gives me pointers on where I need to improve my game.
“My aim at the start of the season was to get 10 goals. And I’ve managed to get that, with just a minor setback of the injury. I managed to play enough games – 40. It was a very good season.”
The external noise in the run-in has been that Camberwell-born Aribo has outgrown the Addicks.
The clubs that are interested have a financial muscle that the South London outfit cannot match.
But if it was goodbye, what a way to go out. Charlton are back in the Championship after Patrick Bauer’s goal in the final seconds of second-half stoppage time.
“It felt amazing,” said Aribo. “Words can’t express how it felt. We’re all buzzing and just happy we’re going up.
“All I was thinking was ‘oh no, we’re going extra-time – and we’re going to have to find an extra bit of energy to go the extra 30 minutes’.
“But we saw the ball go in and you saw from the reaction the emotion we felt.
“Definitely [the best moment of his career] – easily. Obviously playing at Wembley is a big thing. But to win as well, and to win in the last minute, was amazing.”
Bowyer has earned plaudits for taking the Addicks up.
At least the manager should sign a new contract, although his current terms are also up at the end of June.
“You can see what he does with us as a team,” said Aribo. “He is always pushing us and always expects the best from us – he never lets us slack or under-perform.
“He gives us praise when he has to, but he’ll let us know when we haven’t played well.
“I saw him as a player growing up and I saw how angry he was. But with us he is so calm. He is always the most calm in the team. You wouldn’t ever think that.
“When he has to, he will give us a bollocking or let us know that we’re not doing what he wants us to be doing. But he is always so calm and collected going into games. Even today he said to us: ‘All we have to do is play our normal game and we’ll get the result we need’.”
Charlton have gone from being a big League One fish to swimming with more deadly prey in the Championship.
So can they compete?
“I feel like we can,” said Aribo. “If we manage to bring in the same sort of players we did last season and the one just gone then I think we can.
“I know we’re good enough if we play our natural game. We can definitely push in the Championship.”
Addicks fans will have everything crossed that Aribo is there to help with stabilising at a higher level.
TOP PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD