You get the ups, but all of a sudden you’re down so quickly. A few months into my first season at the club, we played West Ham at The Valley on a Monday night; I had invited the scout who first got me to Wimbledon to the game, and I scored two goals in a 4-4 draw. The next afternoon, my now wife went into labour, and, over the course of that evening our baby daughter Jada India was lost.
You don’t know how to deal with it or what to do. You look at blame, and everything that comes with that. I spoke to Curbs, and even the club chaplain Matt Baker, who still remembers it. How and where do you come back from that? What do you do?
I had two weeks off and I remember coming back one day, just to see the boys. Curbs said: “Go and have a run on the treadmill – just get it out, you don’t know what it can do for you.” It was the longest run – and it released all of these emotions and feelings.
I got a lot of support – not just from the people at the club and the fans, but from players I’d played with and against. Ultimately, though, once you do get that support from everyone else, they just get on with it. You’ve still got to try and deal with that tragedy.
“The majority of the squad only knew how to play one way”
I wanted to be around my family, but I needed to get back to work. The loss was never going to go away; it’s always going to be with you and affect you in some capacity, but I wanted to get back to playing football.
Coming to Charlton as the club’s record signing, and scoring the amount of goals I did over the years, is what you want to do as a footballer. You were kept on your toes, too, because the team was improving and going through a transition where better players were coming through the door. Your place was always under threat.
You’re competing with better players, but you always want that competition – particularly, in my case, having been relegated with Wimbledon (below) in 2000.
You never want to go into a season thinking: “This isn’t going to be great.”