El Karkouri's midfield bite lifts Charlton

Click to follow
The Independent Football

In Talal El Karkouri, Alan Curbishley may have found the man to replace Scott Parker in the heart of the Charlton Athletic side this season.

In Talal El Karkouri, Alan Curbishley may have found the man to replace Scott Parker in the heart of the Charlton Athletic side this season.

The Moroccan international was at the centre of the action at The Valley on Monday night, his headed goal early in the second half proving enough to see off a spirited Blackburn Rovers side. The £1m summer signing from Paris St-Germain admits that he is more comfortable playing at the back, but showed his versatility by answering the Charlton manager's call for someone to take control of the midfield.

El Karkouri's performance was the highlight of an otherwise average showing from the Addicks, who were dominated in terms of possession and clear-cut chances.

Nevertheless, the victory moved Charlton up into seventh place in the table and maintained their unbeaten home record in what has been their best start to a Premiership season.

El Karkouri, who had a loan spell at Sunderland in 2003, has taken time to settle, but is just glad to be able to play a part for the team.

"When the Charlton manager first saw me play in France I was playing at right-back against Lens, and I did OK. The next time when he sent someone to watch me I was in the midfield and then the final time I was at centre-back.

"I prefer to play at centre-back, but when you are a professional, if the manager says you are a striker you have to do it. I can't decide if I will stay in midfield and Curbishley is the captain of the boat.

"Perhaps they need my strength and aggression because we're playing in England and not Spain, where you can keep the ball for five minutes. You have to be strong physically to play in England."

Had he opted to stay in France, El Karkouri could have been playing in the same Champions' League group as Chelsea, rather than preparing to meet Arsenal at Highbury this weekend. The 28-year-old, though, felt the lure of the Premiership was too strong to ignore.

"English football is very different and as soon as you get the ball there's no time to think, you're under pressure straight away," he reflected. "In France when they see English games on TV they say, 'the English are crazy, they must eat something different, they are not normal!' I wanted to come here to experience that."

"Talal's a centre-half who can also play in midfield and at full-back. I like that versatility in a player," Curbishley said.

"I first put him in the middle of the park at Birmingham for a bit more steel, and I'm pleased for him that he got the goal."

Comments