Yesterday's hero - Mickey Bennett
Throughout the season, the Valley Review matchday programme regularly spoke to Charlton stars of yesteryear and a selection of these will be made available to read on the official website over the coming months.
The latest is an interview with approachable former midfielder Mickey Bennett, who is now taking sporting stars under his wing....
Mickey Bennett wishes he had met Mickey Bennett back in December 1988.
The young winger had just suffered a nasty cruciate ligament injury against Queens Park Rangers and would be ruled out of action for the best part of a year.
And Charlton's 1987 young player of the year admitted that the emotional strain of life away from football he endured at that time would ultimately kickstart his career back in the beautiful game.
For the past five years Bennett has practiced as a counsellor, offering what he believes to be a one-of-a-kind sporting support mechanism.
In addition to running his own company, Unique Sports Counselling, Bennett has worked with Charlton's community and women's set-ups, and is now hoping to forge a significant link with the same youth structure that nurtured him as a youngster.
"I kind of fell into my current role," said Mickey, who played 72 times for the club in two spells from 1986-95. "Towards the end of my career I was playing part-time for Canvey Island, and on the way home from some of the long away trips, players would often sit behind me and ask for my help and advice. There must have been something about me that made me approachable!"
Upon further consultation with a careers advisor, Bennett got straight down to work on a counselling course, influenced by his own experiences in the game.
And none were more illuminating than the repercussions of the first-minute knee injury he suffered against QPR following an accidental collision with Alan McDonald at Selhurst Park.
"I thought I could nick the ball round the defender and run round the other side," recalled Bennett, who had been named the best player of the Guinness Soccer Sixes finals when the Addicks won the tournament just seven days earlier.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't get my knee out of the way and his knee went full pelt at the side of mine. The initial diagnosis was a strained medial ligament, but it later was revealed to be a partially ruptured cruciate ligament and I was out for nine months."
No player likes being injured, but 20 years ago, recuperation was a far more isolated way of life.
Mickey continued: "Of course you would see the physio and the players would check in to see how you were getting on. But when I got my injury at the age of 19, there was nobody to talk to about what I was going through.
"I had my girlfriend at the time - now my wife - and my parents, but they didn't really understand the football issues. I was left holding the baby in many ways, dealing with emotional stuff I had never been confronted with before.
"Mentally, perhaps I never fully recovered from that injury, and from that moment it was always in the back of my mind to offer that kind of service to others in football and sport."
Bennett believes he is the first former player to qualify as a counsellor, and, having already worked closely with several Arsenal rookies, he has liaised with academy manager Steve Gritt in a bid to aid some of the club's youngsters as they reach a pivotal stage in their lives.
"I played the game for 20 years and am a qualified football coach and a counsellor, so I can use my own experiences and what I've been through," Bennett added. "That certainly resonates more, and if players can see I have been released and found another club, been injured and got back playing, and been dropped but got back into the team, then I can hopefully encourage them."
One of the most talented players to graduate from the club's youth set-up, Bennett was spotted, along with Carl Leaburn, playing for Southwark Sports and was invited for trials.
"There are lots of players who want to be professional players, but I wasn't one of them," admitted Mickey, who had spells with Wimbledon, Brentford, Millwall, Leyton Orient, Cardiff City, Barnet and Canvey before hanging up his boots.
"I was about to enrol at sixth form college and was set to do my A-levels with a view to having a career at British Telecom, like my dad."
Bennett made his Addicks debut in a Full Members' Cup clash with Birmingham City in early November 1986, and also represented the U18s in the final of the FA Youth Cup at the end of that season.
"I came as a right-back, but in the youth team I played central midfield, and that's where I put my stamp," he said. "I was put in the first team on the right wing, to give me experience, according to Lennie Lawrence, but ended up staying there for the majority of my career.
"I still remember my league debut against West Ham United the following March at Selhurst Park. They had household names like Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie and Mark Ward but we won 2-1 and I gave Ray Stewart a torrid afternoon. And I always remember scoring my first goal for the club against Norwich City the following season."
Brought through under the stewardship of Lawrence, the jet-heeled Bennett continued: "I have very fond memories of Charlton, and couldn't have asked for a better club to be at. With the finances as they were at the time, Lennie had to call on the kids, and he gave us a chance. When people ask me whether I would prefer to play now or then, I always say then. How many young players would get the chance now to play like we did?"
After leaving the Addicks for a lucrative £250,000, Bennett scored on his Wimbledon debut against Arsenal, but drifted back to Charlton under Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt in the mid-1990s.
"After leaving Brentford I was looking for a club and they allowed me to train to get fit," said Mickey. "I must have impressed in a reserve game as they quickly offered me a contract and I remember playing against Southend United when they opened the east stand for the first time.
"That was some game, too, in early April 1994, as a last-minute goal from Alan Pardew helped the home side to a 4-3 victory against United."
Bennett's final years as a player would also end in glory as unfashionable Essex side Canvey enjoyed some famous FA Cup giantkillings and also won the FA Trophy.
Married with four children, Bennett recently became an education advisor at the Professional Footballers' Association, where he works on behalf of players of all ages at clubs in the south of the country, helping to point them towards potential careers outside the game. He, for one, would know about that path.