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Ex-Addicks player makes memorable Valley return
A FORMER Charlton Athletic player made a memorable return to The Valley last week 15 years after his professional career was ended by a Nicolas Anelka tackle.
Dean Kearley’s last appearance at the stadium was for the Addicks reserves against Arsenal’s second string in 1997 when Anelka’s challenge broke his leg.
But last Friday the 34-year-old Belvedere man turned back the clock after winning an online Absolute Radio Christian O’Connell breakfast show competition to play at his old stomping ground in a special match to raise money for The Prince’s Trust.
The event pitted 11 listeners against the old school team of co-presenter Richie Firth and Kearley inspired the listeners to a 3-0 victory, winning the man of the match award in the process.
He said: “I was more nervous about speaking on the radio than going back to The Valley, that was the worst thing about it to be honest.
“Christain O’Connell was a top bloke though and I would like to thank everyone from Absolute Radio for making it all possible.”
Despite Anelka ending his chance of a career in the game, Kearley bears the French striker no animosity as he recalls what happened all those years ago.
He explained: “I’d done my apprenticeship at Charlton and had a year’s pro contract.
“Nicolas Anelka had a shot, the keeper saved it but the ball was going in and I’ve come around the back, cleared the ball off the line and he has slid in and just got my standing foot.
“It was accidental so I don’t bear any grudges.
“The next season he got sold to Real Madrid for £23m and I’ve bought a Ford Escort with my compensation money.
“I found out my football career was over four or five months after it happened.
“The specialists told me it was quite a bad injury and I got paid out from the PFA a couple of thousand pounds.
“If I became a professional footballer again I could pay the money back.”
Kearley added: “I work for a lift and escalator firm now, something I have done since then.
“At the time I didn’t really think about it that much, but when you look back when you are a bit older it would have been nice to have earned a living out of it.
“What I get in a year some of them get in a week these days.
“My biggest regret is that about two weeks before I did my leg Torquay phoned up Alan Curbishley to ask if I could go down there.
“I spoke to them about it but I didn’t end up going. It wasn’t to be and that is the way you’ve got to look at it.”
Kearley didn’t give up on football completely after his Charlton dream was ended, forging out a career in the non-league game to the present day.
He said: “I played for Thamesmead Town for about 10 years and we went up to the Ryman from the Kent League during my time there.
“I actually played for Thamesmead before I was at Charlton and we played them in the Kent Youth League.
“After that they asked if I wanted to train with them. It was like a job interview and quite surreal really.
“I just went down there, had a couple of games in the South East Counties League and Charlton offered me YTS terms.
“It was something I always wanted to do but never thought I would.
“I play for a team called Eltham Palace in the Kent County League now.
“I’ve got two boys and one is six in the summer and hopefully he will start playing soon. I’ll probably just watch him then.”
Christian O’Connell’s ‘One Last Game’ was filmed and a special video podcast is now available to watch at absoluteradio.co.uk/onelastgame
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