‘I signed him as a teenager and he was one of the most naturally gifted players of that age I'd ever seen’..
So spoke Sir Bobby Robson after making the teenage Charles N’Zogbia his very last signing for Newcastle. Charles went on to make 157 appearances for the Magpies and fulfil at least some of tthe potential Sir Bobby saw with this outstanding talent.
One January, during the reign of Joe Kinnear at St’ James’s Park, for reasons that are still rather shrouded in claim and counter claim, Wigan found themselves without Ryan Taylor but with the great fortune to have acquired N’Zogbia. Thanks Steve Bruce.
Immediately he began to delight the Wigan fans with his pace, trickery and ability to keep the ball at his feet. Pretty soon the main cry that came out of the fans was ‘give the ball to Charlie!’ Occasionally it appeared the team’s only available tactic. Luckily it tended to work.
More and more the Wigan team has relied on him. He is the main threat in the Wigan forward line. In a very real sense he is talismanic - he appears sometimes to have supernatural powers. When he isn’t on the pitch both players and fans look lost. He was everyone’s Player of The Year 2009-2010 and deservedly so.
We nearly lost him to Birmingham in the last transfer window and he appears to have made enough noise to think he may go in the next. He should. He has enough quality to play for the Premiership top four (or is it five or six these days?) and wouldn’t look out of place in the Real Madrid or Barcelona line-ups.
But where would that leave Wigan? No bite, no menace, no-one with the guile to open up a defence. We would lose Charles at our peril.
After all, with a player like N’Zogbia one-on-one with a defender, there are only two possible outcomes - the successful tackle or the hapless defender in the mud on his backside while Charles streaks towards the goal with the ball at his feet.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.