INTERVIEW: Darius Charles talks about his return to Stevenage, going for promotion with AFC Wimbledon and which of his current team-mates is ‘one of the nicest men in football’

Darius Charles was part of the Stevenage team that won the 2011 League Two play-off final against To

Darius Charles was part of the Stevenage team that won the 2011 League Two play-off final against Torquay United at Old Trafford. Photo: Dan Wilson - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Darius Charles says it’s pleasing to be back playing regular football following 13 months out through injury as he returns to Stevenage with AFC Wimbledon.

Graham Westley and Darius Charles

Graham Westley and Darius Charles - Credit: Archant

The former Boro defender, who left the club for Burton Albion last summer, has become a mainstay of Wimbledon’s defence since he joined them on loan in March as he works his way back from a succession of leg injuries.

He returns to the Lamex on Saturday knowing that a point for Wimbledon will guarantee them a League Two play-off place.

Yet he also acknowledges just what a good time he had in his five-year spell at Stevenage during which time he helped Boro to promotion from League Two and was part of the side that reached the League One play-offs the following season.

Speaking exclusively to the Comet, Charles said: “I have a lot of fond memories and friends there. So many memories, like beating Reading in the FA Cup game in which I scored. I remember the goals.

“Graham [Westley] knew exactly what he was doing in terms of getting the right players and personnel in that squad.

“I can’t remember many games in which we were down and out. We were always in games and always gave ourselves a chance.

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“I had hard times there too, but it’s a place I’ll always remember well.”

Talking about his return to full fitness at the same time as trying to help Wimbledon secure a top seven position, Charles said: “It’s only eight games [played] which is not a lot considering I was out for 13 months. It’s pleasing to be back.

“[Burton] have an option [for another year] but whether or not they take it is up to them. My main focus is to get games and get fitter.

“We could seal a play-off place tomorrow, but the play-offs are tough. They’re not easy. They are just as mentally draining as they are physically draining.

“It’s tough, but the reward at the end is obviously massive. You’re talking about promotion.”

The 28-year-old added: “You play 46 games and then you have to win these three to get promoted. It’s like a mini championship, a mini cup competition. It’s difficult.”

And while Charles was often used as a striker for Stevenage, he says that Wimbledon’s current crop of strikers, including Adebayo Akinfenwa, means that they don’t need him in the final third.

Playing down his own ability as a front man, Charles said: “We’ve got far too much striking prowess to put me up front. The boys, the forwards are fantastic at the club. They don’t require my services.

“As a man [Akinfenwa] is one of the nicest people I’ve met in football. He’s very humble, and great to be around. As a player he’s more than a handful to put it nicely. A bit more of a handful than me.”

Charles was also asked about his former boss, Westley, who was sacked last week from his job at League One side Peterborough United.

“We don’t know what happened there but I wish him all the best,” Charles said.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be playing where I was today. My best footballing moments have come with a Stevenage side, and I hope he gets back into football soon.”

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