Steven Sessegnon interview: Another upset? There’s real belief Charlton can beat Man United in Carabao Cup

Hope: Steven Sessegnon says his team-mates have belief ahead of tonight’s clash  (Charlton Athletic)
Hope: Steven Sessegnon says his team-mates have belief ahead of tonight’s clash (Charlton Athletic)

After 90 goalless minutes and five penalties apiece, there is nothing to separate League One strugglers Charlton and Premier League flavour of the month Brighton at The Valley.

Their Carabao Cup last-16 tie goes into sudden death and, after Tariq Lamptey scores for the Seagulls, it falls on Steven Sessegnon, who has never taken a penalty in his professional career, to try to keep the Addicks in the competition.

“We had a list of players for the first five and then I just sort of stepped up,” he tells Standard Sport. “I took one in a Youth Cup game once and I missed. But we had a few young boys on the pitch at the time, so I felt the need to step up and take one.”

Happily, this attempt ends with more success, Jason Steele diving out of the way of a spot-kick lifted just right of centre. Moises Caicedo misses for Brighton, before Samuel Lavelle takes his decisive penalty the way all centre-halves should to send Charlton, in disarray off the field, into the quarter-finals, where tonight they face Manchester United.

 (Charlton Athletic)
(Charlton Athletic)

“It felt like it was written in the stars in that game, because they had so many chances,” Sessegnon says. “It was a real graft and we sort of accepted what the game would be like even before we got to the stadium. We knew we were going to have to sit in, not have much possession and defend for our lives. It was around the 75th or 80th minute that we started to think, ‘Okay, if we can see this out we’ve got a chance to win on penalties’. That’s exactly what happened.”

The rearguard has given Sessegnon and his team-mates “real belief” that they can spring an upset tonight at Old Trafford, a venue which was once an annual stop on the Premier League circuit for Charlton, but one where they have not played since relegation in 2007. “I’m glad I can be a part of it, to take Charlton fans, especially the young ones who have never experienced it, to a Premier League stadium,” says Sessegnon. “We’re going to really give it a go.”

The 22-year-old believes the Brighton victory is responsible for sparking the recent upturn in the club’s League form, the Addicks having climbed clear of the relegation zone and into the top half of the table after taking seven points from four games since Christmas under new manager Dean Holden.

 (Charlton Athletic)
(Charlton Athletic)

Holden is an avid United fan and Sessegnon jokes that he “hopes not” when asked whether any more might be lurking in the away dressing room this evening. Holden’s impact so far has been encouraging, but Sessegnon still has regrets over the sacking of his predecessor, Ben Garner, who played a significant part in his arrival on loan from Fulham and started Charlton’s Cup run.

“It wasn’t nice to see,” he adds. “We players had to take responsibility. I didn’t feel like we were far off it in terms of how he wanted to play. We’d lose ourselves in some moments of a game, for five or 10 minutes, and you can lose a game just like that. We let ourselves down.”

Sessegnon went close to League One promotion on loan at Plymouth last term, but after Fulham were promoted back to the top flight in May, the decision to go out on loan again this season was, he says, not a difficult one.

“We had a very honest conversation,” he says of last summer’s talks with Fulham and Marco Silva. “It was unrealistic for me to try and fight for a place for where Fulham were trying to get to. Accepting reality and accepting where I’m at is best in terms of my development.”