Northern Ireland striker Dion Charles admitted he needed a new challenge after finally getting his move away from Accrington Stanley having signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Bolton Wanderers.
The forward had been embroiled in what was being described as a ‘Mexican stand-off’ at Stanley where he wasn’t being selected by manager John Coleman due to him not signing a new contract.
That was despite Charles being in sensational form, scoring 20 goals for Accrington last season – 30 in his 97 appearances in total – which earned him a call-up to Ian Baraclough’s Northern Ireland squad.
The Preston native made his international debut against the United States back in March and also featured in the World Cup qualifying defeat in Bulgaria in October.
But now Charles has ended his Accrington stalemate and will try and restart his League One career at the University of Bolton stadium after the Wanderers paid a six-figure sum to bring him in.
The 26-year-old is the first player Bolton have paid a transfer fee for since his international team-mate Josh Magennis back in 2018, and he says he’s excited to get stuck into his new surroundings.
"I’m absolutely delighted to finally get it over the line. Looking forward to the new challenge,” said Charles, who will wear the No.10 shirt at Bolton.
"It was a move that excited me, I’ve seen them play a few times and they play a great brand of football which hopefully I can add to.
"I think I needed a new challenge. This is a football club that’s absolutely massive, the fans, the whole club is something I needed to be part of.
"It was great working with (Kevin Davies at Southport). He’s a Bolton legend and he’s given me a lot of advice. He actually sent me a text the other day asking if I was coming to Wanderers! He’s told me how great the place was.
"I’ve been working hard behind the scenes, long hours in the gym on my own but it’ll be worth it. I’m excited to get going and see what I can do.”
Charles’ story is one of hard work and dedication that saw him drop back into the non-league system after failing to break through as a youth player at Blackpool, where he was under the guidance of new Bolton boss Ian Evatt.
After serving his time at the likes of AFC Fylde and Southport, the English-born striker broke back into the Football League with Accrington and excelled, and was on the radar of many teams during the summer transfer window after his 20-goal campaign.
However, he stayed at Accrington where things turned sour due to his hesitance to put pen to paper on a new contract, and eventually the situation deteriorated to the point where he was no longer being considered for selection by boss Coleman.
Despite that, Charles thanked the manager for taking a chance on him when he signed him in 2019, but insists all his focus is now on making sure he gets things right for Bolton.
"I went to Accrington two years ago and I’ll always be thankful to them for giving me the chance. What they do year in year out is incredible. John Coleman did a lot for me while I was there and I’ll be forever thankful for what they did for me," he said.
"I always set targets and I remember in an interview at the start of last year they asked me how many goals would I score and I said 20 and they laughed at me. That spurred me on to do what I needed to.
"That’s the most important thing for me, do the job that I was brought in here to do which is score goals and I’ll work my hardest on the pitch. I think that’s what I’m known for, working hard, and hopefully I can add a few goals along the way.”
Charles cannot be registered in time to make his Bolton debut this afternoon when they take on Rotherham United, so he will have to wait until next Saturday’s game against Ipswich Town to make his bow.
“Dion is a player I’ve been aware of for a long, long time. He dropped into non-league football but has proved himself and fought and got his way back into the system and into League One and scored a hatful of goals for Accrington last season,” said new boss Evatt.
“He was touted to have some really big money moves which, fortunately for us, didn’t come off. We have managed to get him over the line and bring him in as one of the first players we’ve paid money for in a long time, which is a huge statement of where this club is right now and credit must go to the board, investors and everyone who has played a part in that.
“We are excited to have him on board. Dion is a finisher, has terrific pace, terrific movement and relentlessly runs in behind and works defenders. He’s a player that we’re really looking forward to working with and seeing what the future holds.”