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He’s only 5ft 3

A big day for Chris Solly, one of our most popular players in what has been a topsy turvey last decade for the club. Solly’s debut was as a substitute in the last game of our wretched Championship relegation season in 2008/9.

That team and the one the next season never really gelled with me as we missed out in the play-offs under Phil Parkinson. Yet youngsters like Solly, Scott Wagstaff and Jonjo Shelvey were little specks of light in a dark tunnel that Chris Powell drove us out of at full speed.

Under Powell, Solly became more and more influential. Sadly after Powell was removed he then had to run the gauntlet of a whole host of managers, coaches and an assortment of player mercenaries brought in by the Belgians. He can tell some stories I am sure, but Chris kept his own counsel, even when Meire tried to force him out on loan in 2016.

Karl Robinson was more understanding and Solly’s face lifting the play-off trophy last season tells you how proud he was of the achievements of the team under Lee Bowyer. If anyone knows the importance of team, then it is Chris Solly.

Calm (I’ll give you his Doncaster play-off penalty), rarely ruffled, neat in the tackle, Chris reads the game so well, and epitomizes team spirit. Twice player of the year, he has always been popular with Addicks’ fans. He also appeared to have tattoo’s way before they were trendy!

Injuries of course have taken their toll, yet they’ve been managed so much better in recent years. I was surprised to see that he’s actually started 90 league games in the past three seasons.

17 years at the club in total, Chris Solly has been a loyal servant, and during some very dark days a much needed and important constant throughout them. He is very deserving of his testimonial season.

Hopefully Chris gets a good crowd today, and the weather brings some people out. There certainly will be plenty of Villa fans there. Three goals, just three goals Solly has scored, all away, and sadly I can picture all three! Wouldn’t it be great if he can get one today.

Solly was in the academy when we were mixing it in the Premiership and one of my favourite players from those days announced his retirement on Thursday. Darren Bent has been without a club since leaving Derby last summer, where he was at loan at Burton. Bent will I suspect concentrate on his media work.

Bent was 21 when we signed him from Ipswich, where he’d had three good seasons (clubs kept their young players for a bit in those days). His debut at Sunderland I remember vividly. He scored twice against the newly promoted Black Cats, where he later excelled as well. Bent’s two goals in our 3-1 win were trademark Darren Bent Bent Bent. I used to love seeing him sprint off a defenders shoulder and leave them for dust before planting the ball in the corner and wheeling away to celebrate. Good luck Darren.

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