It has been a busy start to the season for all at the Charlton Athletic academy and with plenty of questions about the academy, the club wanted to update supporters.
Men’s first team
Since the start of the season 16 academy graduates have represented the men’s first team, with Richard Chin, Aaron Henry and Miles Leaburn all making their first league appearances.
Academy Director Steve Avory said: “It has been really pleasing seeing players getting their opportunity in the first team. This club has always had a good pathway for players to come through our academy and represent the first team. In Ben Garner we have a manager who has a background in academy football and wants to work with us to develop players for the team.
“Miles Leaburn has been very impactful, scoring five goals, and he has really come on a lot in this calendar year. In addition to him, it has been great to see the likes of Charles Clayden and Aaron Henry building on previous season appearances.
“Our aim is to give players the right tools, on and off the pitch, to play senior football and we take immense pride when we see them doing so well for Charlton.”
Category One application
Last season the club applied for Category One status. Unfortunately the application was unsuccessful.
Owner and CEO Thomas Sandgaard said: “We were obviously disappointed our application for Category One status was unsuccessful. A lot of people put in a lot of time and effort to put ourselves in a good position with our application. I’d like to praise all the academy staff who worked tirelessly for us to submit our application. While we didn’t agree with the decision, we must respect it.
“The academy is a key part of this club and part of our ambition moving forwards is to become a Category One academy. We are reviewing our options at this stage and will be looking to make another attempt at becoming a Category One academy as soon as possible.”
Senior Professional Development Phase
Hamza Serrar was appointed as Senior Professional Development Phase Lead Coach, with a key responsibility of overseeing the technical and tactical development of PDP players aged 17-21 as part of an academy staffing restructure in August when Anthony Hayes moved to the first team coaching set-up.
Avory said: “We’ve been really pleased with the way our teams have started the season. The U18s have been superb with the standout result being an 8-1 win against Liverpool in the Premier League Cup. The team have won six of their opening seven matches of the season and been very impressive in the process. Their start to the season is a credit to the hard work of our coaches Hamza, Dan Senda and his assistant Jason Pearce, who has begun his new career in coaching and we are delighted to have him on board in the academy.
“Our U21s have started the season well too and currently sit third in Professional Development League 2 - South, which we are particularly pleased with, considering it is a predominantly U20 group."
Youth Development Phase
It has been another successful period for the club’s Youth Development Phase, with Charlton teams winning the Foxes Cup (U12s) and Northern Ireland Super Cup (U15s).
Avory said: “The work being done with our younger teams under the stewardship of Dave Chatwin has been excellent. The successes at the Foxes Cup and the Northern Ireland Super Cup are something our academy staff and players can be proud of but also operate as good learning and development opportunities for our young players. Our youngsters at the Youth Development Phase are continuing to do well and we’re really impressed by the quality of players coming through. The future continues to be bright.”
As part of the club’s target of moving closer to a break-even status over the next two seasons, there have been adjustments to budgets across all departments at the club.
Sandgaard said: “The academy is a key asset to our club. Just this season we’ve seen players come through our academy and impact the men’s first team. Throughout the years the club has also benefitted from player sales.
“Our academy costs millions of pounds a year to run and we see a real benefit to that spend. Whilst there have been adjustments in the budget at the academy, they are a very small percentage compared to what we spend on the academy. The changes have been made in conjunction with those running the academy to minimalise any impact.”
Avory said: “Throughout my time here there have been increases and decreases in the budget and it is something you have to manage. I have been pleased that the changes we’ve made in the academy this summer haven’t resulted in us making staffing cuts.
“As the productivity numbers show, we have an excellent academy here, with excellent staff, working hard and delivering excellent results. The adjustments in the budget don’t change that and, as have been shown by our progress this season, our focus is continuing to develop players to get to our men’s first team and represent Charlton Athletic.”
Like many departments at the club, the academy have been impacted by the challenges faced by the club’s kit supplier Castore.
It means some academy teams are still playing or training in last season’s kit. The club are working hard with Castore to get everything in place as soon as possible.
A Castore statement said: “Due to supply chain issues off the back of the pandemic, all sportswear retail partners have experienced delays in clothing and accessories. However, Castore is working tirelessly to get desired product to Charlton as soon as possible.”
Charlton fans can support the academy by signing up to the Valley Gold scheme. Valley Gold enables fans to support the club’s academy in unearthing the talents of tomorrow, as well as giving them the chance to win cash prizes.
For more information on how you can become a Valley Gold member, please click here.