Academy Director Steve Avory has reflected on a busy first few months of the 2023/24 campaign.
The Addicks' esteemed academy continues to deliver, with no fewer than 14 academy products featuring for the men's first-team already this season.
On players graduating to the men's first-team...
“The last game I was at was the Exeter game, and when I looked at the first team squad on the back of the programme I believe around 33 per cent of the squad consists of academy graduates.
“I am delighted that we have had more young players breaking through this season - more than I would have reasonably expected. I feel Karoy Anderson and Nathan Asiimwe, in particular, deserve a mention because they are only just fresh out of their scholarship in their U19 year. For them to have established themselves in the way they have with consistent performances has been really pleasing.
“It is good to see Tyreece Campbell establishing himself and holding down his place, even when he does not start he comes on and makes an impact and the same with Miles Leaburn. Miles’ return from injury has been a great boost to the squad and the crowd recognise that. Every time I am at The Valley I can see just how much they love Miles."
On working with Michael Appleton...
“We are experiencing a change in management and myself and other academy staff are getting to know Michael Appleton and Richard O’Donnell. We wish them all the very best at the club and they have certainly made a solid start to life at Charlton. They have both been very accommodating and vice versa. We will do all we can at the academy to support them with the quality of player that can make that first team step.
"I believe Michael already recognises we have a strong talent pool from working with the likes of Miles, Tyreece, Karoy and Nathan. It has also been pleasing to see how he wants to integrate other academy players into first team training and this happens quite regularly to those that deserve to go there on merit.
“In my time at Charlton, I have always felt confident about the potential and the ability of players coming through the development programme and across the immediate supply line in the U17-U21 group. My belief is as strong as ever now, but they have to impress the new Head Coach consistently with their performances. They are being watched every day and have to apply the best version of themselves every day."
On Karoy Anderson being called up to Jamaica's senior squad...
“To be recognised and be called up to the senior squad, particularly when I look at some of the names there, is a fantastic boost for everyone. It was great to see Karoy come in both of the games against Grenada and Haiti and hopefully there are many more caps to come for him. We are all very proud of what he has achieved so far.”
On academy graduates such as Alfie Doughty and Mason Burstow making their Premier League debuts...
“It does fill you with great pride. I have followed Alfie's week-by-week performances, seeing how many starts and minutes he is getting for Luton. I think what it shows is that we have never changed our mentality in terms of identifying players who we feel are of the elite level and can possibly go onto the Premier League.
"We do not have the mentality of, 'he’ll do for League One’ - that is not our thinking. Our thinking at the academy is to recruit the best talent available, recruit talent with potential and then our job is to develop and retain them over how many years it might take. For years I have been following the likes of Joe Gomez, Ezri Konsa and Jonjo Shelvey but we have got others joining them now in the Premier League.”
On the club’s U21s...
“They are young in terms of the starting 11 or the squad, due to a number of those U21s being in the first team squad. On Monday when we played Norwich it was more of an U19 team rather than the true U21 team.
"What we have been conscious of since pre-season is that we needed to push players from that successful U18 group last season who needed that challenge of going into U21 football: Henry Rylah, Josh Laqeretabua, Patrick Casey, Kai Enslin and Keenan Gough. Five players that we consciously put into that U21 squad for pre-season and most of those have played most weeks for the U21s.
“Performances have always been quite good without getting some of the early results, but what has pleased me in recent weeks is that they have ground out some results and wins which gives them the confidence as well. I am pleased that results have been picked up from a young U21 squad.”
On academy players out on loan...
“Ollie Hobden went out on loan to Chatham Town. We thought that would be a good first senior move for him and he did so well in the first month. I went to watch him myself a couple of times and they wanted to extend that loan.
"He has benefited from that experience with men’s football. I did not have much doubt he would because he is quite a physical profile and has got the ability for sure. He has proven to me playing at Isthmian Premier Division level that he can play higher and that is something to consider for the future.
“Then we have Matt Dench who only recently went to represent Australia in the Olympic qualifiers all the way out in Tajikistan. That was off the back of being injured as well and only just getting back to full fitness. He comes back from there and plays one game for the U21s down at Bournemouth and then the opportunity to go on loan to Billericay came. I thought that was something worth doing for him. He has now played three games in the last week for Billericay and done very well, scoring a goal and helping them to the fourth and final qualifying round of the FA Cup. That in itself is a good experience to play in that atmosphere.
"Jeremy Santos went back on loan to Tonbridge Angels, where he had a wonderful time last year. He did really well and they wanted him back. Sadly, in his first game against Dartford he came off with a bad knee injury that is going to keep him out for a few months. We have also been looking at other loans with some of these players in this squad, particularly the older ones, this side of Christmas.
“Daniel Kanu has been with the first team since the first day of pre-season, as had Zach Mitchell. Zach has had a wonderful opportunity presented to him at Colchester. Having watched him out there and talking to him, that loan is going well - Ben Garner is pleased with him. Dan has gone out on loan to Southend; he has got that move to National League level and it ia chance to prove himself at senior level in the best league outside the EFL.
“I have been following Aaron Henry’s game minutes. He felt it was the right thing for him to do at the time and so did the management. That in itself will be a good experience for Aaron as Crawley themselves are in a good position in the league and he is in a team that is challenging in the division. That is why competition for places is good as well.”
On the club’s U18s...
“They are unbeaten and have made a really promising start to the season, winning four and drawing two in the league and also winning their first league cup game as well. Jason Pearce has put a hell of a lot of work in with the U18s, as has Kevin James who is assisting him.
"Jason has had a sort of dual-role at times with what has happened at first team level - he has been contributing to that and this to some degree with warm-ups on matchday. His main focus is to get this U18s squad up to the level of performance that they have been in recent years. It has been quite promising so far. Again, with a predominantly young U18 squad and starting 11 each week as four or five of them have been with the U21s. It shows that our current first-year intake, the ones who came in off the back of their U16 year, have settled in well. We are optimistic in our chances within the league and so forth."
On the U14s and U15s' participation at overseas tournaments thanks to Valley Gold...
“I decided this summer that I would get myself out to a couple of tournaments, which I have missed going to with some of the schoolboys over the past three years. I went out to Northern Ireland where the U15s were competing in the Super Cup. We did not do as well as last year and did not quite make the semi-final, but what you have to reflect upon is the overall experience. The competition demands you to play against some good football teams, as well as teams that might not play the same pure style of football but are still very competitive. It is always a great experience and an excellent competition, and one I regard highly.
"We also went to Madrid again for the Madrid Cup for the second year running. We finished fifth last year out of 24 teams and we were invited back again this year. This tournament really is a first class tournament, particularly when you look at the top teams that are out there - Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid, Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Chelsea. We set our standards last year and it was a benchmark for the team who went out there this year. I really enjoyed going out there and watching them compete against the likes of Real Madrid where they got a deserved 0-0 draw, we beat Inter Milan 3-0 and played Atlético Madrid in the fifth/sixth play-off only to lose on penalties. It was a fantastic experience and within two days of arriving back here the organisers have invited us again.”
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.
(Article by Alex Forrest)