Academy Director Steve Avory expressed his pride after seeing academy graduate Ashley Maynard-Brewer pen a new long-term contract with Charlton.
The goalkeeper arrived at the club as a 14-year-old, joining from Western Australian outfit ECU Joondalup after being recommended to the club's then-chief scout Phil Chapple by former Addick Andy Petterson.
“My first knowledge of Ash was when he was recommended to us as a schoolboy," recalled Avory. "We recognised from his very first visit that he was a very talented, young goalkeeper who had plenty of growth in him.
“Something that struck me about him in the early days was how brave he was because you need to be and although his bravery has cost him a few concussions along the way, goalkeepers have to have that in their mentality and you could see that straight away.
“It’s a big step for a young boy to make leaving his own country so very far away and only going home maybe a couple times a year, but Ash is a good learner and just a generally good, all-round character who was well-respected by the other scholars in the group.
“His progression initially was with goalkeeper coach Lee Smelt and that was so important. That relationship worked very well and Lee and the other goalkeeper coaches that have worked with us since have had a significant influence on his career.
“The journey to becoming a first team goalkeeper, as he is now at the club, is a much longer journey than it is with an outfield player. It’s important that goalkeepers build up experience over a period of time through various loans and that’s what’s happened with Ash.”
The stopper began his loan journey during the 2018/19 campaign with National League South sides Chelmsford City and has since taken in valuable loan spells with Hampton & Richmond Borough, Dulwich Hamlet, Dover Athletic, Ross County and Gillingham.
“I've heard him speak about those loan experiences with so much emphasis on the value it's given him to mature as a goalkeeper in senior football and each one seems to be gradual," Avory said. "Ash’s fourth loan was at Dover Athletic and I remember Andy Hessenthaler speaking so glowingly about him and that would've been at National League level of course.
“So, he's gradually stepped up a level over the last three to four years and the loan with Ross County in the Scottish Premier League was really significant as he picked up some valuable experience in development.”
Maynard-Brewer has seized his opportunity in the first team this term in what has been a remarkable breakout campaign for the Australian at The Valley.
“Those moments come along don’t they where you have to grab that opportunity and, again referring to Ashley’s mentality, he's got that in him to recognise ‘this is a key moment for me’. He’s had his fair share of bad luck with the injuries he's had. It’s so important you have to deal with adversity and deal with those low points and Ash has had a few of those for sure, but they've stood him in good stead and now he’s got his first team opportunity he’s grabbing it.”
The goalkeeper's penalty shootout heroics helped the Addicks edge past high-flying Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion to book a Carabao Cup quarter-final tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
“I was at both games and I remember thinking to myself, ‘this is a significant step on a journey that’s been eight years in the making’," explained Avory. "When you're doing it in a setting such as Old Trafford and in a Carabao Cup tie that goes to penalties with Brighton, it’s fantastic.
“I'm so pleased for him because he is such a well-rounded individual and he's come through the journey here. I know he fully respects and appreciates everything that's been done for him here, whether it be with the coaching staff, anyone in the department and of course people like Tracey Leaburn who have been so important to him over the years as well.”
The Addicks take on Accrington Stanley at The Valley on Saturday (3pm KO GMT). Click here to purchase your tickets.
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.
(Transcription by Jayden Binns-Frame)