Academy Director Steve Avory was full of pride watching Charlton youth product Jeremy Sarmiento take to the biggest stage in world football on Sunday.
The 20-year-old winger, who joined the club’s academy as an U12, came on as a 68th-minute substitute during Ecuador’s 2-0 triumph over hosts Qatar in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup.
“It’s great to see players on the world stage like Jeremy is and seeing him come on to the pitch,” beamed Avory. “It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was, along with the other coaches here, working with him.
“I remember him coming through the gate when he was a schoolboy; it just feels like it was only last week that Jeremy was here and all of a sudden he’s now playing in a World Cup.
“A World Cup only comes around every four years and four years ago he would have been a schoolboy!”
Avory says Sarmiento’s natural talent was there for all to see from the outset.
“As soon as he first came in for us we identified him as a very talented young player. The thing that struck you about him is that he loved being on the ball.
“He had wonderful ability to go past players one-v-one, he could manipulate the ball so cleverly and he could dribble too. He just loved attacking and you could see this young prospect there. Every time he got on the ball you thought something exciting, something wow, was going to happen.
“He was a lovely lad to work with and he was very receptive to the coaching that we were doing with him. You had to allow him to do his own stuff on the ball because he was one of those players who does things that you don’t really coach.
“He had a terrific work ethic, I have to say, and he always needed to be challenged by playing in an older age group, for sure. I remember as a young U14 he went to the Udam Trophy in Sheffield with our U15s and we got to the final. He then needed to be challenged by going and playing for the U16s and then as an U16 he was playing for the U18s and also the U21s as much as he could."
The former England youth international joined Benfica in 2018 before signing for Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer of 2021.
“We certainly wanted to take him on as a scholar, but he chose other routes."
Sarmiento and Ecuador are back in World Cup action on Thursday when they take on the Netherlands, live on ITV One (4pm KO GMT).
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 James Target)