Jason Pearce's U18s side are looking forward to a strong test when they take on their Sheffield United counterparts in Friday's Professional Development League 2 play-off semi-final at The Valley (5pm KO BST).
After being beaten by the same opponents in last year’s final, in part due to a controversial penalty decision, Pearce explained how the team were itching to set the record straight on this occasion.
He said: “We all know we lost in the final last year. It’s going to be a tough game because they’re a good team. We’ve watched them a lot and it’s going to be a tough test for us, but one that we’re going to be ready for for sure.
“We’re going to go in with the confidence we’ve had all season and I think the players want that revenge, they want that battle.
"We’re at home, we’re at The Valley so hopefully a few fans can come and watch to support the lads and we can get the job done and get to a final.”
Speaking after the young Addicks were presented with their league trophy after winning the PDL2-South title, Pearce said how much he had enjoyed coaching the side in his first season.
“Speaking to a lot of the coaches around the place that have worked with them they say it’s a very special group," he explained. "I’m very fortunate to be able to work with them and to help them on their way and it’ll be a fantastic opportunity for the fans to come and see them on The Valley pitch and really support them and they can then put in a performance that they can be proud of.”
Numerous players have been used by the various academy sides throughout the season, with some players progressing through the age groups and some going out on loan, which delighted former club captain Pearce.
He said: “It goes to show the strength in depth of the academy. We’re having to use some of the U16s, they’ve been coming up and doing really well. We’ve been losing players to the U21s and rightly so. For me, that’s the most important thing that they’re progressing and getting opportunities to play in the U21s or the first team so it’s fantastic for them.
“If they can get opportunities to do that and we can still win this and they learn how to win those games then it’s the best of both worlds. It’s been a great learning curve for the players and I’m delighted for them.”
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 Gregg Baxter; photography by Sam Wheatland)