On September 7th Alfie Doughty made his National League debut in a 2-1 win for Bromley against Chesterfield in front of 2,110 people.
Fast-forward to Saturday at The Valley where Doughty walked out in front of 18,338 people as the Addicks hosted Sheffield Wednesday in his first Championship start in a game live on Sky Sports.
Despite the rapid and unexpected rise, Doughty has not looked phased in England’s robust second-division, already flashing his exciting potential during his fledgling Charlton career, including a brilliant assist for Macauley Bonne's goal at the weekend.
Reared in the Addicks academy, Doughty joins a long list of graduates to reach the first-team and Academy Manager Steve Avory is ecstatic to see another youngster succeed at The Valley.
“I’m delighted for him because when Alfie was brought back from Bromley it was a difficult moment for him in one sense," Avory explained.
"But as I said to him it’s positive that the first-team manager wants him back and needs him back..
“He’s an academy graduate, but he’s also been here a long time, so it further strengthens the belief we have in our long-term player development model. He’s put a lot of work in over many years, and so have many staff here in working with him through the different ages he’s been here. He didn’t look upon it straight away necessarily as an opportunity, he maybe thought he was just being brought back as cover if need be, but then suddenly it happens.”
After excelling in his first few months of National League football, Doughty was forced into a sudden and intense mindset shift when the winger was recalled on October 26.
Avory explained; “He had to get his head around that initially because he was suddenly thrust back into U23s football where he had to get his game time. I remember we were playing a friendly U23s game the other week and Alfie played. That’s only two weeks ago where he’s playing against Sussex League opposition and then suddenly he’s coming on in a Championship game against Cardiff City - indication of the faith and confidence that the first-team staff and Lee, in particular, have in Alfie being back in the building and if need be, to step up.”
After making his Charlton debut last August against MK Dons in the EFL Cup, the 19-year old got his first extended taste of professional football with Kingstonian last season. Doughty was sent out to Bromley to continue his football education and a phenomenal early portion of the campaign saw him score twice in eight appearances, departing Hayes Lane with Bromley top of the National League standings.
Speaking about his progress at Bromley, Avory said: “From what we saw of him, people throughout the department. Adam [Lawrence], Jason [Euell], myself had seen him, so we’d had quite a number of games covered, and reports on him. Neil Smith the manager likes him very much, I know he’d have him back straight away. So a good experience for him in terms of proving he could do it at that level because that was a step up for him from his loan experience last season at Kingstonian.”
Doughty has been in the Addicks academy, supported by Valley Gold, since U9s. Click here to join Valley Gold.
As the Addicks continue to toil through an unprecedented injury crisis that saw 14 senior players miss Saturday’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, the bright spot of that mass absence is that it has given prolonged opportunities to Doughty and other youngsters.
Avory added: “When the young players get these opportunities because of the circumstances, you’re always hoping and speaking to them about believing in themselves, as we do, and grasping the opportunity. Yes, it’s unfortunate about the injuries, but the circumstances of the transfer window and the loan window means that they can’t add any more players in the squad, so you’ve got to go with what you’ve got and what you believe in. I think Lee has proven, already last season, that he has belief in these players and it’s the case again.”
In addition to the emergence of Doughty, Albie Morgan and Josh Davison are two other young Addicks who have seen increased opportunities this season.
“Albie as well was a case in point, like Alfie. More experienced than Alfie in terms of first-team opportunity and game-time, but nevertheless, this time last month he was at Ebbsfleet and now he’s in the first team. I think he benefited, the reports about him down there were very positive and he’s actually become a leaner individual in terms of his body weight as well, so benefits to his fitness.
“Another one to mention because he’s had the opportunity through circumstance is Josh Davison. A recent signing for us and in a very short space of time he’s found himself in that first-team squad in recent weeks, since West Brom, and training with the first-team on many occasions and trying to fit in some game-time wherever we can because he doesn’t want to miss any of that. He played against Watford U23s last month in that very good win. We all thought he needed the game-time and he did well.”
Doughty hasn’t just impressed the Addicks faithful and Steve Avory, with his peers on the pitch also excited about by his performances so far.
Deji Oshilaja summed up the feeling towards Doughty in the first-team squad, saying: “Alfie’s been excellent. In the three games he’s played, he’s come on and shown what he can do. I also think Josh [Davison] and [James] Vennings have done well as well. We’ve got some great young players in the squad, some great young players at the club. Everyone that’s playing, any position that they’re playing, has given 100% and that’s all you can ask for.”
Alfie Doughty and the other budding Charlton hopefuls will get another chance to shine when Bowyer’s men face off against Middlesborough on Saturday.
Article by Benjy Nurick