Having featured in Charlton's trip to The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium to take on AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Trophy last weekend, Charlie Barker earned himself another trip with the first team when they travelled up to Swindon Town.
Barker took his opportunity with both hands, putting in a fantastic defensive display and also grabbing a goal as the Addicks fired themselves into the second round of the Carabao Cup.
Lead Professional Development Anthony Hayes is one figure that has watched Barker's progress from the start with the defender having joined Charlton at U15s level.
"Charlie came to us at U15 level in pre-season in what was my second year at the club. He came, from a non-League background and when his dad [Richie Barker] was the assistant manager, he came on trial and impressed and was then signed.
"He joined on a two-year scholarship and is just starting the second year of that now and now he finds himself in and around the first team."
Despite being in the age bracket below, Hayes was able to see Barker's development early on in training.
"With how the programme worked a lot of the 15s and 16s would train together in the evening. So between myself and Rhys Williams, we were probably Charlie’s first port-of-call when he came in. Then when he was signed up for the U15s season he already had experience with the U16s.
"He then broke into the youth team as an U16 and since then has gone on to be a mainstay in the U18s. He was made captain of the scholars at the start of this season but that was obviously short-lived at present because of his involvement with the first team, which is great to see."
Hayes continued, explaining the decision behind selecting him as captain.
"He was made captain because of one; his mentality, I think he’s got a wonderful temperament which is why I wasn't too surprised when the decision was made to play him on Tuesday. I remember he played in the third round in the FA Youth Cup away at Preston North End as a 15-year-old playing the full 90 and extra time. Sometimes as a young player the occasion can get the better of them but he doesn’t let anything phase him.
"Then two; on the pitch he has a real warriors mentality. He loves defending and protecting the goal but he’s got a nice way of encouraging high standards and demanding the same of his teammates. He’s gained the respect since he’s been here because he’s done things properly. He comes in and trains hard. It doesn’t surprise me how his development has taken a real upward curve in the last week or so."
During the game at the County Ground, Barker put in a fine performance showcasing his cool-headedness while also using that same head to notch the Addicks' second. Hayes shared his delight in the youngster making such an impact as did the rest of the academy.
"I was listening to the game on Valley Pass and I had Soccer Saturday on as well. I saw his name come up on Sky and I thought that’s got to be a mistake! But listen, it was wonderful for him and I spoke to him afterwards. The goal was a bonus and to hear again the assuredness and the composure and the ability defensively, it's really positive to see for everyone at the academy."
In summary, Hayes spoke only highly of Barker as he will be looking to continue to feature for the first team.
"I think he’s a great kid from a really really good footballing family. He had some tough times this year in 2020 with his uncle [Chris Barker] passing, but the last week would have been a very proud moment for him and his family.
"I’ve got no doubt that he won’t get too ahead of himself or get carried away. His family won’t let him do that. Both the academy and the staff from the first team won’t let him do that. He’ll have his own ambitions in trying to stay over with them for as long as he can."