By Richard Cawley
Jamie Mascoll has gone from being on the catering staff at The Valley to tasting first-team football at Charlton Athletic.
The 20-year-old had been on Dulwich Hamlet’s books before he joined the Addicks in the summer after an extended trial spell.
And Mascoll went on to make his competitive debut for the South Londoners at home against Fulham under-23s in November in the EFL Trophy. He also started against Portsmouth and Swansea in the same competition.
Mascoll, raised in Catford, has since signed a contract extension until the summer of 2019.
“About Christmas time I was told they were taking up an option which was amazing news for me – I’d left a job to chase the dream,” he said. “A year is not a long time in football but I didn’t expect to hear anything until the back end of the season.
“To hear before Christmas and tell my family, that was special to me. I had the security of knowing I am coming back to pre-season with Charlton, trying to get in the first-team.
“I worked at Charlton when I was 16 or 17. It was my first ever job, working on a match day as part of the catering staff. To me it is quite a big thing, I used to work there and now I play in front of people.
“Before I came here I worked for Towergate Insurance. It was 9am-5pm, I’d get home and then train or go to the gym – get home late.
“There can be frustration in football, especially when you are not playing. I’ve been frustrated at Charlton and wanted more. But one thing my dad always says to me is ‘you don’t want to go back to working again’. An office job is not what I want to do.
“It makes you a lot hungrier. I’m not saying I’m hungrier than any boy at Charlton. But I know how determined it made me – to be working and see people I know playing football.”
Mascoll had a trial with Charlton at the age of 16 and also trained for a period with Millwall. He was brought into the Addicks’ fold at that time after scoring a hat-trick playing for London Counties.
“I was at number 10 back then,” he said. “One of the scouts there took me to Charlton.
“One of the bits of feedback I got at the time – I’m not sure if it was completely correct – is they already had two scholars that were number 10s in Kasey Palmer and Alex Kelly. It could’ve just been an easy way to let me down.
“I’m good friends with Joe Gomez, Josh Umerah and Shawn McCoulsky – he came through Dulwich and I saw him make the jump into the professional game a season or two before myself.
“Surrounding yourself with people who are hungry as well and have the same dream also helps. There are times you don’t want to do something and they’ll get you to the gym or do extra work.
“Whatever programmes they were doing before pre-seasons I would do them as well, to get an extra edge.”
Mascoll joined Dulwich Hamlet’s highly-respected Aspire Academy at 16. He is just the latest in a string of youngsters from that set-up to get a shot later in life in the Football League.
“It gives you hope, it shows there is not just one way. A lot of people think you have to be at a club from a young age and grow through the system, that’s the way I saw it. I had a lot of friends who were pros and I wasn’t.
“But then you hear the stories about Michael Chambers and Quade Taylor [both at Dulwich who joined Crystal Palace] and there is another route in. I feel it is a better route for me. Playing non-league and working with Gavin Rose and Junior Kadi has developed me as a character. Education is a big thing at Dulwich Hamlet too, they keep you grounded.”
Mascoll was converted from a striker to a left-sided defender or wing-back while on Dulwich’s books. And he was one of the youngsters to emerge with credit from Charlton’s group games in the EFL Trophy.
“I know the competition gets criticised but for us young players it is special,” said Mascoll. “I signed in August and to play what is considered a first professional game three months later felt unreal.
“Playing at The Valley in front of however many fans – a little or lot – still meant a lot.
“Playing a game with my name on the back of my shirt has been a dream all my life. I was around the first-team beforehand and in the changing room – it develops you a lot. It’s one of the best things that has happened to me.”
The next target for Mascoll is to gain greater involvement. Jay Dasilva, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, has been a virtual ever-present this season.
“At Charlton there is a big opportunity – they play young players,” said the South Londoner. “We can see the success stories like Joe Gomez and Ademola Lookman. They’ve gone up to the Premier League. It shows it is possible.
“Jay is an unbelievable player. I watch him play and train. I know he is younger than me but I’m learning of people like that and Johnnie Jackson. Jay could be here next season, but who knows?”
Mascoll will definitely remain at Charlton after signing on the dotted line. That taste of senior football has made him hungry for more.