Youngsters have a chance to impress for Charlton

The lack of new signings, as Charlton owner Roland Duchatelet tries to sell the club, presents an opportunity for some.

Midfielder George Lapslie made his league debut for the Addicks in the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland last weekend and played most of the 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury this Saturday.

Albie Morgan also came on as a half-time sub for Mark Marshall in that win.

There are also other youngsters waiting in the wings to pounce if other places become available.

This is all good for academy products to see – that there is still a pathway into the first team.

Joe Gomez, Ademola Lookman and Jonjo Shelvey showed the way, with big money moves, all to Merseyside.

Gomez joined Liverpool for £3.5million three years ago and only didn’t play for England in this summer’s World Cup because of injury.

Lookman joined Everton for £7.5m in January 2017.

Shelvey joined Liverpool for £1.7m in 2010 and has since changed hands for up to £20m – he is now at Newcastle – and played six times for England.

Nick Pope is another exceptional product of The Valley system, though he came to the club later on in his development.

Academies tend, though, to go through less productive patches. But that has not happened at The Valley.

Academy manager Steve Avory stresses that Duchatelet has always backed his youth system to produce players for the first team.

“This owner has always invested in the development side of the club,” he said. “I cannot complain about that.

“There has always been a belief in the academy as a business model. And fortunately, we have been able to produce results.

“In the current climate, that has presented further opportunities. We have looked at four individuals (see panel). I am not saying they will break in and stay there.

“All I am saying is that Lee Bowyer liked them and he has liked what they did – and in the case of George, he has thrown him in.

“We are proud to have another player make his first league start. George deserves it. It might have come sooner than he expected. He was looking to make his mark this season but probably not this early.

“The opportunity arose because of the injury to Jake Foster-Caskey.”

Avory has run the academy for 18 years, and knows what he is looking for in a youngster.

“I am looking for comfort on the ball,” he said. “If you are looking at a 10-year-old, there is not going to be a lot of tactical awareness.

“The mental side is something that has to be instilled in them, through the environment.

“Our skill is long-term player development. If we get it right, with boys coming in young and staying over a long period of time, working week in week out, players can progress.”

Avory is reluctant to take any credit for Pope, though. The former Bury Town stopper joined Premier League Burnley two years ago for an undisclosed fee and went with England to the World Cup in Russia last summer.

“I am delighted for him,” he said. “He was a late starter. He did not come to us until he was in the under-19s. He is an example of someone who did not come through the academy.

“Ben Roberts saw him and liked him and worked with him and did a lot of development work with him. I didn’t work with him a lot, apart from when he was playing for the under-21s.

“Then he got the opportunity to go to another club. He has made the most of it.”

That is what makes Charlton fans proud. And even if they no longer get to see the likes of Gomez, Lookman, Shelvey and Pope every week, they can at least feel they have helped contribute to where those stars are playing now.”

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