Nigel Adkins has made it abundantly clear that he will be looking to Charlton’s academy to produce yet more stars of the future; thankfully for him, there’s a bumper class of youngsters hoping to benefit from their new boss’ faith in youth.
It’s no secret that Charlton’s academy produces some wonderful footballers, and no more so than in recent times. Since 2015, countless academy products have earned their stripes for Jason Euell’s under-23s and forced their way into the first-team before (sadly for us) moving on to bigger and better things. Joe Gomez, Karlan Grant, Ezri Konsa, Ademola Lookman and Joe Aribo are all now Premier League, England or European Football regulars, while numerous others ply their trade in The Championship.
Adkins has his own track record of kickstarting the careers of promising youngsters, and was quick to point out that he gave James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw their first professional starts while at Southampton – both of whom have been two of the Premier League’s top performers this season.
Below we take a look at some of the current Charlton crop looking to follow in the footsteps of all the players mentioned above, although fans will be hoping some might end up playing their Premier League football at The Valley rather than elsewhere.
This may be a fairly obvious place to start, but it’s easy to forget that Albie Morgan has just turned 21 years old. The creative midfielder has been in and out of the side for three seasons now, but has never been given an extended run in the starting eleven to show exactly what he can do. In his 17 starts and 11 substitute appearances in all competitions this season, the academy product has scored twice and assisted a further four goals. Increased goal involvements is probably where Morgan needs to improve in order to become a regular starter for the club, but if Adkins shows faith in him then don’t be surprised if Albie proves himself to be more than capable.
Another youngster who has been a regular feature in the first team squad this season is Ashley Maynard-Brewer. The 21-year-old Australian has been understudy to Ben Amos all season long, despite featuring in just four cup matches. It says a lot about Maynard-Brewer’s pedigree that when Dillon Phillips left for Cardiff City last summer, Bowyer et al didn’t see the need to search for a new number two – the perfect candidate was already at the club. With Amos’s form starting to slip in the last month or two there have been shouts for his deputy to be given a run in the side. It may be too soon for that this season, but Maynard-Brewer looks a sure thing to be Charlton’s number one at some point in the future.
Charlie Barker burst onto the scene at the start of the season as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, filling in at centre-half before Charlton had had a chance to do their summer business. The youngster performed admirably, and in total has played in six cup and three league games for the first team this year. He has since turned 18 and is currently having to settle for a place on the bench for the under-23s, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Central defence is one of the hardest positions to play at such a young age – even Gomez and Konsa played much of their football for Charlton at right-back, despite it being clear they were natural centre-halves. It may be another year or two until fans see Barker back in the senior squad, but he’s already shown there’s much to be excited about.
At just 17 Aaron Henry is the youngest player on this list, but he’s also potentially the most exciting. Charlton fans got their first glimpse of Henry’s talent when he featured in all three Papa John’s Trophy fixtures earlier this season. He’s been a regular for Jason Euell’s under-23s, scoring four goals, while also showing he’s a class above the rest during his own age group’s FA Youth Cup campaign. Henry possesses a natural passing ability, with videos of his assists regularly attracting much attention on Charlton’s social media channels. If Adkins doesn’t manage to perform the miracle of getting Charlton promoted this season, we could see a lot more of the youngster in the first team next year.
Junior Quitirna is another academy product who made his first-team debut in the Papa John’s trophy this season. The midfielder from Guinea-Bissau has been a regular in Jason Euell’s side this year, and at 20 years of age it may not be too long before he is knocking on Adkins’s door for a place in the senior squad. A goalscoring midfielder, he’s chipped in with five goals for the under-23s so far this campaign, including a sumptuous free-kick against Cardiff back in January. Quitirna was stabbed in the leg at a party back in 2015 and hasn’t attended one since, instead choosing to focus on his football career, so he clearly has the desire and dedication to succeed. From what we’ve seen so far, he may well have the talent to match.