With less influx of new signings than perhaps most were expecting, greater opportunities may arise this season for some of our up and coming youngsters.@Scoham
excellently profiles those waiting in the wings and coming through the system.
Last season was one that couldn’t have gone much better.
The first team, managed by Chris Powell went on to win the league comfortably, breaking various records along the way and finally leaving League One behind. Outside of the first team, the U18s made the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup, only losing 3-2 away to Man Utd deep into injury time. In the U18 league, they challenged for the title, and several players were offered professional contracts. Alongside that group are a handful of young pro’s and signings that will form the U21 development squad. It’s a promising crop of players, but in terms of breaking into the first team, they have a difficult season ahead.
Goalkeeper Nick Pope
(20yrs) spent part of last season out on loan with Harrow Borough, of the Ryman Premier League, and later moved up a division, playing for Welling United in the Blue Square South. This season expect more of the same for Pope, a loan spell or two and reserve games in the form of the new U21 league. An injury to Hamer or Sullivan remains his best chance of getting closer to the first team, and even then, Powell may choose to bring a more experienced goalkeeper in on loan. Earlier this year he signed a new two year deal, clearly he’s a player Powell and his staff see breaking through in the longer term.
Left back Cedric Evina
(20) should benefit from the decision to allow clubs to name 7 substitutes – although with Wilson coming in he has further competition for a place on the bench. He’s likely to start in the Carling Capital One Cup game versus Leyton Orient, but realistically it’ll take an injury or suspension for him to regularly play ahead of Rhoys Wiggins. At 20 years old he’s still eligible to play in the U21 league, though Powell may consider sending him on a short term loan. First year pro and fellow left back Morgan Fox
(18) may have to go out on loan for the first time if Evina plays regularly for the U21 side.
It would have come as no surprise if Yado Mambo
(20) had been released this summer. However, after a successful loan spell in the Blue Square Premier with Ebbsfleet, he did enough to win another contract. If a centre back isn’t signed by the time we play Leyton Orient, we can expect Mambo to start in that game. After a cup appearance or two, Mambo will almost certainly go out on loan, as he has done for much of the last three seasons. This season he’ll need to prove he can step up to the Football League if he’s going to progress any further at the club. A long term loan deal for Mambo would give centre backs Semi Ajayi
(18) and Harry Osborne
(18) the chance to play regular football for the U21s.
Of the young defenders, Jordan Cousins
(18) is probably the closest to making his first team debut. At best, this is more likely to be an appearance off the bench in the Capital One Cup, or at the end of the season if there’s nothing to play for. He’ll be playing regularly for the U21s, and perhaps go out on loan in the Blue Square Premier.
After an impressive 2010/11 season ending with first team appearances and a pro contract, Callum Harriott
(18) had hoped to push on last season. Unfortunately he found that difficult, with competition for a place in the U18s coming from Tobi Sho-Silva, Ade Azeez and Joe Pigott (18), who all went on to win pro deals last season. He’ll be up against that same competition, and more, in the U21s.
New signing Jordan Cook
(22) has proven himself in League One and offers versatility. As the current squad stands, he will be in and around the first team. His best chance of regular first team football may come through Powell sticking with the 4-3-3 formation that he is currently experimenting with. He’ll be up against likes of Wright-Phillips, Haynes, Wagstaff and Green, who like Cook, need to prove themselves at Championship level. In a 4-4-2 he will probably provide cover for captain Johnnie Jackson, who is unlikely to lose his place in the side.
In a similar position to Yado Mambo, Ruben Bover
(20) won a 1 year contract extension, but needs to push on if he’s going to make it at the club. Last season he spent the last few months of the season in the Spanish third tier, rather than the more physical English non-league. He may feature in the league cup, as he did last year, but it’ll take a few injuries and suspensions if he’s going to make the bench for league games. He’ll be a regular in the U21 team, but whether he goes out on loan will depend on the level of any clubs interested and their style of play. Powell will want any loan club to get the best out of him, and to do that it’ll need to be a team that play a passing game. Perhaps playing under Mark Robson at Barnet in League Two will be an option for the likes of Bover?Bradley Jordan
(18), like Ben Davisson a year ago, was offered a 6 month contract and his main concern will be to secure a longer deal. Diego Poyet (17) will be looking to feature for the U21s this season, despite being eligible for the U18s for another season.
Up front, Michael Smith
(20) looks the young player with the potential to make an impact on the first team this season. With Powell looking to sell Hayes and Clarke, Smith is currently the only player that offers something similar to Yann Kermorgant. After a short but impressive loan spell in League Two with Accrington Stanley earlier this year, and a decent start to pre-season, Smith could well add to his single substitute appearance for Charlton this season. If a striker is signed in the next month or so expect Smith to go out on loan in League Two, perhaps League One at a push, where he will hopefully build on his time at Accrington. If Powell is unable to bring in a striker, Smith has a reasonable chance of making the bench. Ade Azeez
(18) will aim to establish himself as a regular in the U21 side and continue his goalscoring form of last season. Tobi Sho-Silva
(17) is a year younger so may feature for both the U21s and U18s. Unlike Azeez and Sho-Silva, who can play across a front three, Joe Pigott
(18) tends to play as the central attacker. He may well be hoping Michael Smith goes out on loan, giving him more opportunities to start for the U21s. For the three young strikers, any time out on loan is likely to be in non-league.
Of the new U18s to look out for, @liamhappe
suggested earlier this year we should keep an eye on strikers/wingers Tomi Adeloye
and Ellis Brown
, right back Levander Pyke
and left back/central midfielder Tareiq Holmes-Dennis
– who impressed in the FA Youth Cup run, stepping up from the U16s.