Charlton Athletic U15s will take on Manchester United tomorrow (5pm) in the SuperCupNI. The Addicks have already laid down a marker in the competition, beating County Fermanagh 5-0 in their opening game.
The competition, formerly known as the Milk Cup NI, is an international youth tournament which sees youth sides from across the globe come together in Northern Ireland. The tournament sees a representative club from each of Northern Ireland’s counties participate.
We spoke to Rhys Williams, Lead Youth and Development Phase coach from U12 to U16 level, who gave us an insight into how the team is faring and how supporters can tune in to watch the Addicks as they take on the Red Devils.
Speaking after the impressive 5-0 win over County Fermanagh, Williams was pleased to start off in the competition on the right foot.
“It was important to get off to a good start in this competition,” he said.
“It was a bit of a banana skin, in a way, because the county sides can be quite good and tough to play against. They can be aggressive, but we played really well and started on that very positive note with a good performance.”
The result puts Charlton in good stead as the tournament gets underway.
“Effectively we’re second out of the 22 teams at the moment, Rangers beat a side 6-0 so we’re second on goal difference.
“It’s one group of 22 so you’ve got to get as many points as you can from three games to go into the top four. So you just accrue as many points and score as many goals as you can and everybody will be divided up accordingly at the end.”
Charlton face Colina on Tuesday at 12pm and Williams is hoping to carry over the momentum from their big win and move a step closer to making the top four.
“Six teams won their first game and a few drew, so if we can win today, when we play a Chilean side called Colina who drew with an Irish side 0-0, and we can get six points then we could be pretty close to getting into the top four already. It’s a massive day for us today really to keep going.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a great day today and see where it places us in the tournament. The focus is very much on trying to win today and going on tomorrow into what would be a wonderful third game really.”
After their game against Colina, Charlton turn their attention to Manchester United
“Then tomorrow is the third random game against United and BBC Ireland are going to be covering the tournament on TV.
“Northern Ireland have massive support for the likes of Rangers and Manchester United, it’s quite a big deal and so the crowd is likely to be fairly big as well. So, it’ll be a really good experience for them. United drew yesterday with an American side. It’s a silly cliché to say really but we’re here taking it a day at a time. So if we can get ourselves in a good place today and some other results go our way we could be looking at a spot in the top four.
“Obviously, we want to win every game and today we’ve got to be knuckling down and we can’t be thinking about tomorrow. So hopefully we can get through today with a performance that can take us forward.”
The Addicks struggled in last year’s tournament, so Williams is pleased with the early victory so far, citing the experience last time round as an incentive to perform well this time round.
“We came here last year and had a hard time. There’s about half a dozen lads who were here last year, and they know how tough it is. So that’s given us a bit of inspiration to make it a success. We learnt a lot from last year and so that’s changed how we approached the tournament this year.
“So this year so far we’re obviously confident but determined and there’s a good focus from the lads on what we’re trying to achieve. We’re here to try and win it, of course we are.”
Aside from the footballing aspect, Williams explains that experiences like this are important in getting to know the individuals and teaching them life skills.
“It’s a good learning experience for the boys having to eat well, sleep well, relax at the right times and behave in an impeccable way around the hotel. So there’s lots of life skills as well as on the football part. And it’s good for us to get closer to the players and get to know them in a more detailed way. It allows us to work out how they think under pressure and how they feel, who gets nervous and who doesn’t get nervous.”
The trip has been made a possibility with the support of Valley Gold. Valley Gold enables supporters to aid in the unearthing of talent from the Charlton Athletic academy.
“We want to thank Valley Gold for funding us, we couldn’t do it without them. It’s brilliant that Valley Gold is really supportive of the academy and allows us to do these things. It’s a really important developmental opportunity and we’re really really grateful for that.”
Charlton U15s game against Manchester United kicks off at 5pm tomorrow with the game being televised on the BBC Sport Website and app.
Story: Brandon Smith, CAFC