Academy Coach Hamza Serrar on U23s start to the season and the impressive James Vennings

Jason Euell’s U23s side have played three times in the Professional Development League so far this season, starting the campaign with a win, a draw, and a loss.

The side have seen a variety of players called into the first team, most recently with James Vennings making his full league debut in Saturday’s draw with Sunderland.

Speaking on the start to the season, Academy Coach Hamza Serrar explained that he is happy with the start to the footballing year.

He said: “We’re pleased with the way the first few games have been, given the circumstances that we found ourselves in.

“As an U23s side, a development side, we have been really stretched. But we’ve had a decent pre-season which we started in July, that was earlier than other clubs in our age groups. That gave us time to work with the players, especially individually.

“Pre-season was a mixed bag, really. We’ve played non-league teams, we played Chelsea, who are a category one academy, we also played against Millwall, who are category two. But the main thing was to set us up nicely for the league programme.”

The U23s kicked off their campaign with a 3-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, with Josh Davison grabbing a brace in that game. Euell’s side then went away to Colchester and were held to a goalless draw after dominating the game. In the most recent fixture, the young Addicks’ unbeaten start came to an end as they were defeated 3-2 by Watford.

Reflecting on these games, Serrar went on to say there was an improvement as the games went on.

“We were a bit rusty in the first game [against QPR], it was a hot day, but we got better and better as the game went on and managed to win that one comfortably.

“I think the football we played away to Colchester was the best football we’ve played by far. It ended up being goalless, but it’s a game where we should’ve gone on and won because we created so many chances. Although we didn’t win in the end, it was a very pleasing performance.

“The Watford game was disappointing with the result, but I thought the performance was good again, especially in the second half. We created so many chances to win the game, but we ended up losing that game. But we’re pleased with the performances and we’re pleased with the players, and some of them have been up with the first team and played with them in pre-season.”

With three matches under the team’s belt in the Professional Development League so far this season, Serrar picked out one player in particular for praise.

“James Vennings is someone who has stood out for me so far.

“Against Colchester, I think it was the best performance I’ve seen from a midfielder in a very long time. He was an absolute joy to watch. He’s been in and around the first-team, he’s already played in the Championship. He’s the one who’s been going up and down from the first-team and the U23s.

“It was such a pleasing and great performance from him. James has done really well, but it’s hard to pick just one player, as we’ve had a lot of great team performances which many people have played a part in. We’re pleased with all the players we’ve got.”

Coming through a difficult time, both on and off the pitch, for the players and the club, Serrar also praised the resilience and toughness of the players within the academy.

“They’ve all been resilient, I know it’s easier said than done. But they’ve put what’s going on off the pitch to one side and got on with their football. It’s allowed us to focus on developing the players further and having a competitive team at this level.

“Part of our mission within the academy is to win football matches, and to develop a winning mentality into these players for when they go into the first team they’re ready to fight for the badge and for three points.”

Charlton Athletic U23s are back in Professional Development League action on Tuesday, October 6th, as they make the short trip to Millwall.

Article: Ryan Payne