Anthony Hayes: The academy owes much of its success to Valley Gold

Professional Development Coach and Under 18’s boss Anthony Hayes sat down with Valley Gold to recap a unique footballing season, explain how funds from Valley Gold help the academy and look back on some of the best graduates over the years.

Talking about the forced end to last season, Hayes said:

“At the point where Covid ended the season prematurely, the Under 18’s were in a position to challenge to get into the top two, I don’t think we were in a position to catch Milwall but we could’ve challenged for the top two spot.

“In terms of the FA Youth Cup run, we were knocked out in the fourth round against Blackburn Rovers up at Ewood Park. That was after we beat West Ham on penalties in December. The game finished 3-3 after extra time and we were victorious 5-4 on penalties. That was a wonderful night. We were fourth in the league at the time and three points off second with it firmly in our sights. If we were able to play out the remaining fixtures we would have been competitive.”

Hayes has been at Charlton for four and a half years, joining from Brentford in June 2016. During his time at the club, the coach has trained many successful youth prospects, who have gone on to make first team debuts. He gave us some examples.

“I’ve worked with two wonderful examples, Alfie Doughty and Albie Morgan. Charlie Barker I’ve worked with since Under 15’s, Aaron Henry and James Vennings.” he highlighted.

“My day to day motivation is to work with players to fulfil their potential. I’m fortunate enough to be at a club that won’t only allow the young players to train with the first team, but if they’re good enough they get a chance to play. My motivation is to work with the players, stretch them, improve and develop them and hopefully they get the chance if they’re good enough. Hopefully there’s more to come in the coming seasons.”

Working within academy football has many rewarding factors, such as the pride a coach receives having had a hand in developing a player who progresses up the football league. The Professional Development Coach explained just what gives him a feeling of gratification.

“First and foremost, these players have come through their academy and established themselves in the first team, making upwards of 60, 70, 80 first-team appearances. That’s pleasing to see. As an employee of the football club and a development coach I want to see our players come through and make their debut, have a good career at Charlton Athletic.” he said.

“Unfortunately the club find ourselves in League One. It’s testament to the club to see the types of players that we produce at the academy, the players who are good enough to go on and play, in Dillon’s (Phillips) case – at a club that has just been relegated out of the Premier League two seasons ago and Karlan (Grant), who signed for Huddersfield in the Premier League and now returns there with his move to West Brom.

“It gives us great hope, we are looking at their careers from afar and proud of what they are doing but first and foremost we want to produce players for Charlton, who can go on and play in the Premier League for us. Hopefully that will be the case under Thomas Sandgaard now. If we can’t do that, we want them to establish themselves at Charlton and if we are still in League One we want these players to go and play Championship or ideally Premier League football. It’s our job to continue having players come through our system.”

The academy owes much of its success to Valley Gold, who provide donations to assist the day to day maintenance, provide equipment and fund tournaments and trips for the young players. Hayes explains just how important Valley Gold is to the club, saying: “Valley Gold are crucial in the running of our games programme.

“From the minibuses to the equipment, Valley Gold make it all so smooth by offering the means of transport as well as the ability to transport all the equipment, not just the players but all the team’s equipment – it’s great for the club.

“One thing the players really enjoy that hasn’t happened since the fans have stopped attending games, was the Friday crossbar challenge. A fan would come in, be introduced to myself and Steve Avory, then we would select a handful of players to help the fan practice for their crossbar challenge at The Valley the following day. You can’t replicate The Valley at half-time but it’s something the players really enjoyed as well. The players, as well as the staff, appreciate the help they give us at the academy and on a Friday afternoon, it’s a chance to give them something back and have a laugh whilst doing it as well.”

The Under 18’s manager went on to express his appreciation further.

“You see the impact that lack of fans has in the stadium for the senior teams and it can never be understated how much support the people of Valley Gold do for us as an academy,” he said.

“Their slogan is supporting the future and it’s what they continue to do by providing us with minibuses, the trailer for all the equipment, supporting us on tours. Their support is vital for us to run a comprehensive football development programme.

“From myself, and I’m sure this will be echoed by the rest of the academy staff – it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed, it will never be taken for granted. It’s extremely welcomed and appreciated by not only the staff, but certainly the players. We need to try and put some substance to that and bring players through. Hopefully that gives back to the people that have supported us through Valley Gold.”

Article by Nick Emms