Success for Charlton’s U16s at Manchester football festival

When the Charlton Athletic Academy U16 side was invited to go and pit their wits against Manchester Utd and Aston Villa in a triangular football festival at Manchester Utd’s Carrington Training Complex, Academy Manager Steve Avory and Valley Gold stepped in to ensure our boys had the best opportunity to perform.

The U16 squad, which included some of our U15 players, travelled up to Manchester on January 27th. On arrival at the hotel the players were provided with a buffet style dinner that covered all aspects of their nutritional needs, loading them up with the energy required for what was due to come the next day. Following dinner the players were dismissed to go and settle into their rooms.

For many of the players this was their first ever taste of what it’s like travelling and then staying overnight, to play a game of football the following day.

The squad stayed at the Worsley Park, Marriot Hotel, which is where some of the biggest football clubs in Europe stay when preparing for games and as our young CAFC U16 players walked the corridors, they were bombarded with walls that were filled with signed shirts from the likes of Barcelona, Napoli, Arsenal & Inter Milan just to name a few.

The morning of the game started with a breakfast at 8am followed by a walk of the grounds to loosen legs, before boarding the club transport to head to Carrington.

Our first game was against Manchester Utd in an 11am Kick Off, We started like a team possessed, with Effort, Energy and Enthusiasm, Frustrating Utd with the tempo of our play both in and out of possession. Then with some great link up play between prospective Scholars for next season, Keenan Gough, Henry Rylah and Patrick Casey, We deservedly went 1-0 up, then saw out the first half to keep it 1-0 at half time.

The second half kicked off with Manchester Utd’s U16’s team, which is made up of internationals from various nationalities, showing a lot of frustrations in being unable to break down a resolute CAFC defence. CAFC U16’s had a chance to make it 2-0 when U15’s player Ibrahim Fullah had some great interchangeable play with Patrick Casey before getting a good strike off at goal but his shot was well saved by the Utd keeper.

Then a few minutes before the full-time whistle, Utd got the ball out wide into a dangerous area and were able to deliver a ball into the back post, where a Utd forward managed to lose a CAFC defender to make it 1-1. The game ended 1-1 with our U16’s CAFC boys coming off the pitch feeling as though they had been robbed of a victory, which was great to see and showed the belief and confidence that we require at this club.

Then with only a 10minute break, they had to pick themselves up and get ready to play against Aston Villa who at this point were fresh and had not played any football. The game kicked off at our CAFC boys were physically hurting, they had put in so much effort and energy into the game against Utd and along with this Aston Villa side being fresh meant they had to dig deep and defend with heart with wave and wave of attack from Aston Villa being fended off.

Eventually, just before half time Aston Villa were able to break us down and made it 1-0 as the whistle blew. With some half-time encouragement and the players now starting to gather their second winds, the boys came out with a determination and purpose that was second to none. Playing a brand of attacking possession-based football and creating chance after chance.

Determination from U16 player Henry Rylah, closing down the Goalkeeper, winning the ball and slotting home, made it 1-1, before some fantastic play from Ibrahim Fullah who released Patrick Casey to emphatically finish past the Aston Villa Keeper and make it 2-1 CAFC. We continued to create chance after chance and could have ended the game with a 4-1 or 5-1 win but for some good saves from the Aston Villa goalkeeper.

Aston Villa then went on to beat Utd, in a result that meant that our CAFC U16’s team won the festival and exited Manchester unbeaten against two of the highest regarded category 1 academies in the country and show that the so called little old Charlton Athletic Football Club can mix it with anyone.