Baltacha: “It’s every day you enjoy seeing how the boys improve”

In an interview with Valley Gold, academy coach Sergei Baltacha spoke about his work with the club, past memories, and expressed appreciation for the club’s support for him and his home country Ukraine.

The 64-year-old, who achieved 45 caps as a player for the USSR, now works as a technical coach with the Addicks’ academy for all age groups between nine and 18.

He said: “My job every session, what I have is like 50% working with that age group on technical drills. For example, if I have the under-10s on my timetable, I’m starting from five o’clock and then from five to six I’m working with them on passing, shooting, and dribbling.

“After a one-hour session for that group, it’s coaches that are running this age group taking over and I may be just observing and helping. “

For the former defender, it’s already his second spell as a coach with Charlton. Between 2001 and 2008 he served as a manager of the under-15 side.

After four years of working at Bacon’s Academy in Rotherhithe as a PE teacher, Baltacha returned to the Addicks’ Academy in 2012 and has remained there ever since.

He still enjoys being part of the academy after all these years: “It’s a fantastic club, it’s a fantastic supporters’ base; it’s a family club and I’ve so much enjoyed its academy, it’s a special place.

“The Valley and our training ground are a special place because of people who are working here. It’s a good team, good people and it’s the reason why Charlton are very successful.”

As far as past experiences go, the coach said: “There’s a lot of memories because I used to work with everyone. It’s every day you enjoy seeing how the boys improve and this is what is important for coaches.

“And you see how they’re rising from year to year and after they’ve achieved something like Joe Gomez or Ademola Lookman, if they’ve managed to go to the top then you feel like you didn’t waste your time.”, he added with a smile.

“It’s interesting to see how the boys handle this, how they progress, how they improve and how they achieve the target of playing football in the Premier League or for the national team.”

In 1977, Baltacha won the inaugural FIFA World Youth Championship as a 19-year-old with the Soviet Union squad. Today, the tournament is known as the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which academy graduates Ademola Lookman and Ezri Konsa also won in 2017 with England.

“It’s nice to see how they won this World Cup and how they reacted, and they knew I won the same competition a long time ago and it was interesting to compare.

“It brought back my memory from when I was 20 years old.”

The Charlton Academy recently applied for Category One status and Sergei is hopeful this application will be very successful: “It would help us to improve our quality and to bring in more good players as a club.

“The main target is to bring more players through to play in our first team.”

Finally, the Ukrainian native also shared a message about the conflict in his home country and the support he has received.

“I can feel the support from supporters, from people working in the club, from Valley Gold – the chairman called me – and I very much appreciate that, and I would like to say thank you for all your help.”