Hamza Serrar on end-of-season push for national title and Category One aspirations

During a conversation with Valley Gold, Charlton Athletic Under-18s manager Hamza Serrar explained his squad’s mindset as they are headed for another national semi-final. Also, he provided an update on the academy’s bid for Category One status.

Charlton’s U18-side just recently defended their league title successfully within the southern division of the U18 Professional Development League.

They did so in very convincing fashion, impressively clinching the division’s top spot with six fixtures left after a 2-1 win at Bristol City.

Manager Hamza Serrar was very pleased with this achievement: “The U18-league is a competitive one and to win it two years on the bounce and in the fashion we did this season with a lot of young players, it just shows how strong of an academy we have.

“It also shows how strong of a squad we have in the future and with a pathway being opened to our first team, the players that we have now, they’ve shown that they’ve got the potential to at least be on the radar of our first team.”

Serrar emphasised that this was a team success and raved about the squad as a whole. But he also lauded some individual standouts: “They all played a big part in the success of the team.

“Everyone knows about Daniel Kanu and Tyreece Campbell who have made their first team debut, but for example Miles Leaburn is hitting an excellent form scoring a hat-trick for the U23s.

He further elaborated: “Also Ahmed Kone in goal, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper that we didn’t expect to play big games like that as such a young age. Zach Mitchell has been a consistent performer for the U23s; Corey Anderson, Toby Bower, there’s so many to mention.”

The 42-year-old also offered some insight into how his team will approach the season’s last few weeks to make sure the intensity remains high before the national semi-final on 14th May.

He said: “It gives us enough time to do some work and keep being consistent with the work that we do. So, it’s really pleasing and being in the semi-final again second year running is an amazing achievement.

“The human nature is, obviously once you’ve achieved something, you kind of relax and you feel content and that’s no different with our boys.

“So, we have a big job on our hands, not just myself, but as a staff and the players themselves to make sure we stay focused.

“I think what winning the league this early has given us is an opportunity to push players into our U23s. Having said that, now within the next three weeks we’re trying to get all the scholars back to start training together again.”, he explained.

At the same time, though, Serrar remains confident his boys can right the wrong from last year and finish this season with the national title.

“I’m very confident in them, they know that. I’m very confident in the program that we run and the winning mentality that we have within the squad which was built within the last couple of years.

“We’ve had our defeats that I hope we’ve learned from going into this semi-final, and hopefully making it through to the final to win the cup. That’s one of our biggest objectives this season.”

The U18s manager also gave an update regarding the Addicks’ academy application for Category One status.

“We’ve just been through the audits, and it was a hectic four, five days as you can imagine but I think the feedback was quite positive. So, we’re just waiting for a result.

“It’s where we should be in terms of productivity and the program that we run, but actually being Cat One would help the U18s to retain players and retain staff which is quite difficult as a Cat Two. Clubs can’t just come and get our players.”

Additionally, the academy would also benefit from facing teams like Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea more regularly. A decision on this is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

Valley Gold enables supporters to play a pivotal role in the future of Charlton Athletic by helping the club to unearth talented footballers through its youth system. Valley Gold is entirely supporter-funded, with membership costing £120 per year. As a member of Valley Gold, you will also have the opportunity to scoop up to £5,000 in regular cash prizes. To learn more about the scheme or to become a Valley Gold member, please click here.