Welling Town chairman Kevin Oakes forges an exciting link with Charlton Athletic Community Trust
WELLING TOWN chairman Kevin Oakes says he is feeling really excited about the club’s link up with the Charlton Athletic Community Trust.
Michael Ward, who is their Football Development Manager, attended Welling Town’s Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division game against Corinthian last Wednesday and brought three young players to Bayliss Avenue with him in Billy Alford, Danny Tinson and Elliot Williams.
Welling Town chairman Kevin Oakes (right) has linked-up with Charlton Athletic Community Trust fronted by Michael Ward (left).
Welling Town and Charlton Athletic Community Trust are looking for talented footballers in year 11 to join the Football Academy on a two-year full-time education and football development programme.
Players will be involved in an extensive football development programme with three training sessions a week delivered by fully UEFA qualified Charlton Athletic Community Trust coaches and compete in either the National League Under 19 Alliance or the EFL Football Alliance.
Participants will undertake a Level 3 BTEC in sports and if required functional skills in English and Maths, through a successful partnership with the University of Greenwich.
Opening Evenings are being held at The Valley on Monday 17 February and Monday 23 March (at 18:00), with trials taking place at Charlton Athletic’s Training Ground at Sparrows Lane, Footscray Road, New Eltham London SE9 2EL at 12 noon on Thursday 18 February, Tuesday 7 April, Tuesday 14 April and Tuesday 26 May.
“We run an education and football programme based out of Sparrows Den, the training ground,” said Ward.
“We’ve got exit links into professional football but we’ve never really had the link with semi-professional football so by joining up with Welling Town it gives an opportunity for our players to not only play first-team football if they’re good enough at semi-professional football but also reserve football.
“The three boys that I brought here today have all played reserve team football for Welling Town already. They’ve been part of the club so we brought them down today to come and see what the first-team environment is like but also to talk and show them there is an exit-route for our players from the age of 16 and 17 into competitive men’s football.
“We train them 10 hours a week and they’re playing in a competitive league on a Wednesday but that football at the weekend is really important for them.
“Kevin Oakes and his team have been really good and understanding in getting that link and we’re hopeful there will be more players pushing through in the next two seasons and maybe this time next year these boys will be out there running out for their first-team.”
It’s always important for young professionals at professional clubs like Charlton Athletic to drop down into non-league football to experience the need to pick up three points on a Saturday and a Tuesday night, playing with and against players who must perform week-in-week-out, instead of the relaxed environment of under 23 football.
Midfielder Alfie Doughty, 20, spent time out on loan at National League side Bromley and is now playing for Charlton Athletic in the Championship and the Addicks are a club who like to bring through their younger players into the first-team squad.
“Alfie’s going to come and talk to our boys because it’s a similar journey that Alfie took because he’s come into Charlton late and that’s where all these boys all aspire to because Alfie’s doing great things in the first team,” said Ward.
“What we have to understand is we’ve got 60 boys in our programme, all are not going to make it at that top level, it’s a very small percentage that do, so we have to offer those boys opportunities in the game so when they finish their education they’ve still got opportunities to play football outside of what we do.
Welling Town chairman Kevin Oakes has guided the club from the lower reaches of the Kent County League to the ninth-tier of English football in the space of four seasons and is feeling excited with the partnership with their EFL Championship neighbours.
“I think the club has progressed a long way in a short space of time and we haven’t got the foundations and the structure that other clubs at this level have got and it just makes sense for both parties really to have a link-up where we can assist Charlton,” said Oakes.
“Charlton have an exit route for their 16-17-year-olds and they can entice more people in the local area into their scheme knowing that there is a pathway for them to get into men’s football and it compliments our reserves and we’re hoping to do a midweek development side next year as well.
“Even in the past we’ve had Sunday sides playing in a good competitive level so it’s good for the boys’ development and good for the club as a whole, I’m really excited.
“That’s what this sort of thing is all about, building relationships with other club’s and I know Richard Styles (Kent Football Development Office at Charlton Athletic Community Trust) well, obviously he’s the Tunbridge Wells manager at the moment and I’ve been introduced to Michael Ward through that and it just makes sense for everybody involved.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some of these young boys progress their careers and they all want to achieve as much as they possibly can.
“Some of them have only been playing men’s football for six to eight weeks and already they want to train and play for our first team and that’s exciting for me and who runs the club and exciting for the people involved.”
Oakes has a first-team manager in Danny Wakeling who is renowned for giving unknown quantities a chance at Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division level, picking players up from the Kent County League and giving them a chance to perform at a higher level.
Oakes believes this link-up will be beneficial to both parties.
“It’s a massive jump when I think we go back to three years and vying to get to this level and you’re sceptical about whether it’s going to happen or not. A lot of time and effort has gone into getting where we are but we are realistic and we can’t go any further where we are without big changes off-the-field so this Charlton link-up is the first step of helping making that happen.”
For further details, contact Michael Ward Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or Kevin Oakes email@example.com