Sunday 6 May 2012

Stepping up from the non-league

When Rick Everitt was editing Voice of the Valley and we were in the Premiership, a certain Jonathan Acworth used to write in regularly and suggest non-league players, often from Park View Road, that Charlton should sign. I hear that Acworth has recently written a book called The Highs and Lows of Being a Charlton Fan and certainly Chris Powell should place it on his summer reading list.

Paul from Bexleyheath, who sits to my left in the East Stand, is no Acworth. He is very knowledgeable about football and I was delighted that a five year season ticket holder was able to invite him to the directors' box for Saturday's game. I think Paul missed a game or two at the start of the season and when Bradley Pritchard came on as a sub he asked me who he was. I said that we had signed him from Hayes and Yeading where he was player of the year. Paul's comment was, 'the more I hear, the less I am impressed.'

When Bradley was featured in the programme recently, he remarked that someone had told him that they had forgotten that he was a former non-league player. He has certainly developed over the year. An example was the pinpoint accurate long ball he put in to Yann Kermorgant on Saturday so that he could score his wonder goal. Bradley's energy and commitment have made him a favourite with many Charlton fans. That's not to say that there isn't more work to do. Although his ball control has improved, he sometimes lacks guile and sophistication.

There are many examples of players who had to start their careers in non-league football having failed to make the cut when they left their academies. Bradley came from the first tier of the non-league. Can one make the jump from the third tier to the Championship?

Football League scouts have been in evidence recently at the New Windmill Ground home of Leamington watching young striker Jacob Blyth. The Brakes board knew they had a raw talent on their hands and put him under contract so that that the club could get compensation when he was signed by a higher level team. When Sam Bartram style goalkeeper Breeden was snapped up by Kidderminster Harriers the Brakes got nothing (although Breeden hasn't scored from outfield for them).

It looks as if Leicester City have won the race to sign Blyth. A factor is the friendship between Brakes supremo Paul Holleran and Leicester City's assistant manager. However, Blyth comes from north Warwickshire so signing for Leicester makes a lot of sense. Signing him as a development player could have been too big a punt for the Addicks. I just hope that one day he doesn't score against use for the Foxes.

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