Charlton Athletic have a pretty good record when it comes to developing young talent.
Most recently, Alfie Doughty swapped The Valley for Championship outfit Stoke City, whilst the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Gomez have gone on to become Premier League regulars.
Addicks boss Nigel Adkins may not know which division his side will be competing in next season, with there still plenty of matches left to seal a League One playoff spot but it will be an important summer in the transfer window either way.
And he could well save owner Thomas Sandgaard a lot of money if he looks to continue that promising academy trend.
One player who could certainly make the full step up to the first-team next season is 18-year-old defender Charlie Barker, who has already enjoyed a little taste at senior level.
The right-back, who can also play centrally, has made nine appearances this season. He started Chalton’s opening three league games but has been restricted to appearances in the domestic cups, where Lee Bowyer looked to rotate his side.
A goal against Swindon Town and a clean sheet against Crewe Alexandra isn’t the worst way to kickstart your career in southeast London.
Speaking about his debut, Bowyer heaped praise on Barker, he told the official website:
“As a positive, I thought young Barker was outstanding, outstanding. He didn’t put a foot wrong all night, in possession and out of possession. He defended properly when crosses came in, goal kicks, competing and fighting. I would say he was the biggest positive.”
Barker has seen meteoric progress in recent years, having been without a club just four seasons ago but the Addicks took a punt on him and academy chief Steve Avory has transformed him into a potential first-team star.
“Charlie came into the club quite late. He’s a good learner, he genuinely, I feel, loves the game and loves defending,” explained Avory. “He’s such a strong-willed competitor and on the whole, I feel he did then, and does now, dominate the one-v-one battles he comes up against on the pitch.”
Adkins has a few options at right-back but both are coming towards the end of their careers in Chris Gunter, 32, and Adam Matthews, 29. Of course, the pair could easily play for another three or four years but it’s not as if their form has been good enough to warrant such an opportunity.
Both are amongst Charlton’s poorest performers, as per WhoScored ratings, neither has managed above a 6.52.
Barker could well be a bargain solution this summer, should Adkins also see his huge potential.