After an impressive double in the Addicks’ 2-0 win at Welling United on Saturday, young striker Karlan Aherane-Grant further enhanced his reputation as a player with a bright future.
Amongst the 2,000 strong crowd at Park View Road on Saturday was Kyle Andrews – here’s his assessment of Charlton’s latest academy product…
There were many who suffered as a result of Charlton’s relatively small squad last season. Igor Vetokele’s body broke, Bob Peeters lost his job, and supporters were forced to watch numerous lacklustre performances.
But maybe the man who suffered the most was Karlan Ahearne-Grant. A strange statement to make, given that a lack of numbers in attack gave him an opportunity to play first team football, but it was an opportunity that arguably came too soon.
There were flashes of brilliance, especially late on in games against tired defences. His pace and quick feet genuinely exciting, and enough to make you believe that the Addicks had yet another prospect in their ranks.
But these were just flashes. A useful outlet that helped protect the lead gained late on at Norwich, and a few clever runs that provided a positive from an otherwise tame defeat to Fulham, but it was apparent the 17-year-old wasn’t quite ready.
The attributes he displayed were largely those belonging to a raw player with plenty of potential, but not one able to make a serious contribution to a Championship side over the course of 90 minutes. Bullied by Bournemouth and substituted at half-time after failing to make any sort of impact against Sheffield Wednesday, it appeared as if his fast-tracking into the first team was going to have a detrimental impact on his development.
For some young professionals wouldn’t necessarily deal with such blows in a positive fashion. Take Joe Pigott, for example. Once in a relatively similar position to Ahearne-Grant, only during his loan at Southend United last season did he genuinely move on from *that* performance against Millwall.
Ahearne-Grant, however, merely retreated back to the development squad, and continued to impress at that level. If anything, with the winning goal in the Kent Senior Cup Final against an experienced Gillingham side and earning England U18 honours, the potential harmful experience was used positively. To ultimately better him.
And the evidence of such betterment came against Welling United on Saturday. While many of the other youngsters given their chance to impress failed to deliver, and indicated that Charlton’s squad remains far too small, Ahearne-Grant managed to leave those Addicks at Park View Road feeling a sense of optimism.
It was not simply the fact that the forward took advantage of some questionable Welling defending to help himself to two well taken goals, but his all-round play was incredibly impressive.
He no longer looked like a young lad with some potential, but a serious player able to provide an impact in the first team. Not just excelling when given the space to run, but with his back to goal and when pressure was applied, too.
There is, of course, a danger of getting carried away. Although impressive, two goals against a bunch of part-timers must be considered in the context of what it really is – two goals against a bunch of part-timers. Again, a comparison with Pigott, after the excitement his hat-trick against the same opposition created, is useful.
And we certainly shouldn’t be reliant nor placing too much expectation on a 17-year-old striker. The nature of Ahearne-Grant’s style of play, with its focus on getting in behind the defenders and adventurous runs, carries with it more risk than the composed and calculated styles of Jordan Cousins, Diego Poyet and Joe Gomez. Sometimes it will come off, sometimes it won’t.
In fact, before his exploits at Park View Road, I had felt a loan move would have been beneficial to Ahearne-Grant this season. With his goals proving he is more than capable of performing for the U21s, it would offer a chance to find his feet at a slightly lower level of the professional game.
And it might well still prove to be the best scenario for the young forward. Should the three forwards ahead of him prove such a strong barrier to first team football that even substitute appearances are limited, then I would much rather he was improving and developing in League One or Two.
But Ahearne-Grant has issued a strong reminder of his talents, offered a suggestion that he could fulfil the role of fourth striker, and potentially allowed the Addicks to focus their attentions in the transfer market on adding numbers to other areas of the squad where the need is greater.
For the pace, strength and finishing ability shown at Park View Road can be a vital asset to Guy Luzon from the bench. At the very least, a dangerous impact sub to have.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleHAndrews
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