April 22, 2024

Thierry Small has already accomplished a great deal in his young career.

The Solihull-born defender has played for two Premier League clubs, Everton and Southampton, and represented England at the U17 and U18 levels.

Small became Everton’s youngest player when he made his debut in a 2021 FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 16 years and 176 days.

His arrival at Charlton Athletic on February 2 brings his career to a crossroads.

Small, 19, agreed to the mutual termination of his Southampton contract after only 45 minutes of senior play with the club since signing professional terms in 2021, right before the winter transfer window closed, allowing him to leave as a free agent.

Since signing with the Addicks, he has not had any concerns obtaining game time. After Saturday’s 1-1 tie at Fleetwood Town, he has now played every minute of their previous seven League One matches.

Manager Nathan Jones seeks power and pace in his team, and Small is a powerful, mobile, and frightening outlet on the left.

Many Charlton fans have already resorted to social media to discuss getting the youngster on a longer-term contract.

“I’ve been really enjoying my football, and I love being in London,” Small told the South London Press. “The Charlton fans are incredible. And it’s a fantastic changing room to be in.

“I’m not on social media platforms other than Instagram, but a few of my friends are, and it’s wonderful to receive love and appreciation so early on.

 

GALLERY | 2023/24 squad photo day | Charlton Athletic Football Club

 

“It’s a good accomplishment. I hope we have many more wonderful and positive occasions.

“I am not getting ahead of myself. It’s still early in my time here, but things couldn’t have gone better so far.

“I need to stay calm, perform my best in every game, and give my all to whatever I do. That is the basic minimum. You will observe work ethic and hard labor, which should be expected of everyone.

“To be honest, they have only seen a small portion of what I am capable of. I believe that with more experience and working with the manager, I will be able to advance in my game.”

Small started out in West Bromwich Albion’s youth system before joining Everton at the age of 11. His appearance vs the

He made his Goodison Park debut as the Owls’ youngest player, replacing Jose Baxter.

“It was unbelievable for me and my family,” Small explained. “When I moved to Everton, I was in digs. I made several sacrifices to be there. I left home at a young age.

“So when I was on the field, it was like, ‘We have accomplished something really wonderful – we beat the statistics (for the number of academy players who fell by the wayside)’. It was a lovely experience.

“This was my first year of full-time football. I had just graduated from high school and was immediately accepted into a scholarship program; everything was new to me.

“I was pleased to be playing football and receiving your tiny scholar wages. I was just made up. Everything occurred so quickly, but I would not have had it any other way.”

Everton offered Small a three-year professional deal – with Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Arsenal all keeping tabs on negotiations – but instead he chose for a new challenge on the South Coast, shortly after  his 17th birthday.

“The way Everton was, I wish I could’ve left on better terms,” Small added. “The way it got out was not quite accurate; there was a lot of erroneous conjecture about the relocation to Southampton.

“Going there was simply a family decision to advance my career. You must take risks; sometimes they pay off, sometimes they do not; it is all part of life.

“It was a positive experience to be around the first-team environment at the age of 17. I don’t think many guys would have done that at my age, so the experience itself was incredible.

Small started out in West Bromwich Albion’s youth system before joining Everton at the age of 11. His appearance vs the

He made his Goodison Park debut as the Owls’ youngest player, replacing Jose Baxter.

“It was unbelievable for me and my family,” Small explained. “When I moved to Everton, I was in digs. I made several sacrifices to be there. I left home at a young age.

“So when I was on the field, it was like, ‘We have accomplished something really wonderful – we beat the statistics (for the number of academy players who fell by the wayside)’. It was a lovely experience.

“This was my first year of full-time football. I had just graduated from high school and was immediately accepted into a scholarship program; everything was new to me.

“I was pleased to be playing football and receiving your tiny scholar wages. I was just made up. Everything occurred so quickly, but I would not have had it any other way.”

Everton offered Small a three-year professional deal, with Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Arsenal all keeping an eye on discussions, but he chose a new challenge on the South Coast just after his 17th birthday.

“The way Everton was, I wish I could’ve left on better terms,” Small added. “The way it got out was not quite accurate; there was a lot of erroneous conjecture about the relocation to Southampton.

“Going there was simply a family decision to advance my career. You must take risks; sometimes they pay off, sometimes they do not; it is all part of life.

“It was a positive experience to be around the first-team environment at the age of 17. I don’t think many guys would have done that at my age, so the experience itself was incredible.

“It was difficult to adapt because I was new to first-team football. I moved from being a scholar to a first-team position in the Premier League. It took some time for me to adjust mentally to this transition.

“But then you have a few loans and develop, it’s a natural part of the game – you grow, not just as a player but also as a person.”

Small made temporary moves to Port Vale and St Mirren, joining the latter in the second half of the season and returning in August.

One of his highlights is his start at Celtic in May, which resulted in a 2-2 tie.

“There were 60,000 fans there,” Small stated. “Celtic are a tremendous club, and playing in front of that many people is an experience that cannot be described unless you do it.

“That was the moment in my short career so far where I was like ‘wow, I want to be doing this full-time for a while’.”

League One provides no experiences on par with Parkhead. Charlton’s five away matches in the last seven have allowed Small to play at Bolton, Portsmouth, Northampton, Cheltenham, and Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium.

There is no reason why Small cannot reclaim his place among the elite. Jones has stated that if his entire squad fully buys into his process, they will be able to quickly ascend the football pyramid.

“I worked with the manager a little bit (at Southampton) when I came back off loan at Port Vale,” Small remarked. “When he first arrived, we traveled to Spain and held a small camp. It’s fantastic to be back with him and see a familiar face.

“I admire his intensity and what he expects us to do as players. He’s really demanding. You want to be under a manager who expects the best from his players and maintains high standards at all times.

“It helps not only the squad, but also you as a player.

“Charlton’s a sleeping behemoth. It has strong ownership, good management, and talented players, so with the initiative underway, everyone should be positive and thrilled about what will happen.

“As players, we’re excited. It’s simply about us laying the basis every day on the training pitch and maybe getting Charlton to where it needs to be one day, not too far in the future.

Charlton has the option to extend Small’s contract by another 12 months.

When asked if he would be delighted to stay, Small responded, “I’m here for everything. If it is what the club wants to accomplish, I would not turn it down.

“My current goal is to play as many games as possible for Charlton and to help the team end the season strongly. We’re having a good little run. Hopefully, we can retain this form going into the new season.”

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