AS the second-youngest member of Charlton Athletic FC’s U23s squad, Ryan Blumberg set himself three main goals at the beginning of his debut English football season last August – to make a good impression at the club, to be selected for as many games as possible, and to get a contract extension.
Nine months later – and still yet to turn 20 – the left-footed defender kicked all those goals, played in a semi-final, and experienced moments he’ll remember forever.
“It’s been a great experience so far – probably better than what I’d expected,” Blumberg told The AJN last week from London.
“And I’ve been given another year on my contract, so I’ll be here next season after going home for a break in the off-season.
“Probably my best experience ever was playing against Liverpool, at our home ground, The Valley, in September [in the Premier League Cup] – getting to mark Danny Ings [an England national squad member] was pretty cool.
“I had a good battle with him, and he was speaking to me throughout the game and gave me pointers at the end on where he felt I did well.”
Blumberg – who began playing football for Maccabi U8s and Moriah College before representing Hakoah FC in the NSW National Premier League and attending London’s Nike Academy – started in more than 20 games for Charlton, who finished second in the southern conference of Professional Development League 2.
Prior to falling 1-3 in the semis to the northern conference winners Bolton Wanderers on May 1, they’d conceded the equal-third least goals in both conferences (39) and finished with 14 wins, six draws and nine losses.
“We started a bit slowly and weren’t as consistent as we would have liked, but we found form in different parts of the season,” Blumberg said.
“It’s been very tight between second and sixth place, and ultimately we just had to grind out results rather than play pretty football.
“We’ve all worked hard to get to where we are, and I think we deserved to be second.”
Blumberg said that while living overseas away from family and close friends has been a challenge, he couldn’t be happier with how things are going on the field with Charlton, who are called the Addicks by their army of fans.
“It’s a massive football club with a lot of history, and it’s great having that exposure and going to watch all the First Team’s [English League One] games, seeing the fans getting behind the players, and the bouncing atmosphere at The Valley.
“The speed of the game here is much faster, and just the physicality and strength of the players you come up against.
“Individually, I’ve learnt a lot. You get to look at analysis and review clips after each match, which is something I hadn’t had much exposure to.
“And speaking to coaches and getting that one-on-one feedback has helped me a lot, just with decision-making on the ball – I’ve got a lot quicker with that.”
Ryan Blumberg (right) playing for Charlton Athletic FC.