WHEN 19-year-old Ryan Blumberg played more than 20 games in his debut 2017-18 season for south-east London football club Charlton Athletic’s U23s side and earned a one-year contract extension in May, he said he was happy in his spare time just to be able to watch and learn from the senior squad by attending their League One games.
Fast-forward three months and, after a gruelling off-season of training, the former Hakoah first grade player and talented left-footed defender found himself selected for, and playing in, his club’s top squad in their opening Carabao EFL Cup match against the MK Dons in front of 3000 fans at MK Stadium on August 14.
With several stars unavailable, the Addicks’ caretaker head coach Lee Bowyer picked Blumberg as one of seven young players to make their first team debuts for Charlton.
Despite going down 0-3 to the Dons, Blumberg played the full 90 minutes at centre half, and told The AJN the unique opportunity was an amazing and emotional moment that he will cherish forever.
“I’m extremely proud and humbled to have made my professional debut for Charlton – it was a dream come true to see my last name on the back of a Charlton shirt,” Blumberg said.
“It’s something I’ve worked extremely hard for, having sacrificed a lot over the past few years both on and off the pitch.
“And speaking with a few of the first team staff members, they were happy with how I played and conducted myself.”
Charlton found themselves 2-0 behind after 20 minutes, but then settled into the game and created chances regularly in the second half, and were unlucky to not be awarded a penalty.
“With a young squad it was always going to be an uphill battle, but the scoreline didn’t really reflect how the game went,” Blumberg said.
“It was a great learning curve for all involved and, while I’ve learnt to be extremely patient with getting opportunities in the first team – whether that be training with them or playing in games – I’m hungry and confident that I will get more chances if I keep doing the right things.”
The former Moriah College and Nike Academy graduate will now focus on playing his role as a key member of the Addicks’ U23s team in their 2018-19 Professional Development League 2 season.
“I worked hard in the off-season and came back as one of the fittest [players] in the U23s, and I was also lucky enough to train and play in the three first-team preseason matches, which was a great experience that I learnt a lot from.
“I’m hoping to have another big year with the U23s and we definitely want to build on last year’s league performance and aim for another top two finish (in our conference), as well as try to win some silverware.”