Charlton head coach Bob Peeters has challenged the club’s experienced central defenders to dislodge Joe Gomez from his first-team plans.
The young defender, 17, impressed during the Addicks’ 2-0 loss at Welling on Saturday and continues to take the early pre-season plaudits.
Peeters has already added Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim to his squad, while Michael Morrison has penned a new two-year contract.
But the Addicks chief has urged the senior stoppers to up their game if they are to get the nod of highly-rated Gomez.
He said: “I think at this moment all of the central defenders need to step up to play him out of the team.
“For me it doesn’t matter if you are 35 or 17 - if you show me that you are willing and you have the ability then I don’t see why I shouldn’t play you.
“I was again happy with Joe in the second half and also with Zak Ansah.
“We need to give them time, give them the feeling that they are part of the first team and that they’re going to be playing against the big boys now.
“It’s tough but they can only learn by playing.”
Peeters’ obvious enthusiasm for what Gomez can potentially offer this season is another sign of his determination to give the kids a chance, even if they don’t always get it right.
He explained: “I said from the first day when I signed a contract that I wanted to work with the young guns.
“Sometimes you will have defeats because they need to learn.
“If you want to play with players like Joe Gomez then you need people like Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim to support and help him.
“He will make mistakes.
“If he has experienced players next to him then it can only make him better.
“We signed young players and we have a young team so some experienced ones were needed and that’s what we’ve done.”
The Addicks were thoroughly disappointing in today’s 2-0 loss at the Wings and were fortunate to only trail to Kieron St Amie’s fourth minute penalty at the break.
They improved after the interval, with Chris Solly looking particularly threatening down the right, although Moses Ashikodi sealed the result for the Conference side late on.
But Peeters said fitness remains his primary concern at this stage of pre season.
“I don’t care about results but you want to win games,” he said.
“It is important to get fit and for the young guys to see the difference between playing against the boys and men.
“We need to learn as a team and I will support them because they are the future of Charlton.
“I was happy with the second half. In the first half we didn’t do too well.
“OK, we played with mixed teams but it wasn’t good enough.”
The head coach added: “After the break we made some chances, we didn’t score and it felt like a day when you can do whatever you want but won’t score.
“I saw some things that I already knew (we need to improve on) and things that I know we need to work on.
“Tomorrow we leave for Spain and it is better to get a knock on the chin a bit earlier in pre-season than in the competition.
“We worked a lot on organising ourselves at set pieces and now we are going to move to attacking.
“Some new players are coming in so we need to build the team.”
Follow us on Twitter @NewsShopperSprt