A goalkeeper’s job is sometimes seen as an unenviable one, but Academy stopper Charlie Albinson is enjoying rising to the challenge.
Confidence and belief are essential for any young footballer, but the man between the sticks can often face examination under a harsher spotlight, and any mistakes are magnified.
Charlie acknowledged: “It’s different for a keeper because if an outfielder makes a mistake they can rely on other teammates to come and help out. If a goalkeeper makes a mistake it usually leads to a goal, so all eyes are on you and there is greater pressure. I enjoy it though!”
Plying his trade at the same club as England’s no.1, Joe Hart, Albinson isn’t short of a role model. Aiming to make it to the very top of the professional game, he is keen to learn from the very best.
“Joe Hart is one of the best keepers in the world so you have to look up to him, especially with him being at the same club because you can watch him up close and work on what he does,” he explained.
“There are also other top goalkeepers I try to learn from like Peter Schmeichel in his day and Manuel Neuer at the moment. Hart and Neuer are probably the two best goalkeepers in the world.”
A Bolton lad, Charlie had a two week trial with Wanderers at the age of seven, but didn’t make the cut and returned to keeping goal for his local side.
He recalled: “I went back to play for my old team for a while, and a scout for City watched me when I was about eight. He brought me to the Academy and I started playing for the under-9s. I’ve been here ever since.”
After proving his worth through the Academy pyramid, the keeper was offered a two-year scholarship at the club, which he signed in July 2013.
“We found out if we were being given a scholarship in late October last year,” he said. “I was so happy when I was told the news. It was almost a relief really, because I knew where I was going to be for the next two years. It left me free to concentrate on my football and trying to improve.”
Taking his place in Jason Wilcox’s under-18 squad in the summer, the 17-year-old began the season as understudy to Billy O’Brien, but his hard work in the last 12 months is beginning to pay dividends.
Making his under-18 bow in a friendly with Bristol City in October, Charlie was rewarded for a confident showing with league appearances against Southampton and Bolton.
“Since the start of this season I have played a few games for the under-17s and now I’ve played a couple of times for the under-18s,” Albinson said. “Hopefully in the next few months I can get a few more games for them. I just have to wait for my chances and make sure I take them.
“I’m good mates with Billy though. There is healthy competition between us but that is expected in football. There is always competition.”
He added: “It has been really good to work with Jason. He is different to my previous managers because he has a lot of man-management skills and is very disciplined in what he does. Everything has to be perfect and very well-organised, which has helped me to develop.”
After eight years at the club, Charlie has experienced plenty of matches where he was a virtual spectator as the team’s attacking riches terrified his opposite number at the other end of the field.
However, he has also absorbed the importance of concentration through his years at the Academy, knowing that his team may call on him to make a vital save at any moment.
“You have got to keep concentrating for the full 90 minutes, because you could be needed at any moment in a game. It’s also really important that the team keeps a clean sheet because it’s good for confidence, so even if you’re winning 6-0 you have to concentrate and be alert,” he argued.
An accomplished stopper, Albinson is particularly strong when one on one with an advancing striker, and is quick to get down to the striker’s feet to snuff out the impending danger. But as the modern game changes, the youngster is keen to point out how goalkeepers have to adapt.
He revealed: “I think I have got better in the last year at passing out from the back. These days, a goalkeeper needs to be able to start a move and play shorter passes, rather than just kicking the long ball.
“My main aim this season is to earn a place in the under-18 side, and to keep on getting better and better.”