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Exclusive interview with Thierry Small on Charlton Athletic chance, beating ‘statistics’ at Everton and verdict on Southampton stay


Thierry Small has already packed plenty into a career that is still at a formative stage.

The Solihull-born defender has been on the books of two Premier League clubs – Everton and Southampton – and won caps for England at U17 and U18 level.

Small became the Toffees’ youngest player when he made his debut in a 2021 FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday aged 16 years and 176 days.

His arrival at Charlton Athletic on February 2 sees his career at something of a crossroads.

Small, 19, agreed to the mutual termination of his Southampton contract, gaining just 45 minutes of senior football with them since signing professional terms in 2021, just before the winter transfer window shut, allowing him to move outside that trading period as a free agent.

He has had no such issues with game time since putting pen to paper with the Addicks. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Fleetwood Town means he has played every minute in their last seven League One matches.

Manager Nathan Jones wants power and pace in his side and Small is a muscular, mobile and menacing outlet down the left.

Picture: Kyle Andrews

Plenty of Charlton fans have already taken to social media and posted about securing the youngster on a longer-term contract.

“I’ve been really enjoying my football and I really love being in London,” Small told the South London Press. “The Charlton fans are amazing. and it is a brilliant changing room to be part of.

“I’m not on the social media platforms, apart from Instagram, but a few of my friends are – it’s beautiful to get the love and be appreciated early on.

“It’s a good achievement. I hope we have many more good times and positive times.

“I’m not getting too ahead of myself. It’s still really early days in my short time here – but it couldn’t have gone any better so far.

“I need to stay level-headed, try my best in every game and put 100 per cent into everything I do. That’s the bare minimum. You’re going to see the work ethic and hard work – that should be expected of everyone.

“I’ll be honest, they’ve only seen a little bit of what I’m capable of. I feel with more experience and working under the manager, that I can reach some higher levels in my game.”

Everton’s Thierry Small (left) and Sheffield Wednesday’s Joey Pelupessy battle for the ball during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at Goodison Park, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday January 24, 2021.

Small started off in West Bromwich Albion’s youth set-up before signing for Everton at the age of 11. His appearance against the

Owls saw him replace Jose Baxter as the Goodison Park outfit’s youngest debutant.

“It was unbelievable for me and my family,” said Small. “When I moved to Everton I was in digs. I made a lot of sacrifices to be there. I left home at an early age.

“So when I was on the pitch it was like: ‘We have achieved something really great – we beat the statistics (for the amount of academy player who fall by the wayside)’. It was beautiful to experience.

“It was my first year in full-time football. I had just finished school and went straight into a scholarship – everything was brand new to me.

“I was grateful to be playing football and getting your little scholar wages. I was just made up. Everything happened so quickly – but I wouldn’t have had it any way differently.”

Everton offered Small a three-year professional contract – with Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Arsenal all keeping tabs on negotiations – but instead he opted 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,” said Small. “The way it came out wasn’t completely true – there was a lot of false speculation about the move to Southampton.

“Going there was just a family decision to better my career. You have got to take risks – sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t, it’s just part of life.

“It was a good experience, in terms of being around the first-team environment at 17. I don’t think a lot of players would’ve been doing that at my age, so the experience of just that alone was unbelievable.

Coventry City’s Josh Eccles (left) and Southampton’s Thierry Small battle for the ball during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at St. Mary’s, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday February 5, 2022.

“It’s hard to adapt because I was new to first-team football. I went from being a scholar straight into a first-team environment in the Premier League. Transition-wise it was a little hard for me mentally to get used to that, it took a bit of a while.

“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 switches to Port Vale and St Mirren, joining the latter for the second half of last season and then again in August.

He picks out starting at Celtic in May – a 2-2 draw – as one of his highlights.

“There were 60,000 fans there,” said Small. “Celtic are a massive club and playing in front of that many people, you can’t describe the feeling unless you’re doing 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 offers no experiences on a level with Parkhead. Although the fact that Charlton have had five away matches in their last seven means that Small has been able to play at Bolton, Portsmouth, Northampton, Cheltenham and Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium.

There is absolutely no saying that  Small cannot get back to the elite level. Jones has talked about all of  his squad – provided they totally buy-in to his process – being able to  rapidly climb the football pyramid.

Picture: Paul Edwards

“I worked with the manager a little bit (at Southampton) when I came back off loan at Port Vale,” said Small. “We went to Spain and did a little camp when he first came. It is good to be back with him and have a familiar face.

“I love his intensity and what he wants us to do as players. He’s really demanding. You want to be under a manager who demands the best of his players and wants high standards all the time.

“It not only helps the team but it helps you as a player.

“Charlton is a sleeping giant. It’s got good ownership, it’s got good management and it’s got good players – so with the project around it everyone should be optimistic and excited about what is going to happen.

“As players we are excited. It’s just about us doing the groundwork every day on the training pitch and hopefully getting Charlton where it needs to be one day, in the not too distant future.”

Charlton hold an option to extend Small’s contract by a further 12 months.

Asked if he would be happy  to stay, Small replied: “I’m here for everything. If that is what the club wants to do then it is something I wouldn’t be turning down.

“My goal right now is getting as many games as I can in for Charlton and that we finish the season as strongly as possible. We’re on a good little run. Hopefully we can keep that form going heading into next season.”


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