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Former Ireland U21 international ready to give his career a belated kickstart

After spending 14 years at Everton, Harry Charsley is finally experiencing regular first-team football.

THE DAYS WHEN he was on the cusp of playing in the Premier League were a distant memory for Harry Charsley as he wiped the blood from his nose.

Fewer than 2,000 spectators were in attendance to see Morecambe and Mansfield Town continue their attempts to outrun the threat of being banished from the Football League.

In the feisty 1-1 draw played a fortnight ago, a Morecambe player found a home for his elbow on Charsley’s face. The incident enraged Mansfield manager Graham Coughlan, but there were no repercussions for the offender.

A warm welcome to life in the lower reaches of League Two.

Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 22.41.44 Harry Charsley signed for Mansfield Town on a deal until the end of the season. Source: Mansfield Town FC

“There are a lot of big challenges going in which I’ve got to get used to a little bit,” Charsley laughs. “But that’s something I’ll be able to adapt to with time. I can look after myself and get on with it.”

Last month, Charsley joined Mansfield with a view to belatedly kickstarting a career that showed plenty of promise when he helped an Everton youth side, managed by former Ireland international Kevin Sheedy, to win the U18 Premier League title in 2014.

He signed his first professional contract at the age of 17 and was later presented with Everton’s U18 Player of the Year award by John Stones.

The progress continued when the midfielder acquitted himself well as a makeshift left-back in his first-team debut in December 2017. Sam Allardyce oversaw a 3-0 Europa League win over Apollon Limassol, with Charsley playing all 90 minutes.

The next phase of his development was to be a loan move to Bolton Wanderers until the summer of 2018. However, a reluctance to thrust an untested rookie into the heat of a Championship relegation battle meant he was restricted to just one appearance.

Charsley spent the duration of last season with Everton, where new manager Marco Silva was putting his plans in place. High-profile signings like Richarlison, Andre Gomes, Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina were central to those plans. With €100 million spent on new players, it was no country for young men.

Harry Charsley stage John Stones, now of Manchester City, presented Charsley with Everton's U18 Player of the Year award. Source: Everton FC

Following the expiry of his contract last summer, Charsley was released by the club he had been with since the age of nine. To their credit, Everton brought him back in on a short-term deal to aid his recovery from a stress fracture in his back.

Now, cut adrift from the elite environment he was accustomed to, Charsley is accumulating the type of competitive experience he craved for so long. Everton reside at the opposite end of the spectrum, but only Mansfield Town can provide what he needs at this stage of his career.

This afternoon, at the age of 23, he’ll play just his 10th game of first-team football when Mansfield take on Cheltenham Town. Under the scrutiny of managers, owners and expectant supporters, points and salaries – and sometimes noses – are at stake.

In January, Graham Coughlan, Mansfield’s Dublin-born manager, made Charsley his first signing since taking over at the club.

“Getting to play first-team football is something I’m really enjoying,” Charsley says. “Because of the fans and stuff it’s obviously a lot different to U23s. There’s a bit more importance to it. This is exactly what I needed and I’ve learned a lot already.”

Being unable to establish himself at Everton is something Charsley offers no excuses for. The Premier League sets a high bar that plenty of talented footballers have been unable to scale at the first attempt.

everton-u23-v-reading-u23-premier-league-2-goodison-park Charsley in action for Everton's U23s. Source: EMPICS Sport

Nevertheless, the cause of the local lad certainly wasn’t helped by the high turnover of managers in recent times at Goodison Park. During the five-and-a-half-year spell he was with the club as a professional, seven different men were in charge of first-team affairs.

“That probably does play a part,” he admits. “It’s already a big challenge with so many players at the club who are also trying to make an impression. 

“It was disappointing not to play a bit more but I feel I’m much better for what I experienced at Everton. I experienced some great things but it was time for me to start playing first-team football. Breaking into a Premier League team as a young player is just a very hard thing to do.

“Could I have left to get first-team football sooner? Potentially. But there’s a lot that plays a part in something like that, such as injuries. It’s not a simple decision that only comes down to one thing. I’m doing that now and that’s all that matters at this stage. I really can’t say I have many regrets.”

While he can’t afford to place international recognition towards the top of his list of immediate priorities, Charsley would like to believe that he hasn’t worn the green jersey for the final time.

Although born on Merseyside, he represented Ireland from U17 level onwards. Charsley, whose mother is from Offaly, played for the U21s on 15 occasions, lining out alongside future senior internationals like Sean Maguire, Jack Byrne, Callum O’Dowda and Alan Browne.

harry-charsley Charsley was a regular in the Ireland U21 side. Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

“Playing for Ireland was something that my mum was really proud of and so was I,” says Charsley, who scored in wins against Slovenia and Israel during the 2019 European U21 Championship qualifying campaign. “When I was asked to play for Ireland I didn’t have to think twice about it. It was a great opportunity and a great honour.

“It’s something I’d definitely love to do again but I’ve got to be realistic at the moment. All I can do now is focus on working hard at club level. We’ll see how the future plays out but it’s something that definitely crosses my mind.”

As he aims to work his way back up the English football ladder, Charsley can be inspired by other members of the current Ireland senior squad who have travelled a similar path. They’re Premier League players nowadays, but League Two is still fresh in the memory for Enda Stevens, John Egan and Conor Hourihane.

“You see players making that jump all the time so it’s absolutely something to be encouraged by,” Charsley says. “It’s good to keep your eye on players like that because they’ve shown what’s possible.

“Leaving Everton is something I didn’t let have a negative effect on me. I was just really looking forward to playing first-team football, wherever that may have been. Now that I’ve got it, I have belief in my ability to go and do well.

“The priority for me now is just getting some experience in the team here [at Mansfield]. If I can put in good performances regularly… let’s just see what happens from there.”

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Paul Dollery

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