For a while now, Joe Gomez has been a boy among men. At least, on paper. In this, his first season with Charlton Athletic’s first team, the 17-year-old has consistently exuded the maturity and confidence of more seasoned defenders to prove that age really is just a number. Impeccably focused and incredibly driven, he’s one of a new generation hoping to follow in the international footsteps of Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw. You wouldn’t bet against him, for this is one Joe who has no desire to be average.

By Josh Wilson
Photography by Rory van Millingen
Styling by David Hellqvist

This is an extract from Issue 8 of The Green Soccer Journal, Winter 2015. The full version of this article can be found in the latest edition of the printed magazine, now available to pre-order from our online store.

Let’s start with a quick round of Odd One Out: Paul Gascoigne’s sublime chip and volley in the warm Wembley sunshine; David Beckham’s heart-stopping swing of the boot in the direction of Diego Simeone’s left leg; that Chris Waddle penalty, high, wide and off into the Turin night sky; and Phil Neville’s England debut against China in Beijing.

You might be tempted to choose Gazza, on the basis that you feel it to be the only moment on this list to have given England fans any cause for celebration. That all depends on how you feel about Phil, of course.

But you’d be wrong. It’s David Beckham.

And it’s David Beckham because, of the four, his petulant reaction to the Argentine’s heavy-handed challenge in Marseille, the flick of the right foot that sent Simeone sprawling and split the British public’s opinion of Becks down the middle more neatly than his own centre parting, was the only one to take place after Joe Gomez had been born – on 23rd May, 1997.

It’s easy to overlook just how young the Charlton Athletic defender is. On the day we meet, we’re told that he’ll be driving to the studio from the Addicks’ training ground in south-east London – nothing remarkable in and of itself, until you realise that he only passed his test a matter of weeks beforehand.

Largely, though, it’s down to Gomez himself. At well over six feet tall, broad-shouldered and without the ill-proportioned, uneasy concoction of limbs that characterises so many awkward transitional years of adolescence, the 17-year-old cuts an imposing figure.

But perhaps that’s the product of having been, for many years, a boy among men. “It just sort of happened suddenly,” he says, a smile on his face, when I ask him about his promotion to the Charlton under-18s side. He was 14 at the time. “I was playing for my own age group, and then one season there was a load of injuries, and ever since then I’ve just played up [an age group].” Gomez has had to grow up fast; and now, almost halfway through his debut Championship season with the club’s senior side, the assurance and thoughtfulness in his answers are reflective of the kind of on-pitch temperament that has succeeded in winning him scores of admirers, both at The Valley and beyond.

Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez — London 2014 by Rory van Millingen

“One season there was a load of injuries, and ever since then I’ve just played up [an age group].”

The departure of manager Chris Powell in the summer of 2014 and the arrival of his successor, the Belgian-born former Millwall forward Bob Peeters, was the catalyst for his promotion. Initially included as part of a pre-season tour to the homeland of Peeters and Roland Duchâtelet, the businessman behind a 14 million euro takeover of the club at the end of 2013, so impressive were Gomez’s performances that it was not long before he was lining up to make his first league appearance, against Derby County at The Valley, back in August. It was an evening to savour.

“To beat them at home, on my debut – it’s something that I’ll never forget,” he says, proudly, when I ask him about the one-nil victory. Lining up alongside Tal Ben Haim and André Bikey— – a central defensive partnership with a combined age of 61 and a quarter of a century of professional experience between them— – Gomez was the epitome of confidence against a fluid, pacy attacking side believed by many to be the finest in England’s second tier. Only a minor ankle injury has succeeded in keeping him out of the team for any sustained period over the subsequent months.

This is an extract from Issue 8 of The Green Soccer Journal, Winter 2015. The full version of this article can be found in the latest edition of the printed magazine, now available to pre-order from our online store.

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