Despite being just 19-years-of-age Colchester United’s Junior Tchamadeu is already leading by example.
The defender played every minute of January as Colchester made it four wins in six, taking 13 points from a possible 18 to climb the Sky Bet League Two standings, earning him the EFL’s Young Player of the Month.
But he is certain that this is just the beginning for the U’s full-back.
“It’s important for young players to try and get as many games as possible as early as possible,” he affirmed. “I’ve shown other young players how important playing games is; no matter the level, playing men’s football is the most important thing for your development.
“I felt like I had a good month personally. It shows the hard work that I’ve put in this season. It’s good to see that and be rewarded to win Young Player of the Month out of the whole of the EFL was good to receive that award.
“You always build fitness with the more games you player and the longer you play, so to play every minute of every game in that month, it shows that the manager had good faith in me and his trusted me to play. It was a good to be a part of our performances as a whole group and a whole team.”
Since the turn of the New Year, the full-back has taken on a new role, beginning to press higher up the pitch and slot into the position of wing-back.
And it’s paid off for him. The youngster, who has four league goals to his name this season, netted in consecutive games against Harrogate Town and Rochdale in January.
A goal made in the @ColU_Official Academy 🙌— Sky Bet League Two (@SkyBetLeagueTwo) January 8, 2023
⚽️ Junior Tchamadeu
Two teens with big futures in the game 🌟#EFL | #SkyBetLeagueTwo pic.twitter.com/tGfQO2pDiV
“It was a smooth transition because the previous manager, Matt Bloomfield, helped me,” he explained. “From the minute they came in, my positioning got better. I was always getting forward and I base my game around getting forward a lot and getting in the right positions to get goals as well.
“I’m not really expected to get goals, to be honest! I try and take as many opportunities as I can to score. I got a few goals to be fair in January which helps the team a lot.”
Tchamadeu, who was accepted “with open arms” when he joined the Club following his release from Charlton Athletic three years ago, isn’t afraid of failure but finding himself in different circumstances to that of his teammates has helped him to progress.
“A lot of the players in the team are playing for their families and they’ve got mortgages to play, whereas I’m just playing really,” he added. “I want to have a good career but they’ve got more on the line than me at the moment.
“It’s like I’m playing with more freedom so I’m able to make mistakes. You don’t want to play with any pressure on yourself, especially when you’re young and you’ve got a long career ahead of you. Every game, I try to remain calm and do what I’m good at which is doing the basics right.”
Earlier this month, Ben Garner was announced as the new U’s head coach, succeeding Matt Bloomfield following his departure to Wycombe Wanderers, and taking charge of his first game against Stockport County at the weekend.
“It’s helped me more than people realise,” he continued. “It’s learning to play under different managers who have different styles of play. You learn along with the way with all the different people that you meet. It’s a good building base for my career in the long-term.
“It’s good to know that the coaches are putting their trust and faith in me even though I’m a young player, and I’m happy to be repaying them with my performances week in, week out.”
It isn’t the first time the youngster has been recognised for his efforts on the pitch, either. Tchamadeu was named as the 2021/22 League Two Apprentice of the Season as he played a key part in steering the U’s to safety and away from the threat of relegation.
“I was sleeping on the coach to one of the away games and someone tapped me and showed me I got nominated!” he laughed. “I messaged my parents straightaway. It’s good to get the recognition from the EFL – they’ve noticed the work I’m putting in and my performances which is important to me as much as anything.”
In December 2020, aged 16-years and 349 days old, Tchamadeu became Colchester’s youngest-ever starter when he was handed his debut at home to Grimsby Town in the league.
The game ended in a 2-1 victory for the hosts and the starlet, who was thrown in at the deep end somewhat, made his own piece of history.
“That week was crazy, to be honest,” he recalled. “My first session with the first-team was on the Thursday and I thought I did well. We trained on the Friday – and Friday is normally a lighter session with the game the next day – then I found out later that day that I was in the squad.
“I was expecting to the 19th man, but at that point, I’m buzzing with that. We got into the stadium and had our meeting and I thought I’d just be in and around it, then he goes to name the team and I’m starting.
“When I heard my name, I lifted my head and looked around – my heart was racing and I felt so nervous straight away to be starting in my first game for the first-team having only trained twice before. I was shivering. It’s a good record to have.”
As the 2022/23 campaign nears its conclusion, the aim for Tchamadeu and his teammates is to put as many points on the board as possible.
“If you look back from my first season to now, this season, I’ve become a more important part of the squad, contributing to games more,” he said. “It’s important for me to not just coast through games.
“I don’t want to be known as a young player that people make excuses for when I have a bad game; I want to be someone that my teammates can rely on to help us win games. There’s still much more to come from me.”