Charlie Kelman has spent all his life being compared to Wayne Rooney – and Plymouth Argyle know exactly why.
What do David Beckham, Xabi Alonso and Wayne Rooney all have in common with a Basildon-born 17-year-old playing for a club stuck near the bottom of England’s third tier?
Well, like two England legends and a former Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich maestro, Southend United’s teen sensation Charlie Kelman makes scoring from 60 yards look as simple as a goal-line tap-in.
On a bitterly cold January night in Victoria Avenue, Kelman took aim from inside his own half, channelled Beckham circa ’96, and sent an inch-perfect shot soaring past a stunned Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper.
The game ended in a 3-2 defeat but, hey, there are certainly worse ways to mark your senior debut.
“It was just natural really. I’m a very instinctive player and to be honest it was all a blur until I saw the crowd behind the goal stand up and cheer!” says the Shrimpers starlet, speaking exclusively to HITC.
“It was an unforgettable moment but I love doing things that no one else would think of. No doubt there will be a few more moments like that in my career.”
Forget Beckham, Alonso and yes, you too Charlie Adam, Rooney remains the undisputed master of the long-range lob. He’s scored from the centre-circle three times; once for Manchester United, once for Everton and once for DC United.
Kelman has a long way to go before he can stand proudly alongside the highest all-time goalscorer in the history of Manchester United and England – but the similarities go beyond a shared eye for the spectacular.
“I’ve been called a young Wazza ever since I was a kid, from the way I play to the small but stocky stature,” Kelman says. “I look up to him and study him. Maybe I’ll get to play against him before he retires!”
Despite being catapulted into the limelight with a moment of genius most could only dream of, not to mention a further 61 goals at youth level in 2017/18, Kelman remains refreshingly down-to-earth – although his considerable potential has not gone unnoticed.
HITC sources told us that West Ham, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Burnley have all been keeping tabs on the youngster while David Pleat, who is credited with helping bring Dele Alli to Tottenham, was spotted at Southend’s recent Carabao Cup clash with Stevenage.
But Kelman is still loving life at Southend notwithstanding an awful start to the season has left the club 22nd in a now 23-team division.
He was once a season-ticket holder at Roots Hall despite a childhood affinity for London neighbours West Ham United, and continues to make the transition from terraces to turf look seamless.
“I want to be the best player I can for Southend. I love it here,” says Kelman, raised a stone’s throw away from the quaint yet boisterous Roots Hall ground and now honing his talents under Harry Redknapp’s long-time assistant Kevin Bond.
“The gaffer is a quality coach as well as manager. He’s helping me develop, mature and most importantly learn the game every single day. He’s big on tactics and statistics and it’s a different way of viewing the game but one that is very helpful.
“I believe in my ability. I will continue doing my best for Southend, enjoying my football and working hard and see where that takes me!”
To think, it could have all been oh so different. Before making waves in the land of jellied eels and perma-tanned ITV2 darlings, Kelman received a rather unique footballing education on the other side of the Atlantic in sweltering Texan heat.
He spent a year at MLS outfit FC Dallas and credits The Toros for honing his athletic ability and a fearsome technique that former Plymouth goalkeeper Kyle Letheran knows all about. He is also now eligable to represent the USA at international level and even received his first call-up to the Under 20s on Friday.
In the end, Kelman was let go by Dallas and, despite interest from Fulham, Norwich and his boyhood club West Ham, he decided that home was where the heart is after all.
“(Academy manager) Ricky Duncan at Southend promised a path way to the first team as long as I worked hard and remained disciplined. So I took the chance and it looks like it’s paying off!
Taking chances; it just comes naturally to Charlie Kelman.