The fountain of youth
Chelsea are often criticised of failing to produce future talent through their academy system. As of late, the only recent notable mention is captain, leader, legend, John Terry, although Ryan Bertrand is now another notable mention. I mean, he started the Champions League final after all! After Roman Abramovich took over, Chelsea moved from their old Harlington training ground, which had been home to the blues since the 1970’s, to Cobham Training Centre, a multi-million pound investment in 2005.
The training ground is home to all of the clubs activities from the first team to the academy, women’s team, reserve team and is also home to a number of community events. Chelsea’s development of young players has been a huge advantage since moving to Surrey. It is a slow process, but I’m sure soon we will be seeing a few more names come from our academy to becoming legends in blue. Although some may argue that none of the young lads at Chelsea will ever be playing for the senior squad on a regular basis, there have been a few players who have found their ways afield after leaving Chelsea. For example, Chelsea let go of Jack Cork in 2011, after being at Chelsea since the age of 9. He captained both the youth and reserve teams, and is now a starter at Premier League side, Southampton. Another example is Scott Sinclair. Chelsea signed Scott at the age of 16 in 2005 from Bristol Rovers and was trained at the Cobham centre, as well as having various loan moves. He had always looked an exciting prospect, but Chelsea decided to sell him to Swansea in 2010, and is now earning his trade at Manchester City.
In my opinion, the Chelsea youth team is at the strongest it has ever been. They won the FA Youth Cup in 1960 and 1961, but have recently made it 4 Youth Cup finals in the space of 5 years, after winning in 2010 and 2012, and being runners-up in 2008.
The current academy side are very, very good. Chelsea were recently named runners-up of the NextGen series, a Champions League type set up for the best academies across Europe. Along their way to the final, Chelsea beat the likes of Barcelona (with ten men, now where have we heard that before?), Juventus, Arsenal and Ajax respectively on their way to the final, before finally losing out to Aston Villa. Chelsea also recently made it into the FA Youth Cup final this year, after beating Liverpool over two legs in order to retain their title.
Out of those who have progressed from the academy, Nathaniel Chalobah certainly looks like the stand out name, and one who can be a future starter for both Chelsea, and England. The 18 year old defensive minded midfielder is currently on loan to high flying Championship side, Watford, and starts the majority of games for them. Nathaniel also got a call up to the England U21 side this season in November, after playing at each age group, although being a few years younger than his teammates. Having captained the England U16 side at tender age of 13, as well as captaining the U17’s to European Championship success at the age of 14, Chalobah is a born leader with a defensive mind, although his recent move into the centre of the park is proving to be his strongest position, certainly a name to look out for in the future.
Out of the players currently playing for the academy side, my pick of the bunch would be Nathan Ake. As you may recall, Nathan has featured three times for the senior side this season, despite only being 18 years of age. The Ruud Guillet lookalike plays as a central defender, although due to his build is comfortable playing in the centre of midfield, or as a fullback. The Dutchman has similar traits to those of David Luiz with his attacking runs from the back, a little less clumsy maybe, and solid at the back.
Lastly, one name catching the eye of many who have watched this team this season is Lewis Baker. Lewis has scored 15 goals from the centre of midfield and was named player of the tournament in the NextGen series after a superb campaign. Similar to Frank Lampard in his prime, Baker plays in the centre of midfield and has great passing range and a shot that leaves the goalkeepers gobsmacked. Lewis scored a lovely goal in the 2012 Youth Cup final after playing every game in the campaign, and has been part of the Chelsea system since the age of 9. Captain of the current youth team, Baker scored twice in our 4-3 semi final win over Arsenal in the NextGen series and has also featured for the England U17’s.
It is clear to see that the Chelsea academy is producing some fine talent as of late, and this talent will only improve. Although, yes, an awful lot of the academy hopefuls won’t be important squad members for Chelsea in the future, but I’m sure that a few will be. These three I have mentioned and more such as Josh McEachran, Islam Feruz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Alex Kiwomya all have bright futures, whether that be at Stamford Bridge or not.
Contribution by Jack Cox
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