Another Under 18 season comes to an end at Cobham this Saturday lunchtime. Whilst Chelsea still have one more away fixture to complete this season at Portsmouth in a week’s time, their final home game of a long and gruelling campaign brings about the visit of Leicester City and a second meeting this year between the clubs.
They have already, of course, met in the FA Youth Cup, Chelsea sending The Foxes packing 3-1 on their way to the Final. A Final they lost in painful circumstances in midweek to a deserving and very impressive Manchester City side. Paul Clement’s charges were chasing the club’s first Youth Cup win in nearly half a century, and after a dominant first leg performance and an early goal in the second leg things were looking good. Unfortunately, the class of the hosts told, and it wasn’t to be.
After such a tiring match both physically and emotionally, it’s likely that the team named for this weekend’s clash will feature many of the names and faces used in games in and around previous Youth Cup ties. One face sure to be missing is Jacob Mellis. The goalscoring midfielder was sent off in stoppage time at the City of Manchester Stadium and will finish the season suspended.
For many of the players likely to feature this weekend, they will be coming to the end of their first year as a scholar at Chelsea, and for some the end of their first year in England. Last weekend, goalkeeper Aldi Haxia and full-back Tom Hayden were given full Under 18 debuts as schoolboys, with scholarships likely to come next season. Haxia may once again don the gloves after serving as substitute to Rhys Taylor midweek, with Nick Heimann presumably injured.
The team will still be pretty strong, and has put in some exciting performances in recent weeks, most impressively beating Arsenal 1-0. That was preceeded by a defeat to Watford and followed with a draw with Cardiff, both performances showing some defensive frailties but equally displaying some impressive attacking flair. At the heart of it for this particular team have been Adam Phillip and Frank Nouble.
The attacking pair, both comfortable as the lead striker or a winger, are close friends after developing a prolific Under 16 strike partnership and they made an impact as substitutes at Man City in midweek. They’ve both made a strong impact from the bench at times this season and will be looking to finish the season on a goalscoring high. For Nouble, the season finishes his time as a schoolboy and he will go into next season as a first year scholar with a full year of Under 18 football under his belt.
Leicester are strong opponents. They put up a strong showing in Academy Group B this season but faded and fell away to a much better Aston Villa side. In their visit to Stamford Bridge they didn’t put up their best showing, and despite Robbie Burns’ fine strike they succumbed to Chelsea’s better team. They have a chance to redeem themselves against the rest of the academy, and will be looking to striker Billy McKay to score the goals. The youngster scored all of their goals in a recent remarkable 5-5 draw with Norwich and with the pacy Ashley Chambers in the team, they certainly pose a threat.
This fixture didn’t take place last season due to the scheduling of the FA Premier Academy League and there was no return meeting earlier this campaign. The match takes place at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground with a 12 Noon kick-off, and not the usual 11am. Entry is free and encouraged. The nearest public transport is Cobham and Stoke D’Abernon Station, where you will then be able to ask a Chelsea security guard for directions from Platform 2. A full match report will follow on CFCnet.