The Charlton game marked a high in the Under 18s season so far. Led by the sublime skills of Gael Kakuta, the football was slick and easy on the eye, the goals flowed, and there were clear signs of development. All of which will no doubt please team coach Paul Clement, although he is unlikely to be in charge of the team this Friday, having been invited to continue his work with the Republic of Ireland youth teams, a role he undertook before joining Chelsea. Whilst Clement broadens his horizons further, Under 16 coach Dermott Drummy will likely step up, has he has done already this season.Fulham started the season in superb form. Two pre-season wins were followed by four competitive victories as they shot out of the traps. Since then though, things have become somewhat harder with two away draws and three defeats in their last five, a run stretching back as far as Chelsea’s current unbeaten run. Their team features two former Chelsea academy players in goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and left-back Joe Anderson, but the stars in white are striker Michael Uwezu, winger Lino Goncalves, and left-back Max Briggs, who made his Premiership debut for the Cottagers on the final day of the 2006/07 season, becoming the league’s youngest ever player.
With most of Chelsea’s senior players away on international duty, the academy boys this week have been enjoying training with the likes of Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack, who haven’t got international games. Taking their experience and advice on board will undoubtedly have the players raring to go come Friday morning, and with pretty much everyone fit and in form, there’s a selection headache for The Blues, albeit a nice one.
Against Charlton, Jacob Mellis played at centre-back for the first time in his career, and did largely well. However, Jack Saville has been impressive this season and will be pushing for his place back after his first rest last weekend. Nikki Ahmed had a fine spell before missing out last weekend, as did new professional Jordan Hibbert. Schoolboys Frank Nouble and Jacopo Sala have been in fantastic form recently and are pressing their own claims for regular places in the team, but with Adam Phillip returning they face competition for their places. Rotation is common at this level as the staff look to what’s best for the individual, so expect some changes from the team we last saw.
This fixture last season, played on a very wet surface, finished 3-1 to Chelsea with goals from Miroslav Stoch, Fabio Ferreira, and Harry Worley. All three are now reserve regulars. The match takes place at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground on Friday, not Saturday, with an 11am kick-off. 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 this weekend.