In Part Two of our season review, we take a look at each of the players who have appeared (notably) for the Under-18 and Reserve teams in the 2008/2009 season, starting with the goalkeepers.
Rhys Taylor – Was good at times, uncertain at others. A serious concussion suffered in February against St. Patrick’s Athletic came at the worst possible time with Carlo Cudicini’s departure, as it allowed other young stoppers to join up with the senior squad and show their worth. Of a greater worry, however, is the seriousness of the concussion and any post-syndromes.
Niclas Heimann – Really developed as a player this year, looking assured and competent when becoming the regular Reserve starter, having played mainly in the Under-18s pre-Christmas. Is still a bit rough in places but has worked with the first-team and has some promise.
Jan Sebek – After returning to the club after a troubled first season, he initially looked shaky, conceding soft goals and suffering injuries. However, the turn of the year saw a different player, a stronger, leaner Sebek who was handed a Reserve opportunity and seized it with both hands, looking the best between the sticks of any goalkeeper at that level for the club all season, and potentially positioning himself ahead of Taylor.
Aldi Haxhia – Stuck for opportunities in a deep goalkeeper rotation, he was loaned in emergency circumstances to Aston Villa and Bristol City before getting a few appearances at Chelsea. Handed a surprise Reserve debut away to Aston Villa but looked shaky in a 4-3 defeat. Remains a good handler of a ball but struggles in other areas.
Sam Walker – With the Under-16s until the turn of the year when injuries took hold, Walker has begun to realise his great potential with some fantastic performances for the Under-18s. Maturing as a person and a player, he appears every inch the prospect in goal now. And at 6’5”, that’s a lot of inches.
Sam Hutchinson – Another injury-hit season for Hutch, with an aborted comeback in October requiring further rehabilitation. Returned towards the end of the season looking absolutely fantastic at the heart of the defence, losing none of his infective enthusiasm. If he can stay fit, he’s such a talent.
Jeffrey Bruma – Keeps growing physically and looks every inch the centre-half now. Still wonderfully assured with the ball at his feet, but mistakes continue to creep into his game and he must cut them out if he wants to join up with the first team on more occasions as he did this season.
Patrick van Aanholt – Patrick continues to develop quietly, doing a fine job at left or centre-back whilst occasionally doing well in more advanced positions, and chips in with goals. To find a fault with his season would be forcing the issue.
Carl Magnay – Casting the Football Icon winner tag aside, Magnay impressed for the Reserves, occasionally as captain and occasionally at left-back, before going on loan to MK Dons. He wasn’t successful there, and a second attempt at Northampton ended 45 minutes into his debut with a stress fracture of his back, ending his season.
Nana Ofori-Twumasi – At times looked a comfortable defender, but at others a liability. Still capable of filling any defensive capacity, it remains a big question how far his physical abilities can take him compared to his footballing ability.
Nikki Ahmed – A conversion to right-back is now complete, and actually looks like it will benefit Nikki’s career long-term. Still very comfortable with the ball at his feet, the skills he learned in midfield complement the desire to learn defensive duties, and progress to the Reserve team this season stands him in good stead for next season.
Ben Gordon – Often looks better playing on the left wing than at left-back, but hasn’t really progressed as the club would have liked, which remains a disappointment.
Rohan Ince – A schoolboy playing most of the season in defence, partly through necessity. Has great physical ability and the sense to pull off great skill when dribbling, but his passing and decision making leave a lot to be desired. Will be a scholar this summer.
Jordan Tabor – Has a wonderful left foot on him for crossing and dead balls, but remains limited in other areas and will be leaving the club in June. Has had trials at QPR for a prospective professional contract.
Billy-Joe King – Completely average in every area, it comes as no surprise to learn of his departure this summer. Brentford are interested.
Tom Hayden – It’s hard for Tom because such are his academic aims, he is at Cobham less than his team-mates, which affects his training, development and playing time. Looks decent at times but needs to play more to progress.
Jack Saville – Jack has always looked pretty good, but apparently Arnesen believes the club has too many defenders and granted Saville a departure to Southampton in March. Barely played this season but the club may miss a trick in letting him leave.
Vincenzo Camilleri – Signed in tempestuous circumstances from Reggina, he failed to settle in six months in England and returned from whence he came at the turn of the year, having barely featured.
Shaun Cummings – Spent most of the season on loan at MK Dons. He started well, playing in a number of roles, but as their season became more important, he found himself in a marginal role. Could do with a permanent move to a football league club now.
Ryan Bertrand – Played well at times for a shockingly poor Norwich team which was ultimately relegated. Once again flicked between left-back and left midfield.
Liam Bridcutt – Followed a loan spell at Yeovil last season with one at Watford this term when Brendan Rodgers took over, but after early success lost his place to team-mate Jack Cork. Returned to Chelsea and was an absolute star for the Reserves, learning vital skills of his trade from Mineiro, himself an unsung hero for the second string.
Sergio Tejera – Didn’t play as much as needed pre-Christmas so headed back to Spain to see the season out with Real Mallorca. Stuck in their B team (Spanish Third Division), he impressed, but not enough to force first-team reckoning. Rumours of an option to buy are a great disappointment if true.
Gael Kakuta – The star of the setup at Chelsea had a matured start to the season, using his incredibly gifted feet more wisely than before. He was beginning to really impress and had been on the first-team bench for an FA Cup tie when a broken and dislocated ankle in a friendly ended his season.
Jacob Mellis – Injuries hampered him in the first half of the season but goals and performances flowed in 2009, as he showed real progression and a dynamic midfield game full of drive and pace. Earned a first-team squad call-up and is a bright, bright hope.
Michael Woods – The promise of his debut in 2006 remains, but it dwindles. He started the season in superb goalscoring form but was bogged down by injuries and suffered a serious knee injury to end his season in February.
Gokhan Tore – Signed in January and began to make an impact in March and April. Is stocky with a bullish energetic style but a lot of finesse and a great cross. One to watch next season.
Tom Taiwo – An early season loan spell at Port Vale was short-lived and a trial at Seattle unsuccessful, which leaves Tom in something of a limbo. When he has played, he looked good at right-back.
Josh McEachran – Only 16 in March, Josh played most of the season with the Under-18s, adding his vision, touch and creativity to a midfield which badly needed it. Technically magnificent, his first scholarship season next year will feature him trying to catch up physically.
Jacopo Sala – Started pre-season with the Reserves and finished it in the team as a starter. Scored goals from all positions for the Under-18s and looked impressive, mature and talented. Finished his Under-18 season with a lovely goal against Charlton.
Ricardo Fernandes – Disappeared from radar during the middle of the season when Chelsea offered him to pretty much anyone who would take him. Nobody did, but he still managed not to feature for the Reserves. Will depart in the summer.
Fabio Ferreira – Still has the ability to look decent for the Reserves but a poor loan spell at Oldham doesn’t leave much hope. Another who should be moving on.
Daniel Philliskirk – Played all over the place for the Under-18s – central midfield, centre back, and striker. Looked assured in all but most at home in midfield, where his patient approach and calm leadership is an asset. Pushed into the Reserves late in the season.
Kaby – Failed to make a start for the first half of the season, and failed to make an impression in the second. Looked slow and clumsy and lost tactically – must improve.
Conor Clifford – Grew into a midfield role with the Under-18s as the season went on, looking more and more confident. Always impressive in the tackling department, his high-energy game moved into the Reserves on occasion. Scored a quite stunning goal against Ipswich and another top-class effort against Portsmouth.
Lee Sawyer – Had the unusual record of playing in three different divisions this season, having loan spells at Coventry, Southend and Wycombe. He was fantastic at Southend, forgettable at the others, and useful for Chelsea’s Reserves, scoring a lovely goal away to Stoke in between spells elsewhere.
Jimmy Smith – Started the year on loan at Sheffield Wednesday but failed to establish himself and was sent off, incurring a four-game ban. He returned to Chelsea, and then went back on loan to his local club Leyton Orient, where he looked good at times, average at others.
Jack Cork – Another year out on loan for Jack. He started well at Southampton, and when Brendan Rodgers took over at Watford and came calling, he switched teams, and was impressive most of the time, with a few shaky performances when asked to play in defence.
Scott Sinclair – When he played for the Reserves, everything looked easy. Out on loan at Birmingham, he barely featured. The next few months are going to be key for 20 year-old Scott.
Ben Sahar – A loan spell at Portsmouth came to absolutely nothing, but he was rejuvenated in the new year at De Graafschap, grabbing five goals to become their top goalscorer and keep them in with a shout of avoiding relegation at the time of writing. Impressed for Israel out wide on the left.
Miroslav Stoch – The star of the season. Scored for fun early in the season, and was a constant threat in terms of assists. Deservedly progressed to the first team and looked useful in cameo outings, whilst making his full international debut for Slovakia. Is too good for the Reserve team now.
Frank Nouble – Frank stepped his game up to the next level this year. Prolific in the Under-18s, he became a regular starter out wide for the Reserves and was a consistent performer. Is developing football intelligence to go with his natural athleticism.
Morten Nielsen – Completely invisible for much of the season, he went on loan to Landskrona in Sweden to play in their league during the summer, before returning for an extra year at Chelsea next season.
Fabio Borini – After a mixed bag last year, Fabio settled in England this year and it showed with a fantastic return in front of goal. The Italian Under-19 captain scored in plentiful numbers for both academy and Reserves and was one of the hardest workers at the club. Simply knows where the goal is, an absolutely vital commodity.
Marko Mitrovic – Started well in the Cobham Cup, but his debut season was ruined by three separate injuries. Scored five in eight starts when fit, and is a promising target man.
Adam Phillip – He spent the first half of the season rehabbing a serious knee injury, and returned in December looking bigger and stronger than before. Pushed into the Reserves, he looked good, and signed a professional contract in March.
You can view full end of season statistics from both teams here.
In Part Three: We take a look towards next season.