It’s been a week full of action and news on the youth front at Chelsea, including Tom Taiwo’s first footballing return to Elland Road and Sam Hutchinson’s debut call-up for the England Under-21s.
Sam had previously represented England at various youth levels but over the last two years has struggled to hold down a regular place at Chelsea, let alone at international level. Now fit, he impressed the watching Stuart Pearce in making his senior full debut at home to QPR in the Carling Cup and has been called into the squad for the first time ahead of their clash with Macedonia. Sam joins Michael Mancienne, Daniel Sturridge, Jack Cork and Ryan Bertrand in the squad, and with five players, the Blues are leading the way with representation in the squad.
In the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Nana Ofori-Twumasi started at left-back for England against Ghana, his birth nation, but was given a torrid time by the talented Andre Ayew (son of the legendart Abedi Pele) in a 4-0 route by the Black Satellites. Michael Woods remained an unused sub for the second game in a row, a fate also befalling Jan Sebek for the Czech Republic. Anton Rodgers, meanwhile, has been part of the Ireland Under-17 team which have successfully negotiated the first stage of qualifying for the 2010 European Championships.
On Monday night, a very young Chelsea Reserve team put in an impressive performance in beating Wolves 1-0 at Telford. It featured academy debutants Danny Mills, Josh McEachran and Milan Lalkovic, and was young throughout save for the presence of captain Paulo Ferreira. Lalkovic hit the crossbar in the first half before the impressive Conor Clifford slammed in a spectacular 25-yard winner with just a minute to go. The Reserves face Arsenal next, this coming Monday night at Barnet’s Underhill Stadium.
In loan news, a full football league schedule meant action for the club’s youngsters out at other clubs, and in the Championship, Ryan Bertrand and Reading recorded a long overdue victory away to Preston North End. There were also wins for Jack Cork and Patrick van Aanholt for Coventry away to Watford, recording a 3-2 win on a ground where Cork spent time on loan last season. The match marked van Aanholt’s first start since returning from a hamstring problem, and completing 90 minutes serves as a strong indication that he is back to full fitness.
In League One, Tom Taiwo faced a potential torrent of abuse in returning to Elland Road for the first time since his move to Chelsea. It failed to materialise, with the majority of Leeds fans clueless as to who he actually was, but he played well in a creditable 1-1 draw for Carlisle. He did however leave the action early, with a potential knock which will be assessed ahead of the weekend’s action.
Lee Sawyer’s frustrations grow as he once again started as a sub for Southend and only got one minute of action as the Shrimpers dropped to a second defeat running, this time away to Brentford. Lee may have had knee trouble earlier in the season but his continued presence on the bench is a source of frustration to Southend and Chelsea followers alike.
Stockport’s unbeaten run continued as they earned a 2-2 home draw with Hartlepool, with Liam Bridcutt now an integral part of a vastly improving team. Things aren’t so rosy for Southampton though, as they were denied a much needed win at home to Bristol Rovers by dropping two leads to lose 3-2 in stoppage time. Jacob Mellis played 68 minutes, with the second equaliser having gone in just as he was replaced.
Finally, in Europa League action, Miroslav Stoch got 85 minutes and a booking for dissent in FC Twente’s frustrating goalless draw at home to Steaua Bucharest. Mino was recently voted Twente’s player of the month for September by the club’s fans, but Slobodan Rajkovic remains sidelined, having had hernia surgery in London last week.