With pre-season now well underway at Cobham, it’s that time of year where we welcome a host of new faces into the academy setup officially with the 2014-15 first year scholars officially beginning their full time work at Chelsea Football Club.
In reality, almost all of them have been involved on a daily basis for the last year or two anyway with Chelsea leading the way in making provisions for their best and brightest to combine their academic education with their footballing one, undertaking lessons on-site at the training ground before swapping the classroom for the pitch. It allows for a considerable increase in coaching hours and helps the players assimilate themselves into the daily life of an academy player a year or more ahead of schedule, meaning that by the time they officially become scholars, they’re in a very strong position to push on.
To that end, five of last year’s fourteen new faces finished last season as Under-21 regulars, and there will be just as many in this intake seeking to follow the well-trodden footsteps of Dominic Solanke, Tammy Abraham, Jake Clarke-Salter, Jay Dasilva and Tammy Abraham. It’s a group blessed with talent and versatility and plenty of experience, so let’s meet them.
(Click on a player’s name to view his profile at our wiki site, TheChels.info)
Nathan Baxter, Goalkeeper
A local lad who was first scouted by Chelsea as a seven year-old, Nathan has often served as the backup goalkeeper on Under-18 match days and made his youth team bow in the final game of last season. A regular at Under-16 level before that, he possesses all of the solid fundamentals one would expect from a young stopper on the books of Chelsea, following in the footsteps of Jamal Blackman, Mitchell Beeney and Brad Collins.
Trevoh Chalobah, Defender
A familiar surname to many, Trevoh is the younger brother of Nathaniel and bears many of the same traits as his talented sibling. Blessed with tremendous size and athleticism, he, like the elder Chalobah, can play in a host of roles across defence and midfield but is perhaps slightly more inclined to play in his own end of the pitch rather than affect the other end. Extremely highly-rated, he’s an England Under-16 international who made his Chelsea youth team debut aged 14 and finished last season as a league regular for Joe Edwards.
Joseph Colley, Defender
The solitary overseas import in this class, Swedish centre-back Joseph arrives from Brommapojkarna where he has fleetingly been involved at senior level over the early spring and summer. An exceptional athlete and physical specimen, he is his country’s Under-16 captain and adds yet another wonderful option at the back for a Blues squad already loaded with them.
Cole Dasilva, Defender
The second of three Dasilva brothers signed from Luton back in 2012, full-back Cole is in many ways a similar player to left-back Jay. He often plays the same position – although he remains eminently capable of playing on the right side too – and has the same short but well-built physique ideally suited to his position. He’s more two-footed than his brother and perhaps has a little more of a penchant for the spectacular strike, and will be one to watch. Has represented England and Wales at Under-16 level.
Josh Grant, Defender
A youth team regular from the outset last term, Josh made huge strides as an Under-16 and will be a candidate to follow Clarke-Salter’s lead and push for Under-21 consideration this season. Joining Chelsea at the age of six and capable of playing across the back four, his physical development over the past twelve months makes him an ideal centre-back and he increasingly plays with the authority and command a player in that position needs in order to be successful.
Malakai Hinckson-Mars, Forward
Signed from Barnet during his Under-16 season, Malakai is a forward with plenty of pace and the raw goalscoring attributes to be chiselled into an effective attacking option.
Daniel Kemp, Forward
Whilst many of this class immediately catch the eye for their notable stature, Kemp’s smaller stature works in his favour. His technique, work ethic and tactical understanding are all first-rate and he brings a craft and guile to attacking situations resulting in regular goals and assists.
Jacob Maddox, Midfielder
Signed from Bristol City as a 14 year-old, Maddox is a silky-smooth attacking midfielder who loves to carry the ball forward and beat a man. He weighs in with his fair share of goals and intelligently links things together from back to front. An England Under-17 international.
Luke McCormick, Defender/Midfielder
Luke is a bit of a utility player – as many Chelsea youngsters are – having added the string of right-back to his bow last season after spending much of his development as an attacking right-sided midfielder. Small but quick and skilful, he wasn’t initially on the scholarship list and trialled at Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City amongst others, but earned himself another look with a strong finish to the season.
Mason Mount, Midfielder
A Chelsea boy since the age of 8, Mason has always been a goalscoring midfielder and carries that threat with him at every step up the ladder. He made his Under-18 debut during his Under-15 season and featured prominently towards the end of last term, showing with each performance that he belongs. Busy in the attacking third, he also offers a composed and considered influence in the middle and will develop into an understated leader in time.
Richard Nartey, Defender
A versatile defender who was not a part of the in-house school programme, Nartey will be looking to make similar progress to Tomori, who shared his circumstances a year ago and proved to be one of the Under-18 defenders of the season. In many ways they’re comparable players too, with Richard able to play across the back four and whilst he’s not quite as quick or as strong, he’s very dependable and assured in his duties.
Harvey St Clair, Midfielder
A tricky and skilful attacking midfielder who has represented Scotland at Under-15 level, Harvey debuted in the youth team as an Under-15 but injuries prevented him from making similar strides last season. With the club since the age of eight, he likes a curling effort from distance.*
Jared Thompson, Goalkeeper
Jared made nearly twenty appearances at Under-18 level last season and will be the first-choice custodian in league and cup going forward. Signed from Swindon as a 12 year-old, the left-footed youngster is extremely gifted and is also England’s number one at Under-16 level. His handling and use of the ball is highly impressive, his reflexes have been proven to be first-rate, and he’s also something of a penalty-saving specialist.
Iké Ugbo, Forward
The England Under-17 striker has gone from strength to strength since moving forward from midfield as a 14 year-old and will be aiming to follow Solanke and Abraham in putting the ball in the back of the net with regularity. He struck 11* times in the Under-18s whilst still an Under-16; more than Abraham and just over half of Solanke’s tally at the same stage of their respective careers. He has plenty in him to go on and achieve at least some of the same success and will also hope to build on a handful of Under-21 outings given to him in 2014-15.
With eight of the above having featured to some degree at Under-18 level already, it also pays to look at the class of 2016 (and beyond) for a handful of bright young things set to influence affairs ahead of schedule this season. Dujon Sterling leads the way, having made a UEFA Youth League appearance as a 15 year-old and showing huge promise in handling his business against players two, three, or four years older than him. Fellow defender Marc Guehi also made his Under-18 bow as an Under-15 and earned England international honours earlier this year alongside Zechariah Medley, George McEachran (Josh’s brother), and Martell Taylor-Crossdale, yet another prolific goalscorer.
You can, of course, keep fully up to date with how the boys get on throughout the season here at TheChels.net and on Twitter by following @chelseayouth.