It’s the dawn of a new era for Chelsea’s Under-18s, but it’s revolution rather than evolution as we welcome the 2018-19 campaign with a fresh batch of academy scholars.
Jody Morris has taken the next step of his career at Derby County, alongside Frank Lampard, and has been replaced by Andy Myers. A former academy player himself, Myers came through the ranks to make more than 100 first-team appearances for the Blues, before embarking on a coaching journey that has taken him from the Under-15s to the Development Squad as Assistant Manager, whilst also spending a year in the same capacity at first team level at Vitesse.
During his time in the Netherlands he was credited with developing the club’s coaching methods to an even higher level, bringing rigourous preparation and a highly professional approach across the board. A man with a very impressive footballing mind, the 44 year-old will take the torch from Morris and guide the Under-18s with a flavour of his own style on top of the fundamentals taught as part of the academy’s overall programme.
Myers welcomes fourteen fresh-faced 16 year-olds who have penned two-year scholarship agreements, aiming to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, who have won just about everything in sight in recent years. Let’s get to know them a bit better:
Jordan Aina, Defender
Jordan, like his older brother Ola, is also a defender who has represented England at youth level whilst retaining Nigerian eligibility. Equally comfortable on either side or as a centre-back, he doesn’t have quite the same blistering, buccaneering pace of his older sibling, but is plenty athletic enough and has a number of similar traits.
Faustino Anjorin, Attacking Midfielder
England Under-17 international Anjorin made his breakthrough last season, scoring eight goals in twenty-four appearances, and becoming an integral part of Morris’ quadruple-winning side. Noted by his former manager as ‘probably the best finisher in the squad’, his powerful midfield running and clean striking of the ball anywhere in and around the penalty area make him a potent threat who will only get better and better.
Jake Askew, Goalkeeper
A London-born stopper who served as backup goalkeeper on plenty of occasions last season, Jake is yet to make his Under-18 debut, but is a promising stopper who is very comfortable in possession and makes up for a slight lack of size with agility and top reactions.
Thierno Ballo, Forward
An Austrian Under-17 international, the Guinea-born forward arrives from Viktoria Köln with a reputation as a silky-smooth dribbler with quite an eye for goal. A former Bayer Leverkusen youngster, he can play anywhere across the forward line as well as in a more withdrawn role.
Armando Broja, Forward
A robust centre-forward with two good feet, Broja has come along well in the last few years, and worked hard to secure his scholarship with the club. He brings something different with his combative style, but he’s also very capable with the ball, and is a confident finisher.
James Clark, Defender/Midfielder
A former Brentford youngster who dropped into non-league football when the Bees closed their academy ranks, Clark joined Chelsea last September from Leatherhead, and quickly impressed with his hard-working, no-nonsense performances down the right. Somewhat reminiscent of Todd Kane, he can play at full-back, wing-back, or further forward, and will emerge as one of the team’s leaders before long this season.
Pierre-Emmanuel Ekwah-Elimby, Defender/Midfielder
The final addition to the group, the tall France Under-16 international joins from Nantes, and brings plenty of size and strength to the defence or the midfield group. Tall and elegant, Chelsea wrapped up his arrival in late May after making a late move to expand their group.
Henry Lawrence, Midfielder
A smart defensive-minded midfielder who can also play in a back three or in a wide midfield role, Lawrence is the latest in a long line of Chelsea midfield products who are technically sound, know how to play any role in the middle of the park, and always looks to play progressively.
Marcel Lewis, Attacking Midfielder
Marcel joined Chelsea as an Under-14 after a notable appearance in an academy showcase game against his now-former side Cambridge United, and a deal was quickly struck for him and Dion Rankine, a member of the Under-16 squad for this coming season. Lewis is very two-footed, and has a penchant for the spectacular, becoming something of a free-kick specialist over the past twelve months. Appropriately, his first Under-18 goal came from a dead ball, capping a 5-1 win over Swansea back in February.
Ian Maatsen, Defender
Chelsea’s latest venture into the Dutch youth market has seen them come away with a prospect that has reminded many in the academy of Nathan Aké. Maatsen, an Under-16 international formerly of PSV, is a left-footed defender who can play at full-back, centre-back, or further forward in midfield, and follows the likes of Aké, Juan Castillo and Daishawn Redan in making the move from the Netherlands to Cobham in recent years.
Sam McClelland, Defender
Sam joins from Coleraine, having captained Northern Ireland up to Under-17 level in recent years. A tall and elegant centre-back who impresses in both attacking and defensive duties, he fits the bill as a modern Blues defender.
George Nunn, Forward
Nunn joined Chelsea from Crewe Alexandra in March during a season in which he scored more than thirty goals in all competitions. Two of those came on his Under-18 debut for Crewe against Nottingham Forest, and the final half a dozen came in a blue shirt as he quickly showed his composure and instincts when presented with a chance. In a team that always scores goals, he could be very prolific very quickly.
Dynel Simeu, Defender
Dynel has had quite the rise in the last three years. Having only joined the club as a 14 year-old, he quickly went from grass roots football and not being affiliated with a professional club to captaining England at Under-16 level. A powerful centre-back who likes to drive forward in possession, he had a brief taste of regular Under-18 action last autumn, and will be a regular name on the team sheet this term.
Ethan Wady, Goalkeeper
The American-born Wady holds dual citizenship, allowing him to join Chelsea before the age of 18, and a family move from North Carolina to Europe last year allowed the Blues to get a quick look at a young stopper who had previously impressed for his home state’s Railhawks.
In any given year, the Blues are also keen to involve the best of their Under-16 crop, and this season there could be a bumper crop of hopefuls. They won their own treble last season at Under-15 level under James Simmonds and no fewer than twelve of them have represented England at youth level. Myles Peart-Harris, Valentino Livramento and the precocious Ben Elliott have all lined up alongside Simeu at Under-16 level for the Three Lions, whilst Lewis Bate captained the Blues to their Under-15 successes in 2017-18, and is an all-round midfielder who is certainly one to watch.
Their friendly slate gets underway on July 16th with a marquee game against Oxford United to formally open the new Surrey FA training facility at Dorking, before further fixtures against Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers, and a week away at La Manga. The Under-18 Premier League season gets underway on August 11th, and you can be assured of the very best coverage throughout here at TheChels, and on Twitter @chelseayouth.