October’s Youth Team Round-Up

It’s been a few weeks since we carried a youth team report here on TheChels.net, but fear not, as we take a look at what’s been going on down on the academy side of the fence at Cobham.

The month of October saw more difficulties befall Adie Viveash’s Under-18 team with three more defeats in the league and one in friendly competition, but they did pick up a win along the way and this weekend started November in style with a 1-0 win away to West Ham.

John Swift’s second goal of the season secured an unlikely resuit at Little Heath against the previously high-flying Hammers but after a long run without much to celebrate, the morale in the youth team camp this evening will almost certainly be upbeat.

October began with a 3-2 reverse away to Southampton in a game where the Blues actually played quite well but ultimately ran out of steam in the second half and succumbed to a very talented outfit.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring at Staplewood with his fifth goal of the season, making him the team’s top scorer so far. The schoolboy has been one of the relevations of 2011-12 so far and has shone in front of the television cameras for England to boot.

After being forced to withdraw from two of Kenny Swain’s Under-16 squads last season through injury, Ruben has been handed the captain’s armband for this year’s Victory Shield campaign and put in sparking performances against both Northern Ireland and Wales, grabbing a goal against the latter.

The visit to Southampton also saw Under-18 debuts for fellow schoolboys Dion Conroy and Ambrose Gnahore as the academy staff continue to give opportunities to talent further down the age ladder where it is deserved.

The annual much-anticipated visit of Arsenal came the following weekend and for an hour the Blues had just about edged the game and hit the woodwork twice through Daniel Pappoe and Amin Affane, but the Gunners would come on strong in the closing stages and took all three points.

The 0-3 scoreline undoubtedly flattered the visitors and on another day Alex Kiwomya would have taken one or two of his chances and at least one of the efforts which struck the frame of the goal may have found a way past Reice Charles-Cook, but Viveash was generally pleased with the application shown.

A first win since early September came away to Portsmouth in mid-October and featured a debut goal for Scottish forward Islam Feruz.

The former Celtic youngster joined Chelsea in a controversial deal on his sixteenth birthday some weeks prior to the match and after receiving clearance from the Scottish and English FAs was able to take part for the first time.

His cheeky backheeled finish from a free kick showed all of the skill and anticipation he has been famed for north of the border. The same, however, cannot be said for Amin Affane’s winner, which came after the midfielder closed down goalkeeper Stephen Lawrence and saw the ball ricochet into the top corner off his back.

Viveash was understandably pleased for his young charges after a series of bad results but as effusive as he was in praising them, he was equally critical a fortnight later as Crystal Palace came to Cobham and left with a 4-0 victory.

Nobody was left in any doubt as to the source of the manager’s ire, as he explicitly stated his dissatisfaction post-match:

“The young lads were let down by the more experienced players in the team not giving them enough, and we have had that a couple of times this year when older players have stepped down.

‘They haven’t been able to raise their level and apply themselves to the required standard and that is a big disappointment for me. If we are playing that amount of young players we need a bit of help. We have an outstanding group of Under 16s pushing very hard and it is getting to the stage where they will start getting games because they deserve to.”

Jonathan Muleba became the ninth schoolboy to feature this season and impressed, and with the likes of Connor Hunte, Ola Aina, Aaron Hayden and Fankaty Dabo impressing on international duty this season without having made a league appearance, expect to see Viveash make good on his words.

Today’s victory at West Ham provided one of the season’s most memorable moments to date, but there were plenty of positives to take from a friendly match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on October 23rd.

Despite losing 1-0, Chelsea dominated the affair with a side much younger than their hosts and gave the coaching staff much to think about ahead of the FA Youth Cup, which gets underway for the Blues in December.

Jamal Blackman, Todd Kane, Nathaniel Chalobah and Daniel Pappoe all played and are likely to make up the core of the side, but wildcards Lucas Piazon and Bertrand Traore were able to feature in the non-competitive fixture and offered a keen sense of intrigue for youth followers.

Piazon will officially become a Chelsea player in January when he turns 18 (as FIFA rules prohibit him officially joining before that age) but he has been living and training in England since September in order to acclimatize and accelerate his progression.

As the equivalent of a second-year scholar he will be eligible to play in the Youth Cup in much the same way as Tomas Kalas did after his mid-season arrival twelve months ago.

Traore, meanwhile, is something of an unknown with regards to eligibility as he joined from Auxerre late last season, but despite his tender age is already a full international for Burkina Faso.

He was handed a debut in a friendly shortly before turning 16 before starting their final African Nations Qualifier away to Gambia, a move which ties him to Les Etalons under FIFA rules.

The left winger is just one of a very talented group of young footballers coming through the ranks at Chelsea and it’s important to remember that results are not necessarily indicative of the quality of work being done.

Whilst the game is ultimately about results and whilst everybody would naturally like to win, the performances and playing style are both generally positive and endeavour and work ethic evident more often than not.

A healthy flow of Under-16s and Under-15s are already making waves above their age group for club and country and academy staff will continue to push and challenge their raw talent into developing into top class footballers.

Kiwomya has already started a match at reserve level and Loftus-Cheek won’t be far behind him, whilst Traore is set to earn a call-up for the ACoN Finals in January.

The last few weeks may have seen some heads drop but as long as the focus remains on the bigger picture, the future is very bright indeed.