Youth & Reserve Year in Review – Part One: Introduction

For the second successive season, Chelsea’s academy has finished the campaign with silverware.

The youth team were unable to defend their FA Youth Cup crown from last season, but many of them were key figures as the Reserves won their first regional title since 1994 and followed it up by securing the national title a week later.

Add in a number of successful loan spells and increasingly impressive youth international representation and it’s been quite the season for the club at this level.

Above all of those, however, is the headline story of Josh McEachran’s ascension into the club’s first team ranks.

The midfielder was handed an unexpected club debut away to MSK Zilina in the Champions League back in September and over the next few months, began to make waves with a series of cameo performances in which his composure and technique belied his age.

He finished the season with more total first team appearances than youth and reserve team ones combined and the club’s Young Player of the Season award in his locker.

Whilst no other player made a similar impact upon Carlo Ancelotti’s squad, we did see a handful of youngsters play here and there, with Patrick van Aanholt scoring a maiden goal in the Carling Cup against Newcastle, and Jacob Mellis making his debut for the club in the final stages of the home game against Zilina.

Ryan Bertrand also returned to the club for a debut after a number of years away on loan and capped his Blues debut with an assist in a 3-0 win over Birmingham City.

However, pre-season claims that almost half a dozen boys would be stepping up to the first team squad on a full-time basis proved unfounded, with all bar McEachran ending up finishing the season out on loan.

One of those, Italian forward Fabio Borini, will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract this summer after he was unable to come to terms on a new deal.

An offer in November was rebuffed by the Italian Under-21 international and his agent, who felt that it was not in line with similar deals secured by club team-mates, and after a successful loan spell at Swansea City, he will have no shortage of potential suitors moving forward.

Whilst the senior dressing room appears as hard as ever to break into though, an increasing number of prospects are knocking on the door after a season in which reputations were strengthened and career prospects enhanced.

Coming up tomorrow on TheChels…we take a look at the club’s 2010-11 loanees in detail in Part Two of what will be a multi part piece looking back on the campaign.