The 2012-13 season at youth and reserve level will be considerably different for Chelsea on a number of levels.
As part of the EPPP reforms, playing formats across both teams are set to change whilst the club are also set to take part in the expanded NextGen Series competition, pitting them against many of Europe’s finest.
Dermot Drummy’s reserve team is to be rebranded as the ‘Under-21 squad’ and they will play in the Premier Development League alongside some 20 other clubs, with the aim to produce a better quality of football than the dated setup that has existed for the last few years.
The details of the changes have been outlined by the club HERE and whilst there are still some loose ends being tied up, it’s not too soon to consider how this impacts Chelsea at junior level going forwards.
In theory, Drummy could name an exceptionally strong Under-21 team featuring the likes of Tomas Kalas, Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta and Ulises Dávila, all loanees last season. Academy Manager Neil Bath has suggested that loans may no longer be the first consideration for a player, especially if the Development League proves a suitable proving ground, and therefore the squad may well be looked upon as something of a B Team.
Undoubtedly, Chelsea would be amongst the stronger teams if every club kept their full allocation of players at the club and eschewed the loan system, but that’s unlikely to happen and as such a cluster of players will certainly depart on temporary moves (Kalas, for example, will be returning to Vitesse), and that in turn opens doors to younger players seeking opportunities.
Many of last season’s FA Youth Cup winning squad will be keen to press their claim for inclusion at a higher level, and they’ll have the perfect stage to do just that in the NextGen Series. The pilot year of the competition proved a resounding success as Inter defeated Ajax in the Final and Chelsea are amongst eight new teams in the expanded format for 12-13.
Drawn against last year’s runners up as well as Norway’s Molde and Russian club CSKA Moscow in a Champions League-style group format featuring home and away fixtures, the opportunity to experience different styles of football and adapt to travelling and playing in unfamiliar climbs will be a great and exciting one for the boys (and the staff) involved.
Eligibility is for players born on or after January 1st 1994, with provisions for three overage players, meaning should they want to, almost all defending youth cup champions will be eligible to compete.
Only Jamal Blackman, Todd Kane, and Archange Nkumu were 1993-borns of Adi Viveash’s successful team, and they’ll be certain to play their part next season. The competition is stiff but the Blues will expect to be competitive and amongst the contenders for the trophy.
The Under-18s announced their pre-season schedule late last week and in addition to returning to Carrington in Manchester for an intra-Premier League team tournament hosted by Manchester United, they will also be jetting off to Malaysia and Thailand for high-profile friendlies.
At a time when reforms are sweeping through English youth football in an attempt to take it to new highs, Chelsea are stepping their own game up, determined to be leaders and to make themselves competitive on every front, all the way to the top.
You can always keep right up to date with everything that happens below first team level at Stamford Bridge here at TheChels.net and on Twitter @chelseayouth.