Under-21 & Youth Team Season Preview – Part One: Introduction

One of the more contentious and well-discussed subjects of the last year or more in football is the Elite Player Performance Plan.

The proposals designed at overhauling youth development in England has certainly been controversial and is not to everyone’s tastes, but as we approach the start of the 2012-13 season, it’s at the forefront of our attentions as radical change is upon us.

A new competition structure is in place for the Under-18s. The Reserve team is no more; instead replaced by Under-21 development squads across the country. They too embark upon a revamped playing schedule, one which was in desperate need of revival and indeed, now promises much.

Chelsea have been a driving force behind the EPPP proposals, with Academy Manager Neil Bath chief amongst those directing the changing winds of the youth game. Undoubtedly, a lot of what is to come will benefit the Blues both directly and indirectly, but the overall intention and hope is to develop better English footballers for the generations to come.

Of course, our focus here at TheChels is on the defending FA Youth Cup winners, and over the coming days we’ll look at the new intake of almost twenty scholars as well as the existing second years, new professionals and experienced Under-21 squad players at Cobham.

Adi Viveash will no longer lead his charges in Academy Group A, nor will Dermot Drummy face Reserve League South opposition. Both will instead take on Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Wolves and Crystal Palace in identical leagues in Professional Development League 1, Group 3.

The new competition structure was outlined here at TheChels a couple of weeks ago and whilst it will take some getting used to, it’s a marked increase in the standard and quality of opposition on a weekly basis.

Fixtures will be played between Friday and Monday nights, allowing managers to plan their working week in a similar manner to the first team, building up to a weekend fixture. The Under-21s will play at Griffin Park as the EPPP attempts to create a professional environment in which the players learn the pressures of winning and demands of the game.

As usual, you can keep up with absolutely everything you need to know about the next generation at Chelsea by reading TheChels.net throughout the season, and by following @chelseayouth on Twitter.

Coming tomorrow…previewing the competitions; Professional Development League 1, NextGen Series, and the FA Youth Cup.