Youth & Reserve Season Review 2011-12 – Part One: Introduction

For the third straight season, Chelsea’s academy has finished with silverware to add to the trophy cabinet. After the FA Youth Cup in 2009-10 and the Premier Reserve League crown last season, it was the youngsters to the fore once again as the Blues secured a fourth Youth Cup in club history.

It was the highlight of another eventful youth season, full of your stereotypical highs and lows, with the odd controversial moment thrown in.

Munich celebrations are continuing and will do for some time, but it’s been a wildly successful season for the club at all levels and we’re turning the attention on the youngsters, some of whom were involved in this most magical of weekends.

Another dozen and a half youngsters took in spells away on loan which were a mixed bag. We’ll discuss them in depth tomorrow as we break down each aspect of the youth and reserve season throughout the week on

We’ll have a look at a disappointing reserve campaign which saw a clutch of mid-season departures adding to the ever-changing face of the second string team, and look forward to next season and how the Elite Player Performance Plan is set to change the landscape of developmental football.

Of course, there’ll be a full review of the success Youth Cup campaign alongside what was an intriguing league schedule, which once again saw ample opportunities given to the club’s younger generation. Both Under-16 and Under-15 players made the early step up to test their mettle against older boys and left positive impressions for the future.

Away from Cobham, an ever-increasing stream of players are representing their national teams, and there’ll be a complete breakdown of who featured and how they did, before rounding out the week with a ‘Best of’; a nod to the highlights of the 2011/12 season.

Ultimately, however, everything is geared towards producing players for the first team and after Josh McEachran made nearly twenty appearances last year, another Englishman has started to make an impact in the Chelsea blue.

It took the departure of Andre Villas-Boas and the insertion of Roberto Di Matteo for opportunities to really arrive, but in just over a dozen full appearances Ryan Bertrand has shown that he is more than capable of playing in the Premier League, and has increasingly shone with each appearance. His appearance in the Champions League final was a brave call but one firmly vindicated by a great performance.

The club’s long term aim of supplementing the first team squad with one academy product per season from 2010 onwards is, believe it or not, a reality as things stand. McEachran and Bertrand may not have been headline-makers or game-changers but they have been able to be an effective and useful squad member despite their tender years.

Bertrand turns 23 in August and whilst Ashley Cole isn’t quite yet ready to step aside, it stands to reason that in two years the club will have a perfectly adequate replacement that they have developed themselves.

McEachran, meanwhile, returns to Stamford Bridge after a spell at Swansea where he would have liked to play more, but he’s just 19 and remains one very much for the future.

Everyone would love to see more opportunities for teenagers but patience is rewarding, as we’ve seen with Bertrand. Very few are the finished product in their fledgling years but as we’ll see over the coming days, the signs are very positive indeed.

Coming tomorrow…a comprehensive look at Chelsea’s loanees.