It barely seems like it was yesterday that were welcoming last season’s crop of first year scholars to Chelsea, but it’s that time of year where another crop of 16 year-olds ‘officially’ begin their full-time education at Cobham as prospective young footballers.
‘Officially’ is something of a misnomer though, since many of the group have been at the training ground day in and day out for the last year or more. As a part of the EPPP changes which came into effect last summer, clubs are allowed to school their young talents either on-site with suitable facilities or an appropriate link-up with a local school. Chelsea have taken the former route, bringing in teachers from a local school and having even greater access time to their players.
This in turn translates to more time on the training pitch, which has allowed this particular group of players to accelerate in their development perhaps moreso than those which have gone before them. Many names will be familiar to even casual observers of the youth ranks, with FA Youth Cup appearances and even Under-21 outings under their belts. Let’s meet the class of 2013.
(Click on a player’s name to view his profile on our wiki site, TheChels.info)
Ola Aina, Defender
A supremely athletic right-back or centre-back, Ola’s progress in the second half of last season was impressive, if not a little surprising given the wealth of options available in his position. One of those who has trained with the youth team for the last year despite being a schoolboy by denomination, he had a sprinkling of appearances before really getting his chance to shine later in the season, and was thrown in at the deep end somewhat by being given the chance to play against Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup Semi Finals.
He did such a good job in both legs that he retained his place for the Final against Norwich City and used his skillset to full effect; rampaging up and down the right with power and stamina, but being an assured and capable defensive presence. He rarely seems rushed in what he does, and when used at centre-back has shown an impressive ability to both read and react. An England Under-17 regular, he’s very much one to watch.
Isaiah Brown, Forward
‘Izzy’ has very recently arrived from West Bromwich Albion after catching the eye last season for the Baggies. A regular at Under-21 and Under-18 level, he became one of the youngest Premier League players of all time when he made his first-team debut against Wigan towards the back end of last season.
A tall and strong forward capable of playing centrally or out wide, Brown is good off both feet and has a very well rounded game. He should be a regular feature for both Adi Viveash and Dermot Drummy.
Jeremie Boga, Attacking Midfielder
As exciting a player of his age as there is maybe in the whole country, Boga appears to have the world at his very capable feet. A member of the Chelsea academy since his family moved from France at the age of 11, he’s dominated every age group he’s played at, and was pushed into Under-21 football as early as a few days after his 15th birthday.
He only turned 16 midway through last season, by which time he’d become a full-time feature under Dermot Drummy with the 21s, and has produced some memorable moments which have rightly gotten Blues fans extremely excited. His drop of the shoulder and ability to drive past his man into dangerous areas is on show time and again, and he’s blessed with patience in attacking areas, although he might like to shoot a bit more than he does given that he can strike a ball very well indeed.
Not many players at Chelsea in recent years have reached the levels Boga has by the same age; just Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah of note. Their ascent into the professional game is well documented, and Boga could be the next name to join them. He’s really not very far away at all.
George Brady, Defender
An Under-16 signing from French club Cannes, centre-back George hit the national headlines last summer when he arrived in London, chiefly because he’s the nephew of noted football administrator Karren Brady. A towering presence at the heart of the defence, he served as the Under-16 captain for much of last season and is your standard modern ball-playing centre-back, but with the size rarely seen amongst Chelsea’s defenders in recent years, Alex Davey perhaps aside. Grew up in Monaco and played in French youth football before arriving at Cobham last summer.
Charlie Colkett, Midfielder
Perhaps the player who is easiest on the eye in this entire crop, Colkett immediately reminds people of Josh McEachran for his left-footed, slight of stature demeanour and in the way he almost appears to jog effortlessly around the centre of the pitch, taking quick touches and moving the ball. However, he’s very much his own player and maybe separates himself from those comparisons by being more comfortable on his right side and being a marginally stronger and quicker individual.
He’s had a lot of football above his age group, playing in big Youth Cup and NextGen games, and has certainly earned the trust of Adi Viveash. His production and influence over games has generally been impressive and as such he’s a candidate to push onto bigger and better things in his first season as a scholar, although that might only come when he influences affairs from start to finish, rather than having quieter spells as many of his age do.
It’s a matter of when and not if though, because it’s one of very few holes in his game, and he’s an extremely exciting talent.
Brad Collins, Goalkeeper
An England Under-16 call-up on more than one occasion this season, Southampton-born goalkeeper Collins is the latest hopeful to come through an academy which is producing some very interesting goalkeepers. Whilst Jamal Blackman and Mitchell Beeney are at the head of the pack in part due to their impressive statures for the position, Collins is a bit more of a slow-burner in the Ben Killip mould and is a bit smaller and slighter in stature, although he has been growing at a considerable rate in more recent times.
He’s yet to appear in a competitive Under-18 fixture but has had time in friendly fixtures and is slowly growing into his role in the team. Like any prospective young stopper at the club, he’s capable with the ball at his feet and an assured distributor, and his fundamental goalkeeping game is coming along nicely under the tutelage of Mark Beeney, Bill Thompson, and the rest of the positional staff.
Charly Musonda, Midfielder
With the exception of Boga, there’s probably been more written about Charly Musonda than anyone else in this year’s intake. The youngest of three brothers who arrived at Chelsea last summer, Charly was the jewel in the crown, the one the Blues wanted above all else; to the extent they were the only club who were willing to take siblings Lamisha and Tika on board to secure the diminutive playmaker.
Diminutive is being kind as well, for the youngest Musonda is extremely small and slight, but possesses remarkably quick feet and a powerful shot which surprises given his build. Paperwork issues meant he was unable to make his youth team debut until April of last season, but he’s shown glimpses of why he was so sought after and why he captains Belgium’s Under-17 team. He’s prodigious in every sense of the word and we’re all about to see why this season.
Kasey Palmer, Midfielder
A late-season arrival in 2012-13 from Charlton Athletic, Kasey first caught the eye in the FA Youth Cup clash between the Addicks and the Blues some months before his arrival at Cobham. A lively and skilful midfielder who can play wide or central, he caused problems for Chelsea that night and ultimately earned himself a move.
He’s a confident kid and has shown in his brief career at Cobham that he can fulfil a number of roles with ease, and with a summer to settle in properly, will kick on in the coming season as a first-year scholar.
Josimar Quintero, Winger
The most recent arrival, Ecuadorian-born Josimar Quintero arrives this summer from Barcelona after impressing Chelsea scouts during the course of the last two seasons. Capable of playing at right-back or further forward on the wing, he has been touted by some in his homeland as the successor to Antonio Valencia in the ‘Tricolor’ national team but also retains eligibility to play for Spain through residency.
Blessed with searing pace and trickery, he’ll provide a genuine threat on the right side in a similar manner to that of Hunte on the left.
Ivorian central midfielder Victorien Angban is also technically a part of this group but, as has been the case with Bertrand Traore in recent seasons, he may be precluded from involvement in official fixtures due to paperwork reasons. Angban is a versatile player capable of anchoring the midfield or playing further forward, even leading the line on occasion, and spent last season at Cobham featuring in Under-18 and Under-21 friendly matches.
Furthermore, exciting winger Connor Hunte has not been listed amongst the group despite featuring more than thirty times last season and whilst it remains unconfirmed at this stage, there have been suggestions that he is no longer a part of the Chelsea academy.
As usual, there’s a clutch of Under-16 players who will see more and more opportunities given to them as the season goes on, particularly as they’ll all be training with this group every day. The most notable amongst them is Swedish defender Ali Suljic, who misses out on being a scholar this season by a few weeks, but is a very gifted defender who joined from Motala IF last season and stood out at the European Under-17 Championships in Slovakia back in May. He will be a very regular part of the squad this season and is another contender for Under-21 playing time.
The likes of Dominic Solanke, Mukhtar Ali, Ruben Sammut, Isaac Christie-Davies and Jay Da Silva have all made Under-18 appearances and will get more time to impress in 13-14, whilst England and USA Under-16 international Kyle Scott will hope to make up for lost time after a broken ankle last season and goalkeeper Jordan Beeney will press for playing time as he follows in the footsteps of older brother Mitchell and father Mark.
It promises to be a busy season with domestic league action combined with the potential of a double helping of European ventures as the NextGen Series is joined by UEFA’s Under-19 Champions League. You can follow the progress of the new kids on the block throughout the next twelve months and beyond here at TheChels.net as always, and as usual on Twitter by following @chelseayouth.