As usual, it was another busy and hectic campaign on the international front in the Chelsea academy, with a smattering of maiden international calls for players past and present alongside the veritable wealth of youngsters working their way through the respective national youth ranks around the world.
Ryan Bertrand, now a highly visible product of the academy (with over 30 appearances this season in all competitions, he’s very much established), made a full debut for England after being a feature for Great Britain during the London 2012 Olympics.
Tomas Kalas, who spent the season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, made a full senior debut for the Czech Republic alongside the more established Petr Cech, and Kenneth Omeruo made his senior Nigeria bow during the African Nations Cup as he joined John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses in guiding the Super Eagles to the trophy.
Also in Africa, academy pair Aziz Deen-Conteh and Samuel Bangura both committed their futures to the Sierra Leone national team and are on the verge of making their debuts after summer call-ups to World Cup Qualifiers.
Former Chelsea midfielder Dean Furman was another to feature at the African Nations, earning Gordon Igesund’s trust in the heart of the South African midfield, and another Cobham product in Liam Bridcutt continued to make great strides in the game by earning Scotland representation.
Later in the season, Thorgan Hazard began to prove he can back up the family name established so well by older brother Eden by joining him in the full Belgian squad for a summer tour to the United States.
There were Under-21 calls aplenty as well, but perhaps none were so notable nor so well deserved as Nathaniel Chalobah’s for England. Debuting for Stuart Pearce’s side at the age of 17, a superb season at Watford saw a regular place in the squad alongside Josh McEachran; although they invariably competed for the same position, and both were included in the squad for the European Championships in Israel this June.
Lamisha Musonda was a regular alongside Thorgan Hazard in the Belgium Under-21 squad and is currently featuring at the Toulon Tournament; Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Bruma have been regulars in the Dutch ‘Jong Oranje’ team, although Bruma was left out of the Euro squad, whilst Matej Delac made a welcome return to the Croatian fold after a troubled time on loan in the last few years.
Milan Lalkovic is, of course, an established presence in the Slovakian Under-21 set-up and he continued to accumulate both caps and experience during 2012-13. A newer Under-21 face, however, is Scotland’s Islam Feruz. He netted twice on his debut away to Portugal to further underline his burgeoning reputation as a player with a very bright future.
Jamal Blackman and Patrick Bamford both earned call-ups to the provisional England Under-20 squad for the FIFA World Cup later this summer and both will be hoping to make the cut to the final 21 heading to Turkey.
At Under-19 level, Lewis Baker, John Swift and Jesse Starkey all represented England well this season, whilst Alex Davey and Feruz did so for Scotland. It was especially well deserved for Starkey, who has a lesser profile than some of his other team-mates but has shown fine progress this season and has some very interesting technical traits about him.
Nathan Aké took over the captaincy upon his promotion to the Dutch team at the same age group, and Andreas Christensen jumped from Denmark’s Under-17s into their Under-19s as a reward for a sparkling season in blue.
There was a veritable slew of Under-17 representation, headlined by half a dozen or so England starlets. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alex Kiwomya, Charlie Colkett, Ola Aina, Connor Hunte and late-season signing Kasey Palmer all came within the smallest of margins of getting the Three Lions to the European Under-17 Championships, but they fell to Russia in the Elite qualification stage on a third-tier tie-breaker.
Russia would eventually go on to win the entire thing, knocking out Isak Ssewankambo’s Sweden in the Semi Finals. Ssewankambo had the rare feat of both scoring and missing a penalty in the same shootout; netting his first strike (as did team-mate and future Chelsea player Ali Suljic) before missing when things rolled back around level after everyone had taken a kick.
Chike Kandi did well with Wales all season and even made an Under-19 debut as their FA made the decision to promote the age group early in order to build for next season. Charly Musonda captained Belgium’s team, which was unfortunately drawn into a qualification group of death with Spain, France and Croatia, whilst Joao Rodriguez captained Colombia during the South American Under-17 Championships and Victorien Angban was on the winning Ivory Coast team in the African equivalent.
The next generation of internationals made Under-16 bows this season too, and Chelsea were once again amongst the most represented clubs within the England ranks. Dominic Solanke, Jay Da Silva, Mukhtar Ali, Isaac Christie-Davies, Brad Collins and Kyle Scott all earned caps, whilst Scott has also featured for the United States at Under-15 level, holding dual citizenship as he does.
Ruben Sammut, overlooked by England, is a regular in Scotland’s Under-16 ranks, and Jeremie Boga scored on his France debut as they gave him a look at this level.
Coming tomorrow…we round things up with a look back at the best of the season