As we reach the final days of 2014, it’s time to take a look back at what has been a remarkable calendar year for the Chelsea Football Club academy. A third FA Youth Cup crown in five years was followed by a second Under-21 Premier League success in the last four years whilst no fewer than five youngsters graduated and made their first team debuts under Jose Mourinho.
Throw in a modern-era record Under-18 victory amongst a number of resounding victories and a startling array of top-quality goals and it really has been a memorable twelve months. Here, appropriately, are twelve moments to enjoy again and again as we look forward to an even better 2015.
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The year got off to the finest of starts when Lewis Baker made his senior bow in an FA Cup tie away to Derby County. The midfielder, who has been at Chelsea since the age of 9, was in the middle of a stupendously impressive individual campaign, played the last ten or so minutes of the fixture at the iPro Stadium and it’s hopefully the first of many.
Not to rest on his laurels, Baker went from strength to strength for Dermot Drummy’s Under-21 and Under-19 teams and would finish with some twenty goals for the season. Few were better than the spectacular 35-yard strike that capped a thoroughly enjoyable 4-1 pounding of Milan in the UEFA Youth League at Cobham.
As winter gave way to a promising and bright spring, the FA Youth Cup kicked into gear as the schedule became congested for every age group. A particularly feisty Quarter Final clash away to Newcastle asked much of Adi Viveash’s young charges and it was Jeremie Boga who stepped up to the plate with this special second-half winner.
Baker’s February strike against Milan was right out of the top drawer but the effort he produced in an Under-21 match at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in April was eventually voted as Chelsea’s Goal of the Season. Sit back and enjoy this impudent flick from the club’s 2013-14 Young Player of the Season.
With nothing notable to cover during June and July, allow us to bring you two events from the fine month of May. FA Youth Cup winners and Under-21 League winners. An honourable mention goes to the latest to make a senior bow as John Swift featured against Cardiff City on the final day of Premier League action.
The new season kicked off with a seven-goal thriller for the Under-18s against Southampton at Cobham. In amongst their usual resiliency and comeback shenanigans was this solo goal from Kasey Palmer.
The barren summer break allows us to double up for the second time and with just cause. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful run against Schalke made for an early candidate for the best goal of 2014-15 whilst that man Boga once again showed what he’s capable of with with Everton his latest victims.
October A momentous month in more ways than one and almost impossible to pick a single highlight. Joe Edwards’ youth team ransacked Aston Villa to the tune of a jaw-dropping 12-2 victory at Cobham whilst Andreas Christensen made a first team debut at Shrewsbury in the League Cup. However, it was the debut of Dominic Solanke that stole the show as the 17 year-old completed the journey from the Under-8s all the way through to the Champions League; the ultimate dream for all those at the academy.
November saw Chelsea TV televise an Under-18 league game live for the first time and on a cold and misty night in Surrey, they were given the perfect ending. Chelsea had led Fulham 2-0 for much of the contest before allowing their West London neighbours back into things. As the clock ticked deeper into stoppage time it was first-year scholar Jay Dasilva who saved the way with this late, late winner.
It would be easy to finish with Boga, who sparkled yet again with a brace of free kicks against Sporting Lisbon and Norwich City, not to mention a sublime second against the former, but in keeping with the theme of not only this piece but the entire year, we hand over to Loftus-Cheek and his own unforgettable moment in rising from the Under-8s to the first team stage. Here’s to 2015.