A great many things herald the start of a new season but, for those in the academy world, the first day of work for a group of fresh first-year scholars is truly the sign that things are underway again.
So it is that 2017-18 kicks off for defending Premier Academy League and FA Youth Cup champions Chelsea as they welcome ten new 16 year-old prospects charged with picking up the baton from the outgoing class of 2015, and joining last year’s exceptional home-grown generation, in upholding the same high standards of success.
Once again it’s a group largely sourced locally and developed over the last ten years, from the development centres to the academy proper at Cobham, with a cast of dozens playing their part before handing them over to Jody Morris and Ed Brand this term. Click on a player’s name on the pen pics below to view their profile at TheChels.info as we introduce the class of 2017.
Ethan Ampadu, Defender/Midfielder
Ethan made headlines early last season when he featured for Exeter City’s first team at the very tender age of 15. He went on to make 13 appearances overall despite still being an Under-16 by club age group, and displayed maturity beyond his years with his displays at centre-back. Also capable of playing in midfield, he’s a technically-refined, very smooth and easy-on-the-eye operator who has been capped by Wales up to Under-19 level and received a call-up to their senior squad too. He’s likely to go straight into the Development Squad having signed on July 1st.
Billy Gilmour, Attacking Midfielder
A Scotland Under-16 international who really began to catch the eye during last winter’s Victory Shield tournament, the then-Rangers playmaker was courted by some of England’s finest teams before agreeing a move to Chelsea in April. Blessed with technique, balance and creativity in abundance, he heads south with many of the hallmarks coached into the Blues’ own youngsters and will take his place in another talented attacking crop.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Forward
That crop is led by England Under-17 forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, who exploded into national prominence last season when his rollicking displays propelled Chelsea to a national treble and England to within five seconds of becoming European Under-17 champions. Featuring more than 25 times as a schoolboy last season, by the end of the campaign he began to look as if he’d figured out youth team football and was ready for the next challenge. Don’t be surprised if he follows in the footsteps of Dujon Sterling in becoming an Under-23 regular as a 16 year-old.
Tariq Lamptey, Defender/Midfielder
Small in stature but big in ability, the versatile Lamptey is capable of playing on either flank in defensive and attacking capacities and made his Under-18 bow late last season. He sparkled as a substitute in the league title-clinching win over Reading, showcasing his ability to go past his man in either direction, produce in attacking areas, and provide a much-needed injection of energy and intensity.
Marcel Lavinier, Defender
Another England Under-17 international who would have made his youth team debut already had it been any other season, Lavinier is another off the production line who combines size, strength, speed and defensive nous in one formidable package. Like a number of his predecessors, his footballing education allows him to play on either side of the defence, at full-back or in the middle, with some time spent in midfield too.
Clinton Mola, Defender/Midfielder
A relative latecomer to the academy having only been plucked from grass roots football in late 2014, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for the London-born Mola ever since. An England Under-16 international, the robust and powerful youngster typically plays at centre-back for his country whilst being used in a host of positions at Chelsea, equally comfortable in the middle of the pitch as he is deeper or out wide.
Jonathan Panzo, Defender
The demands of the academy fixture list back in March meant that the-then Under-16 Panzo, with less than half a dozen Under-18 appearances to his name, was thrust into Development Squad competition against Liverpool and Sunderland sides featuring Premier League opponents. To say he shone would be an understatement; he is the perfect package of what Chelsea look to develop in a footballer, and was the lynchpin of England’s run to within a whisker of becoming European Under-17 champions. Left-footed, he can play at full-back and in midfield, but does his best work at centre-back.
Daishawn Redan, Forward
Signed from Ajax late in the 2016-17 season, the prolific forward fits the mould of a Chelsea academy goalscorer. Quick, intelligent, clinical and with a hunger for goals, he’s been a mainstay of the Dutch national setup since the age of 14, curiously missing out on their European Under-17 Championships squad this year after announcing he was to leave the Amsterdam club. Their loss is Chelsea’s gain as he joins his former team-mate Juan Castillo in leaving the Netherlands for England.
Jonathan Russell, Defender/Midfielder
Similar in style and versatility to Lavinier, Russell has come through the ranks at Chelsea since a very tender age and is far more than merely a utility player. Whether it’s marshalling the defence, orchestrating the midfield, or even influencing matters in a more advanced role, he does it with confidence and quality.
Nicolas Tié, Goalkeeper
At the age of 13, Tié made global headlines when it was revealed that his former club, FC Poitiers, had agreed a deal with Chelsea for the lanky stopper to move across the English channel when he turned 16. That day has now come, and he joins a competitive stable of young goalkeepers who will have the opportunity to make quick progress.
Jack Wakely, Defender
Unlike the other defenders in this intake, Wakely isn’t quite as versatile, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s any less capable. His ability to pass over any distance and at any angle off either foot is reminiscent of John Terry, and, as a defender in that mould, he couldn’t have a better idol to attempt to emulate as he embarks upon that same journey.
Karlo Žiger, Goalkeeper
The second goalkeeper in the group, he too agreed a move to London several years ago, with the move now becoming formally complete. A Croatian who has spent plenty of time with his Blues team-mates at friendly tournaments on a trial basis, he has excellent reflexes and enjoys a penalty save or two.
Hudson-Odoi and Panzo led the class in continuing the tradition of making the step up as schoolboys, making significant contributions, and this season’s Under-16 group will spend pre-season alongside their senior colleagues to give them every opportunity of doing the same this time around. England youth internationals Dynel Simeu, Faustino Anjorin and Jordan Aina – younger brother of Ola – figure to stand a good chance; all three are physically ready, very capable in a range of positions and responsibilities, and pushing for the next challenge in their careers.
It’s also reflective of the depth of this age group that several of those who were not extended the offer of a scholarship at Chelsea have secured a contract at another noteworthy club. Therefore, congratulations also go to Di’Shon Bernard (Manchester United), Kayne Ramsay (Southampton), James Hoskins, Daniel Phillips (both Watford), Kevin Berkoe (Wolves), and Samuel Ompreon (Sheffield United), whilst best wishes also go to Eneko Delgado as he embarks upon a career with Real Madrid after being affiliated with the Blues for the past four years.
Another fascinating season awaits and, as always, you can keep fully abreast of things here at TheChels beginning with a comprehensive season preview before the big kick-off.