THE YOUNG GENERATION

In our second feature of the season focusing on the club's Academy, we cast an eye over an impressive start to the new campaign for the Under-18s…


As opening performances go, a 6-1 win over a strong Manchester City side sent out all the right signals, and it was a victory which paved the way for our Under-18s to go on and take maximum points from our first six games.

Of course, it's imperative not to get too carried away with a positive run of results, particularly with developing players, but manager Adi Viveash believes his current squad should be proud of what they have achieved thus far, particularly the character they have shown when required to draw on different qualities.

'I'm very pleased with how the players have adapted,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'It's a very young group, the first-year scholars come with a great work ethic and a desire to improve every day, plus we've also got three or four Under-16s who have emerged and are beginning to challenge for starting positions.

'Competition in the squad is very healthy, results and wins breed confidence. The first game against Manchester City is still the standout game in terms of performance.

'We've been behind in certain games which has been interesting - the Liverpool game was particularly tough - but we've come back and scored some late goals to win.'

The final third, in particular, is an area of the pitch in which the youngsters have flourished, with 19 goals scored over the course of the first six games.

That statistic in itself hasn't exactly come as a surprise to Viveash, but he is reluctant to take any of the credit for their ruthless streak in front of goal, and the fact that midfielder Jordan Houghton has scored three times, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek and John Swift, also midfielders, have netted twice already is testament to the fact that we have players all over the pitch capable of lightening the goalscoring burden on the strikers.

'From the first day of pre-season I thought we'd pose teams a lot of problems and that's certainly been the case,' he says.

'All of the players are free-flowing and they all like to get forward. We've had to do some work on the shape of the team off the ball but there are certainly goals in this team.

'They play with a lot of invention and creativity in the final third, but that's not something I can coach. I see a lot of the things they do in training every day coming out in matches and that's the key, if you can see their work coming off on a Saturday.'

The recent 2-1 win over local rivals Fulham was arguably the most satisfying of all our victories for the manager given the strength and experience of the opposition.

However, having played all of our first six games in the home comforts of Cobham, we now face a testing run of six away fixtures taking us through to the beginning of December, a period which should enable Viveash to find out a little more about his players, both on and off the pitch.

'The physicality of nine second years on a first-year group is tough,' he admits. 'They tried to wear us down in the second half and once they scored an equaliser with 15 minutes to go you thought they'd kick on but we stood toe to toe with them and then got the winner.

'You don't dominate away games as much as you tend to do at home, you have to adjust your game because it's a different intensity, but we have a lot of pace in our side and playing on the break, I'm confident in what we can achieve, it just depend on the attitude of the players.

'I'll find out something different about them, even in things such as the way they behave and manage their time when we stay in a hotel for the long distance games.'

On the whole, it's been as solid a start to the season as anybody could have hoped for, but with players of such tender years, the focus, as ever, remains firmly fixed on the long-term.

Some such as Swift, Loftus-Cheek and Islam Feruz have started games in the Under-18s and the Under-19s or Under-21s this season, helping players to get the required minutes.

'We're developing in the right way, the players have a nice balance and a nice spirit about them, they've played together a lot and we're pleased with their progress,' explains Viveash.

'At the moment, just over three months into the season, they're in a good place. Last year's group probably took a bit longer, maybe six months, but they then won eight in a row before Christmas in a competitive league.

'We've got some real promise in this group of players, they're a nice bunch of kids, they work hard and I'm enjoying my job at the moment.'