YOUTH CUP PREVIEW: BACK AT HOME
Alex Davey was described by youth team manager Adi Viveash as, 'outstanding, the best player on the pitch,' after the second leg of last's season's triumphant FA Youth Cup final.
For the central defender who was then a first year scholar, it demonstrated a quick assimilation into what had otherwise been a settled side. Davey came into the team at the semi-final stage when Manchester United were beaten over two legs, and he didn't look back.
Now the 18-year-old goes into tonight's fifth-round tie at home to Barnsley having been a fixture in the Youth Cup side from the start of this season.
'Last year it was great to get a chance,' Davey says as he considers his involvement in the competition to date.
'It was unlucky for Archange [Nkumu] who got injured but it was lucky for me to have the chance in such a good team. Now this year I can bring my experience and start a whole campaign off, and see if I can make a difference to the team, see if we can push on and win it again.'
Rounds Three and Four, both away games, tested this season's side to the full with 3-2 the final score on each occasion. Against Charlton in the last round the young Blues were 2-0 down well into the second half.
With Chelsea having made it at least as far as the semi-final in four of the last five seasons, a familiar pattern has emerged with performances becoming stronger as the rounds passed.
'The early rounds we build up and it becomes a unit,' agrees Davey.
'They have been difficult games so far. Colchester worked hard and we were a little lucky to go through, we didn't play our best football. Then at Charlton, in the first half they were excellent but second half and extra time we completely turned it around. They were tired from working hard and we showed our maturity from the latter rounds last year.
'We showed against Charlton that it is never over until the whistle blows and we always come back fighting, we make it interesting.'
In common with several other members of this season's Youth Cup side, Davey is far more likely to be found playing league games with the Chelsea Under-21 side than the Under-18s. He has also been ever-present for the Under-19 selection that has been contesting the NextGen Series against European clubs and heads to Barcelona next week.
It has made for an interesting season so far and when he moves from playing an Under-21 game like he did on Monday night to and Under-18 one tonight, he endeavours to take lessons learned from older players and help the younger players around him in the Youth Cup. His centre-back partner in all the teams is still regular enough to form understandings with the likes of Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake or Daniel Pappoe.
Davey and Ake found themselves on opposing sides recently when Scotland Under-19s, for whom Islam Feruz also played, took on Netherlands U19s. Ake scored the Dutch winner. Davey won his first cap for Scotland at that level back at the start of the season.
'It has been really good. It is a little bit different from Chelsea in that going forward is more a priority than keeping the ball at the back, but I think we have a team that can go quite far. We didn't deserve to lose in two games against Holland.'
Today though, all thoughts are about Chelsea and the Youth Cup and doing well in front of home support at Staines.
'Playing a tie at home does make a difference because you get the fans coming and the families and support from the whole club which is excellent,' Davey acknowledges.
Chelsea Under-18s v Barnsley takes place at Staines Town Football Club today (Friday), kick-off 7pm.
Tickets are priced £3 for adults and £1 for juniors and seniors, and are available from the turnstiles on the night.
The game will be broadcast live on Chelsea TV.