HOLLAND: STRENGTH IN DEPTH

Steve Holland had something to celebrate on Saturday evening when he was confirmed as England Under-21 assistant, having already helped out new head coach Gareth Southgate for the young national side's games against Moldova and Finland earlier this month.

Holland, who made his name working for Crewe Alexandra's fabled academy and is now assistant first team coach at Chelsea, is therefore well-placed to assess the talent coming through both at international level and at Stamford Bridge.

He has been speaking ahead of our trip to Swindon's County Ground tonight about the possibility of one of our academy prospects breaking into the first-team squad in the near future.

'We have some really good kids here. That's not just an opinion, I think that's been supported by the success that the junior teams have had in recent years.

'Last year in the Next Gen there was a Chelsea team in the final, a very young Chelsea team. The Youth Cup now for two years we've had a team in the final,' Holland pointed out.

'Whereas in the past the balance of foreign players to English players was probably loaded towards foreign players, that's now changing, and has changed. The youth team last year had a strong nucleus of English-based players in it.

'The club invest a lot of money in the Academy and the ultimate objective is to try to develop our own players who are good enough for this level.

'We're all really optimistic. If we can get some stability at the club at the top end, so you can plan the development of these guys and make room at the appropriate moments in the squad and they're given that chance, there's no reason why we can't have one or two who break through in the not-too-distant future.'

Tonight's clash with League One side Swindon Town will provide members of the first team squad who have featured less this season with a chance to show Jose Mourinho and Holland what they can do. Our victory in the competition in 2005, under Mourinho, ended a run of five years without a trophy and served as the springboard for future successes in league and cup.

The Portuguese manager also steered the Blues to victory in the competition in 2007 - incidentally, the last time we lifted the League Cup - and Holland expects a similar determination among the management and playing staff to go one step further than last season and reach the final at Wembley in March. The assistant coach acknowledges that all the players must expect a certain degree of rotation this season if the club are to challenge on all fronts.

'Jose wants to win everything - that hasn't changed. There's no reason why we can't, given the strength of squad that we have.'

'In actual fact, in the latter months of the season, in March, April and May, you perhaps want one game a week as you're going for the titles. You want your players fresh. You don't get one game a week at that stage of the season if you're successful. But at the moment we would choose to have a game every three days,' Holland said.

'We have a big squad with fantastic players and they want to play and need to play. The longer we stay in this tournament, the more games we can provide for our squad between now and Christmas time and that's important at this stage.

'The first thing Jose did when he arrived was get round to every player one-to-one, communicated what he had in mind and where he saw the player. He also communicated to the group how things will work on a match-to-match basis, in terms of how the team will be picked and how everybody won't be playing in every game.

'They have to trust him and accept decisions for the best of the team so that everybody stays at their maximum. His door is always open if somebody is getting particularly frustrated, then the opportunity is there to go and talk and improve the understanding of why.

'You do need a larger pool of players than normal to compete at the level this club is expected to compete. If the players want to have the opportunity to compete in all the major finals, which has been the case in the last few years, then that's the way it is.'


- Remember to make your score prediction for tonight's game and you could be in with the chance of winning two hospitality match tickets.