THE YOUNG GENERATION: INTERNATIONALS ASSESSED
Chelsea's Under-21 and Under-18 sides both join our first team in returning to action on Saturday following the international break.
Sunderland's Stadium of Light hosts the older age group with a 12 noon kick-off while the youth team play away to Tottenham an hour earlier.
The senior international matches over the past fortnight provided plenty of drama and tension as World Cup qualification reached a climax, however throughout the younger age groups there were opportunities at Under-19 and Under-18 levels for Chelsea representatives to impress their national team coaches.
Noel Blake's England Under-19s progressed to the elite round of the UEFA European Under-19 Championships in the summer with two wins and a draw to top their qualification group. There was involvement across the three games for goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney as well as midfield trio Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and John Swift, with Baker and Loftus-Cheek netting three goals between them over the week.
Dermot Drummy, the Chelsea Under-21 manager who works closely with all four on a day-to-day basis at Cobham, was understandably pleased with their success.
'We've had our midfield all away with the England Under-19s and also Mitchell Beeney which is fantastic development for all of them,' Drummy told the official Chelsea website.
'To have three of those who play in our midfield in one team is a good achievement. Mitchell is making good progress, he's been training with the first team and he's been working very hard. It's not easy as his dad is his coach but in Mark Beeney he's got an excellent goalkeeping coach.'
There was also action for the England Under-18s, an age group involved only sparingly in the international calendar. Kasey Palmer, Ola Aina and Alex Kiwomya all featured across two friendly games against Hungary at the Football Association's new training centre in Burton. Kiwomya has started the season strongly, with three goals and a handful of assists in the Under-21 domestic league and Under-19 UEFA Youth League, and Drummy was full of praise for the progress of the 17-year-old.
'Alex is playing well, he's super-quick and the nice thing is he's adaptable. He's from a football family and you can talk to him about playing on the right even if he wants to be playing as the centre-forward. He's always willing to learn and he's got that exciting thing that you won't catch him once he's got away from you, so we work on his finishing and on his end product and we've got an exciting player on our hands.'
Adi Viveash, the Chelsea Under-18s manager, also reports on those absent from his age group over the last fortnight, insisting the call-ups were thoroughly deserved after a strong start to the new campaign.
'We've had a few away from our group - Kasey Palmer and Ola Aina, who's been with us generally. This weekend we lose Dominic Solanke and Isaac Christie-Davies to the England Under-17s and Izzy Brown goes from our Under-21 squad as well, so that's a blow losing them before our Saturday games, but again good for them.
'The feedback from the international players was good, I think Kasey and Ola enjoyed the experience. Kasey has not been involved for a while and Ola was with the Under-19s last time. I spoke to their coach and I think they did well.
'It's a hard age group with the England Under-18s but I was really pleased for Kasey. I was glad that they picked him because his form has been very, very positive and he's made a really impressive start to the season with our Under-18s, so that reward came at a good time to reinforce what he's doing.
'The challenge for those in the Under-18 group is whether they can get into the Under-19s with the likes of Lewis Baker, John Swift, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mitchell Beeney. They'll be trying to make their mark so they're in the qualifiers next year with the Under-19s, but their bread and butter is what they do here and we're expecting a good comeback from them.'
England Under-17s are playing three qualifiers for the European Championships in Armenia before the end of the month while on Saturday, Sweden, with Isak Ssewankambo in their squad, begin their campaign in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
By Sam Poplett