NEXTGEN REACTION: WORTHWHILE JOURNEY

Posted on: Tue 02 Apr 2013

Ultimately the tournament ended with a disappointing result but with many high points along the way and more importantly, much learned by the players, there were few regrets about Chelsea's first entry in the NextGen Series tournament.

Our Under-19s lost Monday's final in Italy to two second-half penalties, Aston Villa the winners of the European competition. Dermot Drummy, the manager of the team, and Neil Bath, Chelsea's Academy manager, spoke to the official Chelsea website about the game and the tournament as a whole.

'It has been a fantastic journey and I have to give credit to the boys,' said Drummy. 'They have gone a long way against some very good sides, gained some experience and losing is part of the journey.

'We are all bitterly disappointed. In the first half we had enough chances but second half you have to give credit to Villa, they shut us out and created their own chances. While we are disappointed, I am not laying any blame on the boys, they did the best they can.'

With Adam Nditi, who had played as the wide-left attacker, injured in the Friday's semi-final and Nathan Ake (pictured above) becoming available, the shape of the side altered slightly, as Drummy explained.

'Because we brought Nathan in, I had to switch Lewis Baker and I said to Lewis or Jeremie Boga to play in the left-hand pocket, and always when you tinker with the formation you know that if you don't put players in their natural positions, sometimes it is a bit different.

'Losing Adam meant we lost that fluency but even then in the first half we created four chances and if they go in, we control the game. If they don't go in, as the game runs away from us you have to accept that.

'The Villa keeper made some very good saves and you have to give credit to Aston Villa. You can look at us and say what we did and didn't do, but Aston Villa performed admirably in the second half.'

That second period began with Chelsea conceding a penalty in the opening minutes and for inexperienced players on one of the biggest stages they have performed, it is hardly surprising if a goal against does affect belief.

'I think it does with young lads,' said Drummy. 'I went to three at the back to get Charlie Colkett on and he is an Under-16 against some tough-tackling defenders and he will learn from that. Jeremie is also an Under-16 and he will learn from it as well.

'Lewis Baker was named player of the tournament and he was worthy of the award as someone who has been a good player and a good leader on the pitch throughout. All the players have done well.

'Winning would have been a fantastic achievement for the club but we have to accept we didn't. Villa are a very good academy and we have gone a long way. We are gathering momentum and we are going in the right direction.

'Most of the squad will now go with [youth team manager] Adi Viveash and will go to Anfield for the FA Youth Cup semi-final first leg, and we wish them all the best with that.'

Bath saw plenty of value in the club's first participation in what was the second year of the NextGen competition.

'We want to thank NextGen for putting on a fantastic tournament and congratulations to Villa,' our Academy manager said.

'We have had a fantastic experience for the boys, we didn't take our chances in the first half and that's the way it goes,' he said.

'Well done to the English clubs because youth football in England can get a lot of criticism but there were two clubs playing good football in the final and three clubs in the last four.

'About half of our squad have been with us a long time - from between the ages of eight and 11 - and I am extremely proud of the brand of exciting football we play.

'Since restructuring a few years back we are now playing in tournaments across Europe in a lot of age groups and are seen as a club that competes for and wins a lot of those tournaments. On this occasion it wasn't to be and I am gutted for the boys and the staff because they put so much in to it.'