UNDER-21S TAKE ON TABLE-TOPPERS
Today [Friday] sees Dermot Drummy's Under-21 side return to domestic league action with the visit of West Ham United to Aldershot, in a game screened live on Chelsea TV.
The young Hammers currently top the Under-21 Premier League table, having lost just once in eight games this campaign, and the visitors will certainly provide a stern challenge for their Chelsea counterparts.
However Drummy, whose Under-19 side maintained their 100% start to the UEFA Youth League group stages with a 2-0 win in Schalke last week, is adamant such tough tests can only bring the best out of his group of players. Speaking to the official Chelsea website, the Under-21 boss said: 'In this league you want competitive games.
'West Ham have always run a fantastic Academy, with lots of players coming through, so we know it's going to be a tough game. I've got a lot of respect for Tony Carr and the lads at West Ham. It will be interesting because these are the games you want; games coming week in, week out that test the players.
'We're looking forward to getting back into the Under-21 league after a pleasing performance at Schalke. Once again the boys will be looking to get a win and keep the winning mentality going and hope to put in an entertaining performance along with it.'
West Ham come into the game on the back of three successive league wins, while the Blues were held to a 2-2 draw up at Sunderland last time out, having beaten Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge before that. Yet Drummy was impressed with his side's display at the Stadium of Light against a vastly more experienced team.
'To play against Sunderland with Wes Brown, Connor Wickham and three other money buys, and play with practically an Under-19 team and play some fantastic football, was a fantastic game for the boys to develop.
'Islam Feruz playing against Wes Brown is great for him and we performed admirably. There was a great strike from Alex Kiwomya, Feruz worked industriously to earn his goal but once again it was a real team performance. The performance of everyone, players and staff, over the last two or three weeks has been great. Everyone is pulling in the right direction, towards one thing and that's to make everybody better.
'Against City, because we travelled to Bucharest the week before, we were tired after 30 minutes so we readdressed it tactically and we were astute. City were the better team for long periods of the game but I said to the boys "look, you'll have it when some teams are better than you in stages of the match" and they've adapted fantastically.'
Drummy will be boosted tonight by the return of Isaiah Brown, who missed the recent trip to the north-west while on international duty with the England Under-17s, where he scored twice against the Republic of Ireland in Armenia in the most recent game.
'It was great for Izzy Brown to get international experience, scoring goals and helping England try to qualify [for the European Championships next summer], but we're glad he's back with us again now,' Drummy said.
The young Blues will also soon have another competition to do battle in as they enter the inaugural Under-21 Cup at the third round stage, with a trip to Cardiff City in the week commencing November 18 to be arranged. It is a competition Drummy is happy to be involved in.
'It's good because it will give us the opportunity to play some of the players that are too old for the Under-19 tournament,' he said. 'Alex Davey has been very patient, training really well, and players like that deserve 90 minutes. It also allows me to rotate and try something different. I'm sure it will be a very tough game, we watched Cardiff against Brighton [in Round 2] and we're looking forward to trying to win this cup.'
This week has also seen the return to Cobham of Danny Pappoe, the 19-year-old defender who went out on loan to Colchester United in League One at the start of the campaign. Pappoe made just two appearances during his couple of months in Essex before returning to Chelsea.
'Danny is back from loan now and he's been training with the squad,' said Drummy. 'He will have had some experience at Colchester but he didn't get enough game time so he's returned. He goes back into the training group and has to fight for a place again.'
The Under-21s face West Ham tonight at Aldershot Town and entry is free for Chelsea season ticket holders on production of their ticket. For all other spectators entry is £3 for adults and £1 for seniors and juniors. The game is also being screened live on Chelsea TV, with kick-off at 7.05pm.
- By Sam Poplett