DRUMMY: PACIFIC RESERVES
Having returned to London from Hong Kong via a trip to New Zealand, reserve team manager Dermot Drummy gives the official Chelsea website an assessment of the visit to play at the International Soccer Sevens Tournament and his subsequent coaching sessions.
In Hong Kong, the Chelsea side made it to the quarter-final stage before losing to Sunderland. Newcastle United were the eventual winners after defeating Aston Villa 2-1 in the Final.
The 10-man squad named by Drummy contained more established reserve players such as George Saville and Billy Clifford plus younger members such as Lucas Piazon and Lewis Baker, both of whom were part of the Under 18 side which lifted the FA Youth Cup last month.
Having been drawn against three local sides in the group stage of the tournament, they comfortably secured passage by finishing top after winning all three games.
A solitary Piazon strike was enough to see off Yau Yee in the first game, while another goal from the Brazilian, along with a Milan Lalkovic effort, secured a 2-1 win against Hong Kong Select. In the final group game we beat Kitchee 3-1, before a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sunderland brought an exit from the main section of the tournament.
Overall, Drummy was pleased with what he had seen with the visit as much about broadening the players' horizons off the pitch as it was about winning football matches.
'The reason we did the trip was because the Under 19s will be going to Thailand to play the Thai national team in August and it was a nice way of showing the boys the culture in Asia and way of life they will need to adjust to when the game comes around,' he says.
'It's a fantastic tournament which takes place at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, it's seven-a-side and a nice way for the boys to wind down and finish the season, plus they get the opportunity to visit a wonderful place.
'The game against Hong Kong Select which we won 2-1 was a good game, Piazon and Lalkovic scored our goals, while in the next game, the 3-1 win over Kitchee, Lewis Baker scored an absolute cracker.
'In the quarter-final against Sunderland, Rohan Ince handled a strike from former Chelsea player Billy Knott and gave a penalty away which they scored. We were chasing the game from that point onwards and eventually lost 2-0.
'What was interesting was that there was a thunderstorm at one point and they had to postpone the matches for over an hour, but the fans just waited there in the rain. One of the organisers, Tony Braziano, explained to me that they love football so much they would happily wait around in the rain for it to start up again. The fans over there are brilliant, really passionate, it was a great event.'
The format of the competition stipulated that those teams who were beaten at the quarter-final stage would then go into a separate section, competing for a plate, as opposed to a cup.
Chelsea went directly into the semi-finals where we were drawn against Celtic and, after going in front through a fortuitous Saville strike, we held on to progress to the Final where we faced Leicester City.
In what was arguably the game of the tournament, we shared the spoils in a four-goal thriller, but having led twice, we failed to see the game out and, as Drummy explains, the match was decided in a slightly unconventional manner.
'We played against Celtic and beat them 1-0 with a slightly lucky goal,' he admits. 'The ball came across to George Saville and as he went to shoot, it bounced off his shin and ended up going past the goalkeeper anyway.
'We then drew 2-2 with Leicester with goals from Piazon and Lalkovic. We were in front twice but they came back and equalised on both occasions.
'At the final whistle it changed to four-a-side. We took James Russell off and put Alex Davey in goal. We won possession straight from kick-off but they scored within 15 seconds as Davey tried to play out from the back, so it was game over, but it was an entertaining way to finish it.'
There is little doubt that the trip in itself was an invaluable experience for everybody involved. Drummy and his coaching staff were able to assess how the boys adjusted to new experiences amid different surroundings, while the players themselves, some of whom are not even 18-years-old, will, in all likelihood, never have travelled to such a far-flung destination.
While events on the pitch may not have gone specifically to plan, away from the field of play, as Drummy explains, the players conducted themselves with real class.
'There was a special-needs game going on and Mark Beeney [goalkeeping coach] suggested the lads go over and help hand out some badges,' he says.
'They ended up spending a lot of time with the young children and having a few photos done with them which was lovely to see and I think it was a very humbling experience for them.
'It was a great chance for them to interact with different people and project themselves as Chelsea players and it was welcomed by everybody, they represented the club really well and were a credit to themselves.'
Drummy's work, however, wasn't done, because at the culmination of the tournament he embarked on a long trip over to New Zealand where he laid on some coaching sessions for an academy with links to the club, as he explains.
'We have an association with the Asia Pacific Football Academy,' he says. 'Neil Bath suggested that I go out to New Zealand, I didn't realise it was a 10-hour flight but it turned out to be a great trip.
'I met some lovely people out there from a wide range of places, the Samoan Islands, New Zealand, Mexico, and I have to give a special mention to Andy Smith, the Academy director, Gio Fernandez and Jess Ibrom.
'I put on some coaching sessions for them, the boys were great to work with and there are some excellent coaches over there.'