UNDER-21S PREPARE FOR NEW-LOOK SEASON
Chelsea's Under-21 squad, the coming season's successor to the reserve team set-up, begin their pre-season programme of fixtures this weekend with a new assistant coach on board.
Joining Dermot Drummy in running this level at the club will be Andy Myers (pictured), the former defender who made 106 appearances for Chelsea in the 1990s and has been working in the Academy, most recently as Under-15 coach.
'I am very happy we have got Andy as an assistant Under-21 coach,' Drummy tells the official Chelsea website.
'For me it is a breath of fresh air - an ex-player with a young, challenging mind and we work really well together.
'The boys are looking forward to working with him, he is a great lad and previously I have worked with Steve Bould at Arsenal and Eddie Newton at Chelsea and both are now first team coaches at those clubs. I might be lucky but who knows where Andy will be in five or six years' time.
'He certainly has the potential, the humility and the desire to learn the coaching structure. Youth development isn't something you can just come in and do as an ex-player, but it is great that players are prepared to come in and start off at the younger ages in the Academy and work their way up.'
Another addition to the Under-21 structure is a former scholar in the Academy, Ed Brand, who will be involved in the DVD analysis work and team meetings with the squad. It is the chance for Brand, who is also one of the Under-12 coaches, to extend his experience.
Two of last season's reserve squad moved on when their contracts ran out at the end of June - Wales Under-21 goalkeeper Rhys Taylor who was part of the side that reached the FA Youth Cup Final in 2008 and made 37 reserve team appearances, and Marko Mitrovic, the Sweden Under-19 striker who helped lift the Youth Cup in 2010 and made 22 reserve appearances, scoring twice.
'We wish Rhys well,' says Drummy. 'Our goalkeeper coach Mark Beeney worked a lot with him and I am sure he will have a good career at another club.
'Marko had a really great Youth Cup run but picked up injuries unfortunately and has moved on. We wish him every success as well.'
The first friendly game for the new Under-21 squad is on Saturday, away to Northwood FC with a 3pm kick-off.
Then, as last year, Drummy will take his players to Austria for a training camp with a game against 1860 Munich included, before a return to England to play Northampton Town away on Saturday 28 July with a 3pm kick-off.
St Albans City are the next opposition on Saturday 4 August with Kingstonian to follow on Saturday 11 August, both 3pm kick-offs and both away.
The last pre-season game will be over in Ireland against Dundalk on Tuesday 14 August, a 7pm start, with the new Under-21 league campaign beginning the following weekend.
The exact dates of the league games have yet to be confirmed but Chelsea will be in a group with Manchester City, Fulham, Wolves, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace, with what are known as derby games against Arsenal and Spurs also to be arranged.
In addition, Drummy will be taking charge of the Under-19 side that will compete in the European-wide NextGen competition which is set to commence at the very end of August.
'With many of the pre-season games against semi-pros it is good for our boys to go and see that side of the game, and the clubs are all very welcoming,' he says.
'We have a lot of players in our squad at the moment and all will be competing for their places so it is a really exciting season. Hopefully it will keep here the boys we deem our best talent. One or two will go on loan but predominantly we will keep our group together.
'We are looking forward to the season and it was a much-needed change.'