PAST, PRESENT FOR THE FUTURE - PART THREE
In the third of three interviews catching up with former players who recently began working in the Academy, the official Chelsea website speaks today to Jody Morris...
Jody Morris differs from the first two former Chelsea players featured in this series of interviews in that his is not a formal position within the Academy this season, but he is currently involved day to day, primarily assisting Dermot Drummy and Andy Myers with the Under-21 squad.
He is also helping with other age groups too, and with Drummy speaking very highly of the contribution made by the 34-year-old, the official Chelsea website caught up with the midfielder to talk about his current work.
Morris, who grew up a short walk away from Stamford Bridge, was the beneficiary of a changing football culture at Chelsea as he was coming through our youth system. With Glenn Hoddle as manager and Graham Rix as youth coach, an accomplished technical player such as Morris was valued with passing and retaining possession prized as much, if not more than physical attributes.
The change in the team's playing style that saw a forward line featuring the aerial strength of Mick Harford and Tony Cascarino replaced with diminutive John Spencer and Mark Stein evolved further with an influx of foreign stars. Long-awaited trophies soon followed and having been given his debut by Hoddle as a 17-year-old in February 1996, Morris went on to play 173 games under the management of Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri, earning FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup medals before moving on to Leeds, then Rotherham, Millwall, St Johnstone and Bristol City. When this season began he was without a club.
'I spoke to Andy [Myers] and he asked Dermot [Drummy] if I could come in and train just to keep fit in case a club got in touch,' explains Morris, 'but after three or four days, Dermot and [Academy manager] Neil Bath both said why don't you come in and train with us daily.
'Being able to work closely with and watch Dermot and Andy, and Adi Viveash and Joe Edwards with the Under-18s and Under-16s, is a good learning curve for me to try to make the transition into the next stage of my career.
'If a club got in touch and it was to my liking then I would maybe think about playing again, but at the moment it looks like it is more beneficial for me to be doing some individual coaching for players and learning from people like Dermot, who has been in the game a long time and is a top coach.
'We have been working closely with the first team manager during the international break and by watching how they all work daily, I feel like I am learning something every day.
'I worked with Joe Edwards [Under-16s coach and Under-18s assistant coach] as well at an Under-16 tournament which I really enjoyed, seeing how coaches prepare differently with 14, 15, and 16-year-olds compared with men who are in the Under-21 squad.'
Morris earned his UEFA B Licence in the highly-regarded Scottish coach development system while he was at St Johnstone. His aim now is to add the A Licence. His experience in the Chelsea Academy this season has cemented his ambition to eventually become a coach full-time.
Having experienced the Chelsea youth system and its changes two decades ago, at the time when Neil Bath started working with the club too, Morris is well-placed to make comparisons with the present day.
'There are definitely a lot more resources for the players to use,' he notes.
'I was lucky in that just when Graham Rix took over the youth team was when I was coming through, and with Hoddle as the manager we were geared up to play the right way.
'It definitely has moved on since my time and there is a real team behind all the work that goes on, putting in expertise to help the players.
'There is not the cleaning of boots side involved anymore but the players are not just finishing training and going home, they are staying to work on their individual action plans to improve for example their weaker foot or their heading. In the afternoons when a lot of kids would be going home, ours are working on their weaknesses and it is a pleasure to be involved with players who want to get better.
'The Under-21s are doing that too. Even though Dermot has tried to put an emphasis on a winning mentality this year, going for three points, there is still the element of development, whether it is their diet or working on left-hand channel runs with a left-foot finish, or defensive headers. There is a lot in place to get the best out of them mentally and physically.
'I honestly think there are five or six players there who could go on and play at a very high level. It would be unfair to name names but it has been a real pleasure not only to work side by side with them but also to sit back and watch them in the games and training; the youth team and the Under-16s as well.
'I always knew that the Chelsea Academy was gearing up to be one of the best in the world but to come in and see it first-hand has been a bit of an eye opener. I think there are players here that can be good enough for Chelsea, and who better than Jose Mourinho to get the best out of them?'
On Monday, Tore Andre Flo, now a coach in the Academy, spoke about the special Chelsea dressing room he was part of in the late 1990s, the one that has given rise to an extraordinary number of managers and coaches, and Morris too reflects on that group of players.
'Maybe because I was a bit younger I didn't see it properly but there are a few I'm slightly surprised about, but there are others, people like Gus Poyet, I always thought he would get into management and be good because he was so enthusiastic about football and coaching.
'I played for Wisey [Dennis Wise] as well, he signed me for Millwall, so I had the privilege to work under him. Robbie [Di Matteo] and Eddie Newton winning the Champions League wasn't too bad either! Steve Clarke as well is doing great.
'There are some characters and personalities there but one of the main things that stuck out in that group is that they were winners. It was not just about going out on the pitch and collecting your money, they all wanted to win something and fortunately we did win a few things.
'There are quite a few from then who have done well and hopefully I can put my name to that list in the years to come.'