UNDER-21S PREVIEW: GOOD EXPERIENCES
Chelsea Under-21s' goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney looks ahead to Monday night's cup quarter-final at Aldershot…
Chelsea Under-21s have a chance to book a place in the semi-finals of the Premier League's inaugural Under-21 Cup on Monday evening, as Arsenal visit Aldershot for a last-16 tie that will pit two of the capital's strongest academies against one another.
Dermot Drummy's young Blues have defeated Cardiff City and West Ham en route to the quarter-finals, while Arsenal claimed the scalps of Norwich City and Fulham, both away from home and both by a scoreline of 1-0. While initially drawn as a home tie for the Gunners, both clubs have agreed on Aldershot's Electrical Services Stadium as the most suitable venue for the clash, a game that will be screened live on Chelsea TV.
Goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney, who signed a professional contract at the club last summer after progressing through the ranks since joining as an Under-12, started in the last round victory over West Ham and has made 15 appearances across Under-21, Under-19 and Under-18 age groups this campaign, with seven clean sheets notched up in the process.
Speaking to the official Chelsea website ahead of the derby game, he admitted the introduction of additional competitions to the programme at Under-21 level in recent years had benefited the players enormously, even if it did require some getting used to initially.
'It has definitely been a big change for us, even from just a couple of years ago,' he says. 'It's been slightly more demanding for us as players, with the extra games and competitions, but I think we've managed well and you gradually get used to the extra workload because you know that's what is expected when you move up to the first team.
'The main thing is playing games. While training is good, as a goalkeeper, you need to just play as many games as possible. This Under-21 Cup competition has been good, to play against different teams at main stadiums. I know we don't always use Stamford Bridge but playing at the likes of Aldershot or the Cardiff City Stadium has been a good experience for us all.'
Featuring regularly for Drummy's sides and Adi Viveah's FA Youth Cup team this term has helped Beeney catch the eye of the first team manager, with the 18-year-old spending time training with Christophe Lollichon, the first team goalkeeping coach, and travelling to games as Jose Mourinho's back-up third-choice goalkeeper. For the teenage shot-stopper, it has been a rewarding progression.
'It's been a really good experience and hopefully it just continues the way it has been going. Training over with the first team is certainly a bit different and Christophe is very unique with his methods, but you have to find out what's right for you and what works for you as a player.'
There has been a quiet determination in the Academy this campaign with the players intent on making up for defeats in both the NextGen Series and FA Youth Cup finals last season, and Beeney, who played in both finals, including the two-legged Youth Cup defeat to Norwich City, echoed that sentiment.
'It was horrible to not be able to win last year but I think losing is a part of football. You have to come back stronger after a knock-back and learn from your mistakes and it prepares you for later on in your career. Obviously we want to try and go all the way and win this competition now but it's just a matter of performing on the day and hopefully getting the result.
'Winning another trophy will definitely cement that winning mentality that we're trying to build and it's so important to be passionate about winning. There's so much pressure to win trophies at every level throughout the club and you have to be able to deal with that.'
Beeney will be eyeing another clean sheet against Terry Burton's visitors as his team-mates look to secure their semi-final spot, though there are no illusions it is going to be anything other than a stern test.
'We've had a long unbeaten run going back to September and the aim is to keep it going against Arsenal. Hopefully I'll have a quiet night but they're our rivals, they're a tough side to face and it's going to be a good challenge.'
The Under-21s face Arsenal at Aldershot's Electrical Services Stadium on Monday evening, in a game being screened live on Chelsea TV. For supporters wishing to attend, admission is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, while season ticket holders of Chelsea, Arsenal or Aldershot Town will have free entry on production of their valid 2013/14 season ticket. Extra time and penalties will take place if the scores are level after 90 minutes.