UNDER-21S PREVIEW: ENTERTAINMENT EXPECTED
Chelsea Under-21s manager Dermot Drummy looks ahead to Monday evening's derby cup quarter-final against Arsenal…
Yesterday the official Chelsea website carried an interview with Under-21 team goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney ahead of tonight's Under-21 Premier League Cup match at Aldershot, a game that can be viewed live on Chelsea TV.
As well as looking ahead to the quarter-final of the new competition, Beeney spoke about training sessions with the first team keepers, and he isn't the only one of Dermot Drummy's group to have begun working regularly with the first team squad in recent weeks. The loan departures of Ryan Bertrand and Kenneth Omeruo, to Aston Villa and Middlesbrough respectively, created space and Nathan Ake has stepped up to work more regularly with Jose Mourinho on a day-to-day basis.
'Nathan is now regarded as a first team squad member and I can't say how pleased I am for him,' says Drummy. 'He's been an outstanding character with his attitude since he rejoined my group after the summer. He's done everything that's been asked of him and he's a fine example to any young player coming through that perseverance and hard work will get you where you want to be. He's got a lot of hard work ahead of him to stay there and to get into the first team but you can't fault his attitude.'
Drummy's focus, though, remains firmly on the visit of Arsenal tonight and it is a game in which the Under-21 boss feels he is able to effectively judge his group's efforts against a similarly elite academy side.
'Arsenal always produce top teams and they are a top academy that produces first team players, so we always get a tough game against them. For me it's always the barometer of how well you're doing as a group and I think it will be an open game.
'They've been pretty strong from what I've seen of their last few Under-21 games, with a couple of first team squad players involved, and they play attacking football as we do, so I think for the fans coming down to Aldershot it will be a really entertaining game.'
For Drummy, this evening's game pits him against a club where he progressed as a youth team player from 1974 to 1980, and later rejoined as a coach after hanging up his boots, and he admits the time he spent with Arsenal has helped to shape his mentality and philosophy as a coach.
'I have a lot of respect for Liam Brady [head of Arsenal's Academy] for giving me my break in football and I learned a lot from him and from watching Arsene Wenger's teams. As a young coach starting out you look at philosophies and I liked what I saw at Arsenal. It has helped shape my understanding and helped me get to where I am today.
'It's a philosophy that I want to take on and now I'm fortunate that I can work with top managers and coaches here at Chelsea. Watching and working with Jose is fantastic as he's probably one of the best coaches of the last decade. I love to learn from others and I've been very fortunate to have been in an elite environment for 17 years doing that.'
The Under-21s face Arsenal at Aldershot's Electrical Services Stadium this 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.
By Sam Poplett