At the end of a season in which our Under-18s were the youngest side in the league and finished third, we look back on the key moments of another eventful campaign.
Andy Myers replaced Jody Morris in the role of youth team boss last summer following his former team-mate’s departure to Derby County, though it required a different skillset to manage a less experienced group through an often challenging season.
While our FA Youth Cup defence ended at the first hurdle away at Manchester United in December, the young Blues only lost once in the league before March, after which a winless run of five games effectively ended their title challenge.
Here, the official Chelsea website reflects on 2018/19 by selecting the standout moments and hearing the manager's end-of-season thoughts...
Our youngsters were younger in terms of average age than they have been for several years at the Under-18 age group. In terms of their use of first-year scholars and schoolboys, Chelsea were younger than any other side in the league (73 per cent compared to winners Arsenal with 48 per cent). That lack of experience prompted some testing times for Myers and his players, particularly early on when they dropped five points in their opening three games.
However, the toughest moment came a week before Christmas when our long winning run in the Youth Cup came to an end when Man United inflicted a first defeat in the competition on our youngsters for over five years. It was a fiery contest at Leigh Sports Village but goals in the second half gave the hosts a three-goal lead and our spirited comeback fell just short as we eventually lost 4-3.
Afterwards, Myers was particularly disappointed with the way his side gifted goals to the opposition. 'It's very hard to take,' he admitted in the immediate aftermath of defeat. 'United had quality up front but I don't think they created the chances to score - we gifted them goals with some of our play.'
Our biggest victory of the campaign came at Cobham in February when a clinical attacking display saw the hosts hit six past Swansea without reply. George Nunn and Thierno Ballo accounted for 19 of our 52 goals in all competitions this term and the strike duo netted three between them against the Welsh teenagers to secure an impressive result.
Goal of the season
Jack Wakely hit an absolute screamer against Norwich in November to seal a 2-1 win and earn himself a place on the goalscoring shortlist at our recent Player Awards. The rising strike was even more impressive considering it came off his weaker left side. The defender took home the Under-18 Premier League goal of the season prize.
Scholar of the Year
Midfielder Henry Lawrence was handed the Scholar of the Year award after playing 20 times for the youth team this season and making his UEFA Youth League debut. The award recognises achievements both on and off the field, with the 17-year-old’s hard-working nature and application cited as key to his recognition.
A different season for our Under-18s in so many ways, Myers was quick to point out the individual development that has come for many in his group, with the likes of Ian Maatsen and Tino Anjorin playing the majority of the season with the older development squad.
He also explained how the lack of a full-time programme for the new intake of scholars last term (when they were Under-16s) had made the transition slightly tougher and provides the context with which he can look back on a strong year of work.
‘It’s very difficult to compare with what has gone on before in previous campaigns,' said Myers. 'Groups change, players change, and this group has a different dynamic. They weren’t on a full-time programme before the start of this season and half of the boys were only in two days a week so what they’ve done is a big achievement.
‘We also look at players that have quickly moved up into the development squad like Ian Maatsen, Tino Anjorin and Karlo Ziger, and that is what we’re here for. It’s about the development of players and the more players we can get playing PL2 football or going out on loan, the better.
‘We want to win but we also want to make sure we get the player right. It’s all about how we get them ready for that next step. It’s hard sometimes and obviously we’ve had some disappointing moments but there’s been a lot of positives during the campaign as well so overall I’m very happy.’
Ballo 23+1, Lewis 20+5, Russell 19+4, Lavinier 18+2, Nunn 17+8, McClelland 17+3, Wakely 17, Mola 16+2, Simeu 16+2, Broja 14+9, Ekwah Elimby 14+6, Lawrence 13+7, Maatsen 12+2, Clark 11+7, Ziger 10, Aina 9+5, Askew 9, Anjorin 7+1, Tie 5, Bate 4+2, Rankine 3+1, Peart-Harris 2+3, Livramento 2+1, Musiala 2, Simons 1+1, Bergstrom 1, Gilmour 1, Lamptey 1, Redan 1, Wady 1, Greenwood 0+1, Iling-Junior 0+1, Wiggett 0+1
Ballo 10, Nunn 9, Anjorin 7, Lewis 4, Ekwah Elimby 3, Lawrence 3, Russell 3, Wakely 3, Broja 2, Bate 1, Greenwood 1, Lamptey 1, Maatsen 1, McClelland 1, Mola 1, Rankine 1, Redan 1, own-goal 1.
* Stats include Under-18 Premier League, Under-18 Premier League Cup and FA Youth Cup