Of the 2008 cohort signing as Under-9s in our Academy, 10 are now playing professional football, six are still Blues and two made their Chelsea debuts against Grimsby. Here, we look at where that group are now...
In May 2008, a group of eight-year-olds were invited to Stamford Bridge to sign their first official registration documents and commit to playing football for Chelsea.
Identifying and honing talent from such a tender age is one of the most difficult jobs in youth development. So much can change as young boys become teenagers and then young men. It is, therefore, an enormous credit to the work of the Chelsea Academy that 10 of the 15 youngsters in this image from that day are currently earning a living as professional footballers.
Not only that, six of them are still Blues and two of them stepped out at the Bridge last night against Grimsby Town to make their senior debuts for Chelsea. Here, we take a look at the Under-9s of 2008 and find out where they are now…
The Ivory Coast-born defender made his debut in senior football for the Blues in last night’s big victory over Grimsby in the Carabao Cup, having previously been on the bench in the Champions League a week earlier.
A strong, powerful and technically proficient centre-back, Marc Guehi has progressed impressively through the ranks and is a serial trophy-winner, with two FA Youth Cup medals to his name and the Under-17 World Cup with England.
A central midfielder who left the Blues for Crystal Palace at the age of 10 and spent eight seasons at Selhurst Park. After making a number of appearances for the Eagles Under-18s, he also featured in senior football on loan with Greenwich Borough and Walton & Hersham before joining Staines.
Spent four years as a Blue before leaving for Queens Park Rangers in 2012. He was most recently playing for Leatherhead.
Currently playing his football with our development squad, Tariq Uwakwe has also represented England up to Under-19 level. The midfielder missed just one game in our triumphant 2016/17 FA Youth Cup campaign and scored the only goal in a crucial league victory over Liverpool as Jody Morris’s side were crowned national Under-18 champions the same season.
He won the Youth Cup again in the following campaign, scoring home and away in our 7-0 aggregate win over Birmingham City in the semi-finals, and won the Toulon Tournament with England in the summer of 2017.
After featuring in our pre-season games in Dublin, Jamie Cumming signed a new contract in July and has stepped up to be our third-choice keeper this season. An excellent shot-stopper, he was the hero in our UEFA Youth League semi-final penalty shoot-out win over Porto in 2018.
A two-time winner of the Youth Cup and Under-18 Premier League, the Hampshire-born teenager was on the bench last night.
Highly-rated by coaching staff in our Academy ever since settling into a right-back role, Reece James’s development has been eye-catching in recent seasons. His year on loan at Wigan Athletic in the Championship last term was a huge success, with the youngster picking up the Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards.
An ankle injury sustained on England duty in the summer threatened to curtail that progress but Frank Lampard has talked consistently about the Londoner’s potential and demonstrated his faith by starting him against Grimsby. The 19-year-old took his chance, claiming two assists and his first Blues goal.
A midfield player who currently plies his trade in Kent with Rochester United following a previous spell at Maidstone United.
Another of England’s Under-17 World Cup winners, Epsom-born Conor Gallagher has enjoyed an excellent start to life in senior football on loan at Charlton, scoring three goals and picking up the EFL Player of the Month award for August.
The midfielder has a host of medals from his Academy days after honing his skills to become a goalscoring threat from the middle of the pitch, and was also named the Academy Player of the Year last season.
As part of such a strong age group, defender Bradley-Green narrowly missed out on a Chelsea scholarship in 2016 and joined Southampton, where he featured often for their Under-18s in his two years as a scholar. However, he left St Mary’s in the summer and is currently searching for a new club.
In a bizarre twist of footballing fate, teenage striker Brewster also made his senior debut last night, starting up front for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool as the Reds won 2-0 at MK Dons.
The Golden Boot winner at the Under-17 World Cup, he was born and raised in east London before joining the Chelsea Academy as part of the 2008 crop. However, he left the club at the age of 14 to head north to Merseyside.
A prolific goalscorer in the younger age groups, Taylor-Crossdale continued that form as he stepped up to youth team level and netted 21 times in 2016/17 as we claimed a clean sweep of silverware.
In the summer, he switched across the capital to join Fulham and made his senior debut in the Carabao Cup last month.
Currently on loan in the Championship at Wigan, Dujon Sterling made 40 appearances in League One for Coventry City in 2018/19, his first season in senior football.
A combative defender who has played in numerous positions while growing up in our Academy, he is also part of an elite club of players with three Youth Cup medals, scoring in the 2016 and 2017 finals.
One of the few to have moved on from football to pursue other interests, Savill remains involved in sport and plays rugby union for Epsom College.
Left the club as an Under-12 and most recently played for non-league Hendon.
Ian Carlo Poveda
An England Under-19 international, Poveda has played for numerous clubs throughout his teenage years. After starting out with the Blues, he switched between spells in Spain and London before really catching the eye as a rising star for Brentford.
However, when the Bees closed their Academy in 2016, Manchester City swooped to take the highly-rated forward to the north-west and he made his debut for Pep Guardiola’s side in January’s Carabao Cup win at Burton.
All but one of the eight staff pictured remain at the club 11 years on, though it is coach Joe Edwards who has climbed the ladder alongside the players to emerge onto the senior scene. The 33-year-old was the Under-9 coach when this image was taken and continues to work daily with the likes of Guehi, Cumming and James at Cobham.
Neil Bath and Jim Fraser also remain in post, the former as head of youth development and the latter as his assistant. Bath oversaw the restructuring of our Academy programme in 2004 and has been in charge during the most successful period in terms of tournament achievements.