Interview

Under-18s reaction: Jon Harley on goals, clean sheets and the impact of schoolboy starters

Chelsea Under-18s assistant coach Jon Harley discusses positive play in both boxes and the impact of schoolboy starters after our youngsters recorded their biggest win of the season at the weekend.

Six goals without reply earned an emphatic result for our youth team and kept them within touching distance of the top two in the Under-18 Premier League southern section.

An eventful encounter against Swansea City on Saturday saw the young Blues reduced to nine men but their numerical disadvantage failed to spoil a positive afternoon in the sun at Cobham. After the game, coach Jon Harley praised the team’s ability to translate work from the training pitch into an impressive display over 90 minutes.

‘We’ve been working hard in training this week on our game plan and the boys have been really focused on that,’ he told the official Chelsea website.

‘In the first half, we moved the ball from side to side really well using our wing-backs and then we got even better in the second half. A really pleasing thing for us was the way we stuck together as a team because we highlighted that beforehand. Even after the first sending-off, the boys all stuck together and had to work even harder with 10 men but actually some of our passing play after that was outstanding.’

Read Under-18s report: Chelsea 6 Swansea 0

The meeting with the Swans was our first competitive outing since the second week of January and Harley admitted that several Under-16s had utilised the lull in match action to make an impression on the coaching staff.

‘It’s been a long time for us without a competitive fixture,’ our former left-back continued. ‘We’ve had five friendlies since our last league game and that’s been a good opportunity for the younger players to have a go in the team. On the back of that, two of them have been given an opportunity [against Swansea] and they were both outstanding.

‘Lewis Bate in midfield was so willing to keep getting on the ball and he looked so accustomed to this level, while Myles Peart-Harris was brilliant. He really showed what he’s capable of and set his standards really high so now we need to make sure he maintains that day in, day out.’

Peart-Harris claimed two assists as the young Blues recorded their highest-scoring win for a year, though Harley admitted it was improvements in both boxes that gave cause for most optimism.

‘The two most satisfying things for us are the goals and the clean sheet,’ he said. ‘If you look at our points tally in the table, we’re probably a bit lacking in the goals difference column so it was great for us to score six goals and for all the forwards who were on the pitch at different periods of the game to score.

‘Keeping a clean sheet was also important for us because we’ve got the joint-best defensive record in the league and we really want to maintain that.’

photo of Jon Harley Jon Harley

Our defence of the southern title continues, with Andy Myers’s side trailing the leaders Arsenal by six points, albeit with a game in hand. The two meet next Friday 8 March in a London derby that is shaping up to have plenty at stake.

‘We need to focus on what we can control, which is just us working hard and trying to win every game that we have,’ added Harley.

‘The longer the season goes on and we can maintain our winning form then I’m sure Tottenham and Arsenal will both be looking over their shoulders. It’s good that we have to play them, and they also have to play against each other as well, so points will be dropped.’

The team return to league action next weekend with a trip to Aston Villa.

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