Our development squad travel to Southport to take on Everton in a rearranged Premier League 2 fixture tonight. Kick-off is 7pm and you can watch the action live via the 5th Stand app or this website.
Tonight’s game comes on the back of two important victories against Tottenham and Manchester City with boss Andy Myers identifying positives from his team’s return since the New Year.
‘On reflection, we’ve been good off the ball but not so good on the ball in the last two games,’ he explained to the official Chelsea website.
‘In the Tottenham game, we nicked the win because the quality wasn’t there throughout 90 minutes but we’re hitting the target a little bit more with fewer chances. I just want us to get back into better habits with the ball.
‘We were a little bit forceful against City and there were too many turnovers. We just need a little bit of patience again and to try and build up play as we have done previously. Post-Christmas break, it’s a positive to have two wins.’
The Blues currently sit top of the table after 14 games in PL2 - with another in hand of their league competitors - but Myers sees greater importance in the development of players at the Academy and, with Marc Guehi heading out on loan to Swansea earlier this month, he hopes more follow suit.
‘It’s pleasing to be up there, still within a challenge of being top of the table but the biggest thing is that players will now hopefully go out on loan in search of that next step, allowing the new crop to come in,’ stressed Myers. ‘It’s important to be up there but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. We're trying to get players developed to either go across the road to the first team squad or head out and get some development on loan.
‘We’ve been speaking to Marc about a loan for a while because his form has been in a good place and he needed to find that next step. Without being disrespectful, I think Under-23s football may have got a little bit too easy for him so now he’s going to see what the real world is about and it’s a positive step for him. Hopefully, he comes back stronger and pushes to try and get in the first team squad.
‘We have to realise in Academy football that it’s nice to win but the ultimate goal is about getting players developed and into the next level. Now someone from the younger age group can step in and hopefully develop with us before creating his own pathway. We do want to win things, it’s massively important but players making the next step is probably the biggest reward you can get.’
Everton are Premier League 2 title holders and will prove a challenge for the development squad as their Academy setup differs to our own.
‘We know for a fact it will be a tough game, continued Myers. 'Everton don’t let their players go out on loan as much as we do and they are one of the oldest squads that we’ll come up against. They're a physical side and a good technical side and being the holders of the league, they’ll want to try and win it again as it’s something they look to try and do every year. They will do their best to try and knock us off top spot.’
Chelsea Under-18s are back in FA Youth Cup action next month with a fifth round tie at home to Wolves. The game will be played at Aldershot on Monday 10 February and will be broadcast live on the 5th Stand.