It is only 26 days since we walked out at St George’s Park to play the delayed final of last year’s Youth Cup competition, and today is the start of a new campaign in which Chelsea will hope they can go one better than the previous.
Boss Ed Brand is excited by this year’s third round opponents and believes there is clear motivation for the group because of the unusually short period between the final and the new season’s competition opener.
‘It’s a good cup tie. I think Barnsley will be excited with the prospect of pitting their wits against us - there’s no doubt that we will be the favourites but we’ve watched Barnsley and they have a good style of play, very progressive and attack-minded with high intensity. We are respecting the opposition and expect a difficult game from them.’ Brand told the official Chelsea website.
‘It doesn’t seem like too long ago we were talking about the Youth Cup. It’s a quick turnaround from the disappointment of the final and a lot of the players who were involved in that are involved again this year. It’s an opportunity for us as a group to go one better but we aren’t looking past the test of Barnsley this weekend.
‘At times we are guilty of over-complicating things but I think the motivation is clear for this group of players. All the pressure is on us and we have to make sure that we handle that well and show the quality that we have individually and collectively.’
It will again be a blend of youth and experience when they take to the Kingsmeadow turf on Saturday, as 12 of the 18 players involved in the 2019/20 final earlier this month are eligible to play again in the new campaign.
Brand hopes those with experience will provide support for the new intake of players making their first few steps in the prestigious youth competition.
‘The new group of young players have done well,' he said. 'It’s a strong squad and they're hungry. Quite a few boys were involved in some way, shape or form in the competition last year before lockdown and even more so after the restart just because of natural progression so they know what’s expected.
‘Some players have had a little taste of the competition but we’ve got others who we are going to lean on that are heavily experienced, not only in the Youth Cup but in Under-23s, international and European football. They are going to have to bring all of their experience to show what they are about.’
Brand, who himself captained Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup as a schoolboy and was part of Jody Morris's coaching team when the young Blues twice took home the title in 2017 and 2018, describes last year’s final as the proudest moment of his coaching career to date, and is honoured to lead the youth team again.
‘The proudest moment of my coaching career so far was leading the boys out against Man City in the final,' he stated.
'This is a competition that is steeped in history at this club and I’m honoured to again be able to lead us this year. Hopefully this is the first step in a successful campaign but we will have to be at our best.'
Chelsea versus Barnsley in the FA Youth Cup third round kicks off at 2pm at Kingsmeadow. You can watch the game live and for free on the 5th Stand app and the official Chelsea website, and also follow with updates on our official @chelseafc Twitter.