After a season in which there were a total of 44 appearances for schoolboys in our Under-18 Premier League side, we catch up with head coach Ed Brand to take a look back on some of the key moments of an unprecedented campaign.
Brand’s second season at the helm of our youth team provided many more challenges to those the team faced last term up until its curtailment in March 2020.
After competing in the 2019/20 FA Youth Cup final in November, this season’s Youth Cup run ended earlier at the fifth round stage against Everton. While a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Under-18 Premier League was one to forget, there were plenty of positives and performances that the Academy can be proud of.
Here, the official Chelsea website takes a look back on 2020/21 by selecting moments and hearing Brand’s end-of-season thoughts...
Best team performance
‘I’m torn between a couple. West Brom away and Norwich at home were both good for similar reasons - against Norwich we found ourselves 3-1 down with a young team out where we finished with four schoolboys on the pitch.
'To come back and win 4-3 was a great team effort and the lads really stood up to the challenge against a decent Norwich side. The character they showed was excellent and we had to play parts of the game with 10 men as Lewis Hall was cramping up towards the end.
‘Against West Brom, we went down to 10 men and were behind so to win 3-2, with schoolboy Ronnie Stutter scoring a goal, was excellent. The players had to dig in and play 65 minutes with 10 men, and that’s not easy. I find it really difficult to separate those two performances so have to highlight them both.’
‘I think I’d echo the words of coaches across academy football when I say the most challenging moment would be the season as a whole. Especially the start of the season when Covid was more prevalent, pre-season was disrupted and games were getting called off. We suffered quite badly as an Academy, having multiple players out with sickness and having games called off, which caused a bottleneck at the end of the season.
‘Not being able to work as we would usually want to was difficult to manage. Collectively, we are all quite pleased to be having a break to recharge. Hopefully next season will take place in a much more normal setting and we can work in a way which we are more accustomed to.’
‘I really enjoyed watching the Barnsley FA Youth Cup game. It was a big scoreline but Barnsley were a very decent team who were coached well and it wasn’t a case of us just turning up to get the win; we had to work for it.
'Some of the goals we scored were fantastic - Jude Soonsup-Bell with four, as well as Lewis Bate and Harvey Vale strikes to top it off. The performance was very good and it's something I look back very fondly on and still enjoy seeing the highlights of today.’
Goal of the season
‘I have to go with Jude’s overhead-kick against Norwich at home. It got us level and the timing meant it was a massive goal but the technique and execution was ridiculous.
'Special mentions have to go to Joe Haigh’s goal away at Norwich, Lewis Bate’s and Jude’s goal against Barnsley as well. Goalscoring hasn’t been a problem this season - we scored quite a few good ones and I’m sure there’s a few I haven’t mentioned!.’
‘It’s been a difficult season in many respects. There have still been lots of positives to come from it but ultimately it’s been disappointing in terms of success. The Youth Cup, in terms of the end result, didn’t provide us with bit of luck we needed on the day but that’s football and it happens.
‘A real positive was giving a lot of the youngsters, next season’s first-year scholars, some good experience of youth team football already. We’ve had lots of boys training with us and featuring in games and that’s been good to see. It fills us with confidence going into the new season and the coaching staff look forward to working with another talented group of individuals in 2021/22.'
Webster 23+1, Brooking 21+2, Wiggett 22+1, Humphreys 21+1, Haigh 19+1, Thomas 16+4, Gilchrist 15+3, Soonsup-Bell 16+2, Elliott 12+5, Rankine 11+4, Vale 14, Badley-Morgan 11+2, Tauriainen 5+8, Tobin 8+5, Andersson 6+7, Castledine 6+7, Stutter 6+7, Abu 5+7, Hall 9+2, Hughes 9+1, Curd 9, Bergstrom 7, Kpakpe 7, Peart-Harris 6+1, Fiabema 4+2, Wareham 4+1, Adegoke 3+1, Bate 4, Olise 4, Tlemcani 4, Gee 3, Livramento 3, Mothersille 2+1, Askew 2, Colwill 2, Merrick 2, Silcott-Duberry 0+2, Simons 2, Chibueze 1, Flower 0+1, Heino 0+1, Lissah 0+1, Mendel-Idowu 0+1, Soglo 0+1
Soonsup-Bell 18, Haigh 8, Vale 6, Elliott, Peart-Harris 4, Tauriainen 3, Webster 3, Castledine 2, Fiabema 2, Mothersille 2, Stutter 2, Thomas 1, Bate 1, Brooking 1, Hughes 1, Humphreys 1, Rankine 1, Wiggett, Hall 1, Badley-Morgan 1, Andersson 1, Gilchrist 1, Kpakpe 1, Livramento 1, Wareham 1
* Stats include Under-18 Premier League, Under-17 Premier League Cup and FA Youth Cup