Following an Academy season like no other, development squad head coach Andy Myers reflects on the key moments of the 2020/21 campaign...
The campaign just finished was one of change, different venues, games postponed then rearranged and empty stands. However, the shorter 27-game season didn’t disappoint in terms of entertainment and value for our talented youngsters as they followed up a victorious Premier League 2 season in 2019/20 with a runners-up position this term, as well as a valiant effort in the EFL Trophy.
For Myers, it was a second season in charge of the Under-23s and, after an unbeaten run which led to that league title, many of those key to the crown deservedly got their chance to play men’s football elsewhere. It left gaps in the team which were filled by youngsters who proved their worth during a year of football like no other.
Here, we get the debrief from Myers as the boss picks his highlights of the 2020/21 campaign...
'The EFL Trophy campaign. The reason I say that is because we were such a young team starting out in that competition and I thought we gave a good account of ourselves playing some good football at times.
'We probably just showed a little bit of inexperience towards the back-end of the games but I was really pleased with the performances and the way the players addressed the competition. They embraced it and we all really enjoyed it.'
Myers also looked back on the two memorable games against champions Manchester City. Both fixtures ended level but were far from short of drama and excitement.
'Within the league, I would say the two performances against City stood out for me, home and away. To be 2-0 down at half-time away from home and bring it back to 2-2 was all down to hard work and the way we conducted ourselves to find a way back into the game. The home tie was a spectacle between, in the league standings, two of the best teams in the division and technically it was a very high level game.'
In February we only picked up one point out of a possible nine, with losses against Derby County and Liverpool. Myers pinpoints that period as one of the season’s biggest challenges.
'It would have to be coming back to playing after Christmas. Although the pandemic has been tough on everybody in general, in terms of coming back after the break and going through a spell when games were suspended, we didn’t really manage to get into a rhythm after that.
'The run of results during that period was challenging and that’s where we missed out on fighting for the top spot. However, to bounce back from it and see the players apply themselves again towards the end of the season was good. We had a set of standards and values we wanted to achieve to get ourselves into second place and we met those so big credit to the players.'
Back-to-back wins against Blackburn at the end of the season were needed to secure the highest possisble finish. However, it wasn't as easy as it sounds because Rovers themselves were in with a chance of clinching second, as were Tottenham. The Blues stuck to the task and recorded successive wins over the side from Lancashire, with Myers highlighting the first win in particular as an important one.
'We’ve had players come in and make debuts and they have all given a good account of themselves. In the first game against Blackburn, we were very young and we knew we had to win to be in with a chance.
'The players that came in stood up and it’s testament to the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s not just about what’s done at Under-23 level - the value of hard work is taught from the youngest age groups.'
Goal of the season
Tino Livramento was recently named Chelsea's Academy Player of the Season and fittingly the boss picks out his strike against Liverpool as his goal of the season.
'Tino Livramento against Liverpool at home. He cut inside on to his left foot and it was a nice finish. It was also a very composed one considering he’s not naturally left-footed but it just shows the work he puts in on the training ground.'
'It’s been a good season for development. It’s not been easy working around the pandemic but at the start of the season we had a group of Academy boys training and supporting the first team and luckily enough, since restrictions have eased we've been able to allow more players over to join their bubble.
'Tino Anjorin has had an opportunity and has stayed over there for most of the year, Tino Livramento and Lewis Bate have had an opportunity and Levi Colwill also went over to join towards the end of the season. We have to give credit to the club and staff for finding a way to make sure these chances could still happen.
'It’s never easy when there’s a change of manager and Frank [Lampard] was great with the Academy but Thomas [Tuchel] is now doing the same. When there is a possibility to get some Academy players over, he is more than open to it.
'Also, coming to our home game against Blackburn was a big thing for our players to see. It’s a big incentive for them when they know the manager is there and it can only be good for our players.'
Livramento 23, Ballo 18+5, Nunn 14+9, Bate 19+3, Simeu 20+1, Lawrence 18+1, Fiabema 7+12, Colwill 17+1, Lewis 17, McEachran 16, Peart-Harris 11+2, Vale 8+5, Sterling 12, McClelland 9+2, Anjorin 10+1, Ziger 11, Bergstrom 10, Rankine 6+4, Soonsup-Bell 5+3, Maatsen 6, Wady 5+1, Brown 2+3, Drinkwater 5, Russell 4+1, Mbuyamba 4+1, Gilmour 4, Frith 1+2, Rahman 3, Wakely 3, Castillo 2, Elliott 0+2, Webster 2, Cech 1, Gilchrist 0+1, Haigh 1, Humphreys 0+1, McCormick 1, Thomas 1
Ballo 7, Peart-Harris 7, Anjorin 6, Fiabema 5, Lewis 5, Lawrence 4, McEachran 4, Nunn 2, Russell 2, Brown 1, Colwill 1, Gilmour 1, Livramento 1, Maatsen 1, Mbuyamba 1, Rankine 1, Simeu 1, Soonsup-Bell 1, Thomas 1, Vale 1, Own goals 1
* Stats include Premier League 2 and EFL Trophy