After 21 months of waiting, the UEFA Youth League was back at Cobham this week as Chelsea Under-19s started the new campaign with a 3-1 victory over their counterparts from Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday afternoon.
Goals from Charlie Webster, Harvey Vale and Jude Soonsup-Bell did the damage to seal a come-from-behind win, with the young Blues moving ahead in the early Group H standings following a 2-2 draw in the other game between Zenit and Juventus.
That left Myers and his staff understandably positive, not least because only two of the starters had previous experience in the competition following the cancellation of last term’s edition.
‘For most of the boys it was their debut so it was good for them to get that experience,’ he told us after the final whistle.
‘Maybe there were some nerves at the start but we grew into it and a win is always important in the first game of any competition. There were some good bits and some indifferent bits but it’s a young group and I think we’re going to improve as we go on.
‘It was also good being able to get three subs on later in the game who haven’t played before either, like Leo Castledine and Billy Gee with an opportunity because Bashir Humphreys had to come off injured. It’s nice for them to get a taste of it and now hopefully the next game should be a little easier.’
The hosts controlled the contest but struggled to turn that advantage into clear-cut opportunities in the first half before succumbing to a sucker-punch against the run of play. Zenit’s lead at the break was perhaps unjust but Myers felt his players needed to be better
‘There was some good play to get us into the final third but then it’s just that cutting edge and end product that we need to get right,’ he explained.
‘We had opportunities where we didn’t work the goalkeeper enough when we got in behind in the final third and you have to be clinical because teams can punish you in this competition.
‘At 1-0 down, you’re always up against it because they were good at sitting back. We changed it around a bit and went with two up top with Ronnie [Stutter] and Jude, which seemed to put them on the back foot a bit more.
‘I felt Silko Thomas also had a very good game. He was a threat with Harvey on the left-hand side and that’s where the goals came from, with some very good combination play between them.’
With two forwards and a creative midfielder among the goals, Myers was also pleased to see his offensive players contributing, though he provided some insight into the tweaks made at the break to get his centre-forward into more dangerous goalscoring positions.
‘It’s nice to get goals from the players you want your goals from,’ he added. ‘We did say to Jude that, for all his good play in the first half, at times he wasn’t in those areas to score so we asked him to get into the six-yard box a bit more.
‘He did that for the first goal, had a shot saved before Charlie finished it off, and then got his reward by getting in there for his goal as well. That’s where I want my centre-forward trying to get goals and that’s what happened.’
In other Academy news, there have been changes to the dates, kick-off times and venues for three upcoming matches in Premier League 2. Our encounter with Blackburn Rovers, originally slated to be held away on Friday 1 October, will now be reversed and played at Cobham on Sunday 3 October, kick-off midday.
The visit to Leicester City on Saturday 23 October is now a 5pm kick-off, while our meeting with Blackburn on Monday 2 May will now be an away fixture.
Elsewhere, Richard Olise has signed his first professional contract at the club following his 17th birthday, the earliest a player can put pen to paper.