After the 6-1 thumping of Manchester United in December, our development squad end the year in pole position in Premier League 2 and boss Andy Myers shares his thoughts on the season’s successes and challenges so far...
It’s been a year like no other and a start to the season none could have imagined, however the consistency of on-field success has provided a glimmer of hope to all at the Chelsea Academy.
Development squad head coach Andy Myers is, on the whole, pleased with his team at the mid-point but is keen not to lose sight of the main role of an Under-23s squad, and pinpoints exposure to senior men’s football as the main focus.
‘We always have objectives to try and get players to train with the first team and be invovled with them,' he tells the official Chelsea website as we review the season so far. 'It’s been difficult to fulfil that this year with the pandemic but I think the opportunities we’ve had have been taken and the first team have welcomed that. To go one better than just training with the first team, we’ve also had a player make a full debut in Tino Anjorin, which is much deserved for his hard work this season.
‘Our targets aren’t all about winning leagues, which is nice, but with the young group we have I think they’ve really done well in competing this term. We've played some really good stuff in the EFL Trophy games but we were a little naive when it came to conceding. Overall, it's been pleasing to watch and the rest will come as they get older and wiser, with more experience and exposure to men’s football.’
After 11 PL2 games, we end the year with seven wins, one draw and three defeats. Myers feels the losses have given his players the chance to display their character and ability to bounce back, something which wasn’t needed as much in last year’s unbeaten title-winning season.
‘It’s been a little bit up and down in the league at times,' he admits. 'I don’t think our performances have always given us the results that we deserved. There were only two games this season that left me really disappointed, but as a whole the team and group have been excepetional. However, it’s only halfway and just one part of their development process as individuals and as a team.
‘When you take a new influx of players into an older age group, the game can sometimes be a little be quicker for them. There is a clear pattern and definition in the way we do play but we can also switch between formations and the players are very astute, they want to learn and take the information on board.
‘When things are going well, it’s always easy to be positive. That's not to say it was easy at all last year because it was difficult at times but you learn a lot about a team and individuals when there is a little setback and with this group they certainly know how to bounce back.
‘We went through a little run when we couldn’t win and got beaten back-to-back but they never let it hit them and that’s when you learn a lot about character. This will only help them as they progress through their career.’
Finishing the year on a high will provide a positive over the Christmas break and the boss heaps praise on the holistic culture ingrained in the Academy, highlighting it as a key factor in the success of the club.
‘It’s important for any team to end the year well but it’s even more important for us because it’s deserved,' Myers adds. 'The last couple of performances, from the Man City game until the Man United game, have been excellent.
‘The way in which the players took the game to United, looked mature, ready and threatening in attack is the product of the work that goes on at the Academy, not just from the coaching staff but all those behind the scenes at Cobham.
‘The way that the Academy has been working through these difficult times has been exceptional and that’s a credit to everyone working in the environment bringing success to the club.’
There is news about some upcoming Academy fixtures. Our Under-18s fixture against Tottenham, originally set for 9 January, has been moved to the later date of 6 March.
The next piece of action for our Academy teams comes in the form of another PL2 London derby as Myers's men make the trip across the capital to take on West Ham on Friday 15 January, before Ed Brand and his youth team host Brighton on home turf the following morning.