Academy midfielder Lewis Bate saw off fierce competition for the trophy and collects it this week for his Premier League 2 performances with Chelsea's development squad last month.

The 18-year-old has featured in all but one of our PL2 games this season, playing the full 90 minutes in seven of those 10, including the impressive three wins in the month of December.

Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United all left Kingsmeadow empty handed as Andy Myers’ side finished 2020 in pole position.

Now a regular for our development squad, the England Under-18 international who captained our youth team in the FA Youth Cup final last season and contributed three appearances during the 2019/20 PL2 title-winning campaign is surprised but grateful to win the December award.

‘I was shocked when I found out just because of the level of competition there was among the nominations. To beat those players to the award is a special feeling and I know there have been great players to have won it in the past. I’m over the moon.’ Bate told the official Chelsea website.

‘There were some players from Chelsea who were left out of the nominations which I was quite shocked about. Tino Livramento, Myles Peart-Harris and Marcel Lewis all deserve a mention.’

The winner was chosen by the Premier League Football Development panel after PL2 clubs’ coaches nominated the best performances by opposing players in each league fixture in December. The other nominations were Bate's Chelsea team-mate Tino Anjorin plus Folarin Balogun (Arsenal), Brad Lyons (Blackburn), Harry Chapman (Blackburn), Nathan Tella (Southampton) and Harvey White (Tottenham).

Over the Christmas period the 18-year-old joined the men’s team training bubble to provide competitive support for Frank Lampard’s squad over the busy period, having steadily become used to the standard of Under-23s football. Last season he was an unused sub for the men's first team in a game at Sheffield United in July.

‘I got a bit of a taster of development squad football last year with a couple of games, so coming into the season I was confident, but I had a bit of a slow start,’ he admits. ‘I think I’ve picked up the pace a bit now and it’s helped having people my age in the group because we are all learning the new standard of football together.

‘Training with the first team is another step up, I've had to improve my game even more. I feel as though I’ve gone in and kept my head and confidence up while being on the ball and I have loved it so far.’

As the second half of the season nears there is plenty of football still to be played for Bate and our youngsters who continue their defence of the league title, and have a new-look UEFA Youth League to look forward to in March.

'The main aim for me this season would be to go a step further in the Youth Cup, especially while being captain which is an honour,' Bate said. 'We’re also in a good position in the league to replicate what we produced last season and I’m looking forward to that getting back underway, and finally the UEFA Youth League is starting in a few months and I can’t wait for that.'

Subject to the COVID situation, Academy action returns next week with the visit of Southampton to Kingsmeadow in Premier League 2, kick-off on Friday night is 7pm.