Academy goalkeeper Max Merrick believes he has developed a lot as a player and a person during a 2023/24 season full of big experiences and personal accomplishments.

Max Merrick has had an impressive season filled with achievements and ‘surreal’ moments he believes will benefit his development, as he already switches attention to the next campaign.

The 18-year-old was part of Hassan Sulaiman’s squad which claimed the Under-18 Premier League southern title and got his first experience of playing at Stamford Bridge in the national final of that competition. Other milestones included his Under-21s debut, involvement in the men’s matchday squad and stepping up to international duties.

Reflecting on a busy year, Merrick said: ‘Wow. This season has been incredible. I have no words to describe the season.

‘One of my favourite moments was playing at Stamford Bridge. As a Chelsea fan and someone who has always aspired to be on that pitch, it was a huge moment and one I’ll never forget.

‘The main aim this season was to win the league and we did it. I am so proud we lifted the trophy. It was a great team effort, including by all the staff supporting us.

‘The journey wasn’t smooth sailing, though. I feel as if I have developed physically and mentally throughout. It was great to see all the months of hard work pay off once we received our medals.’

Merrick remarked on another milestone accomplished this season - playing under Mark Robinson for our Under-21s. His first appearance for that team was against Brighton at Kingsmeadow back in August.

‘I have been fortunate enough to jump around the different teams this season. It was tough to begin with as I needed to learn how to adapt to the different coaching styles, but I soon settled in.

‘I believe there is a slight jump from the Under-18s to the Under-21s. The main difference is the speed, everything is a lot quicker with more power and aggression. As a result, I have improved my ability to react quickly and always remain alert.’

Another career highlight for the keeper was having the opportunity to be involved in the men's squad on a matchday, when he was among the substitutes in the FA Cup fourth round tie against Aston Villa in January, something which has only fueled his ambition.

‘I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the men’s matchday squad, being involved in training and a fixture.

‘Training with the men’s team was an unbelievable experience. It was great to have a taste of what the next level is like, and it has only driven me even more to get there permanently.

‘You don’t get those opportunities often so I made the most out of it. I looked closely at the current Chelsea keepers and took on all the advice and comments that the men’s coaching staff gave me.’

As Merrick reflects on his previous accomplishments, he highlights the importance of his mental growth and how he has developed not only on the pitch but off it, as a player and a person, by channelling a mature mindset.

‘From a social point of view, I have thrown myself into situations I would never normally do.

‘Growing in confidence off the pitch has had a huge impact on my performance, as I feel more comfortable within myself – therefore I can push myself even further.

‘As I have grown up, I have learned that some days you will have off days, and that’s okay. Remaining positive and understanding those experiences will only help and progress you as a young player. Gaining that mindset is crucial, especially if I want to continue to excel.’

Looking ahead to what next season could hold, Merrick is eager to achieve more and continue the momentum he has built up over the last year.

‘I am looking forward to having a break and resting throughout the summer,' concluded Merrick. 'Not only is rest important physically, but mentally it’s crucial.

‘Once it gets to July I will be ready and raring to go for next season, and hopefully continue my impact and gain a few more trophies along the way.’