Youth Cup preview: Improve and focus

Our Under-18s continue their defence of the FA Youth Cup this evening (Wednesday) when they host Sheffield Wednesday at Aldershot, live and free-to-air on Chelsea TV.

The young Blues have advanced to the fifth round in emphatic fashion, winning 5-0 against both Cardiff City and then Birmingham City. However, despite the convincing scorelines, manager Jody Morris has emphasised to his players the need to strive for further improvements ahead of the visit from the Owls.

‘It’s very easy to reflect back when you underperform or lose a game and you can learn a lot more in those scenarios but we are always very demanding of the boys,’ Morris tells the official Chelsea website as we look ahead to the fifth-round tie.

‘We haven’t lost an Under-18 game for months but there were some disappointing things in the Birmingham game that, although it didn’t matter on the night, we know we need to point out and brush up on.

‘We had a team meeting a couple of days later which lasted 45 minutes, going through what we didn’t do so well. It was a lot to do with the quality of our crossing and our intention to get on the end of crosses, as well as our finishing. We’re going to have to be better in front of goal and I think it is important the players know that the level of our attacking play in the final third needs to improve. The fact we won 5-0 doesn’t change how we reflect on our performance because we know there are things we need to improve on.’

HIGHLIGHTS: Birmingham U18s FA Youth Cup (A) 16/17

Our goal has rarely been threatened in either tie so far, with the onus firmly on the holders to break down a defensive-minded opponent and the importance of the opening goal key.

Mason Mount, handed the captain’s armband this term by Morris, has taken that responsibility and found the breakthrough goal in each of our previous two outings. His brilliant individual strike in the Midlands was followed by two more, a clever free-kick whipped inside the near post and a left-foot drive from distance that flew into the top corner and completed his hat-trick.

The 18-year-old stresses the importance of the team effort in their progress so far, while also talking frankly about his desire to consistently impact games from midfield. Mount has worn the number eight in both rounds so far and cites the club’s most famous owner of that shirt as his inspiration to keep on improving.

Jody Morris and assistant Ed Brand will be looking to book the Blues a place in the Youth Cup quarter-finals for the eighth year in a row.

‘We had a lot of possession against both Cardiff and Birmingham but the key is to keep moving the ball quickly, keep it in the opposition half and look to switch the play as much as possible,’ Mount says.

‘There will be opportunities when they win the ball back and try to counter so we have to be switched on at the back, especially from set-pieces where the opposition feel they can have a chance.

‘It’s important for me to be able to open the scoring because I like to get on the scoresheet but recently I’ve found that difficult with the development squad. I want to be a goalscoring midfielder and obviously Frank Lampard is one player who stands out as having made a massive impact in the game by scoring goals from midfield. I look closely at his game because scoring and creating goals is very important to me.’

A regular facet of interest in the competition is the makeup of the group, with half of the outfield starters against Birmingham coming from the development squad. It is testament to their progress and the opportunities afforded to them to play so regularly with the most senior development age group.

Mount is one of that quintet, in his final year of Youth Cup eligibility having won the competition last season, and he believes working with both groups is a key aspect of his development this year. The increased match opportunity has also seen him deployed in a number of midfield roles, another experience he believes has been beneficial.

‘As a young player, it gives you the best of both worlds, working with the development squad most of the time but then still being involved in a competition like this,’ he says. ‘It’s a great experience for me to work with Adi [Viveash, development squad manager] and Jody because they both work in slightly different ways.

‘I’ve played in various positions in midfield for the development squad; in the number 10 position, wide-left or wide-right. When you’re looking to get into a first team, you’re probably not going to go straight into a midfield, you might be eased into a wider area, so I think that variability will help me in the future.’ 

Our last seven fifth round ties

Season Opposition Result Scorers


Portsmouth (h)

W 1-0



Barnsley (h)

W 2-1

J.McEachran, N.Chalobah


West Ham (h)

D 3-3 (W 4-2 on pens)

Baker, Feruz, N.Chalobah


Barnsley (h)

W 3-0

Baker, Kiwomya (2)


Cardiff City (a)

W 2-0

Solanke, Kiwomya


Swansea City (h)

W 6-0

Abraham (3), Solanke (2), Palmer


AFC Wimbledon (a)

W 4-1

Tomori, Maddox (2), Ali

Morris and his staff were expecting a quick turnaround between the Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday ties, with the original game last Monday postponed due to a frozen pitch. While admitting this was perhaps an inconvenience to their planning, the manager does not believe the altered schedule will have any adverse impact on his players.

‘It was a bit annoying if nothing else but now we’re in a position where we don’t need to fit everything into two days because a lot of the preparation was done previously. It’s about reminding the boys of a few things and refreshing some points about Sheffield Wednesday that we’ve covered in training.’

The young Owls have beaten Luton Town and Gillingham on their way to the last-16 and, like the Blues, have yet to concede a goal in the competition. However, as winners in each of the past three years, the hosts are strong favourites to progress to the quarter-finals and Mount believes he and his teammates enjoy such high standards of expectation.

‘There is a lot of pressure being the captain, especially in the Youth Cup because of how successful we have been in recent years, but I like to thrive on the pressure. It’s a big thing for me to be captain because I like to be influential in the game and help the team however I can.

‘Sheffield Wednesday are doing well in the league and we know they’re a strong side. We have taken a look at them so we know where they’re good and where we think we can exploit them. It’s important to do that homework as you progress in the competition but we always look to focus mostly on ourselves and what we need to do right.’

Morris also believes that Wednesday, sixth in the north section of the Under-18 second tier following a 5-2 win over Hull City at the weekend, represent a step up in quality with a quarter-final trip to either Middlesbrough or Leicester the reward for the winners.

‘It’s been rare in the last two games that the opposition have even had many passes in our half but Sheffield Wednesday will definitely pose much more of a threat. Their front three players are the best unit they have throughout the team and looking at some footage of them they’ve scored some outstanding goals. We know we’ll have to be on our game.’

Chelsea Under-18s versus Sheffield Wednesday takes place this evening (Wednesday) at Aldershot Town. Kick-off is at 7.05pm and the game will be shown live and free-to-air on Chelsea TV (click here for details). Supporters wishing to attend can purchase tickets on the door priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. There will also be updates throughout the evening on our official Twitter @chelseafc