Kent Blues visit Chelsea Under 21’s Philadelphia
It might seem reasonable to take the odd trip to Brentford’s Griffin Park to watch the Under 21’s if it so happens that the first team are not in action, or to the semis of a Youth cup final at Stamford Bridge on a weekday evening. In comparison though it almost seems bizarre to take a 2 day trip across the pond to New York for their pre-season, but that is where Kent Blues Gill and Graeme were this last weekend.
“It’s grown on us ……we had already been to Barcelona for the Nextgen competition last year and enjoyed that experience having never been to the Camp Nou before”, Kent Blues Gill Reeves told us.
“We do our own thing, there is no pressure – some of our close Chelsea friends who know us well will also know that for me and in particular Graeme “it works.
We call them our ‘Chelsea Adventures’ they are far from the razzmatazz of first team touring such as Asia but there is something about following the youth that has caught our enthusiasm and so it made the ‘flying trip’ worthwhile.
Making our way first to New York and then by Amtrak and Septa railway, and then a taxi ride to the Philadelphia Union stadium is no mean task.
In total 17 hours travelling………. then add on the time zones!”
So why do it?
“Maybe it is getting to know the Management and backroom staff, Neil Bath, Dermot Drummy, Andy Myers, Mark Beeney (goalkeeping coach) and Craig and Dave a couple of the backroom guys who we first met at Cobham when we took Foxwood Friends there last year.
Always a big smile, a hug, warm welcome and “thanks for coming to support us” that makes it worth the effort.
This time in the USA from the youngsters as well taking that time to come across, shake hands and say “we appreciate you being here” Nathan Ake, Billy Clifford, Dion Conroy and others recognise us and come to chat.
The Philly staff are just as welcoming. They can’t believe that we traveled from the UK for 90 minutes ‘practice’ football and not for the Lampards, the Terrys or the Hazzards, but “just for the little boys!?”
Our response “No, not just the little boys! This is the future Chelsea generation!!”
Graeme helps Craig out with collecting and saving the wayward balls whilst Mark warms Mitchell up in goal. I hear them all laughing and chatting away. Graeme is a part of it and loving every minute.
At kick off “ our comfort zone” as we now call it consists of us being the only Chelsea fans (in fact the only people) in the entire lower stand of the PPA stadium, however there is a contingency from the New York and Philly Blues who are on the balcony behind the goal line.
As I text Mike Neat with ‘guess who is here?’ he cannot believe his eyes!! …..then next a chorus of ‘Kent Blues, Kent Blues, give us a wave’ …..of course we oblige.
It’s not that it isn’t a competitive game because it is. The Philadelphia Union Academy gives us a run for our money. They score first and it’s game on.
You can hear Dermot, (you always can!) barking out instructions to individual Chelsea lads.
HOT! HOT! HOT! Even for us in the shade so wholesale team changes at half time and the subs come to sit right behind us in the cool area.
Time to ask if they are enjoying the visit, “Yes, they are and can’t wait for New York” Everyone signs our USA Kent Blues ‘on tour’ flag. “Awesome flag” says Lewis Baker, “we need a picture with you” and Neil Bath right behind lets us know it’s arranged at the end of the game.
Graeme is grinning from ear to ear.
A goal from Chelsea makes honours even and with handshakes all round it’s time for the photo shoot.
What a moment to treasure caught on camera (see pic below)
Our Academy is the future. It’s taken 10 years to get the development to where it is now.
It’s reported from Chelsea that Mr. Abramovich and now Jose has every intention of taking it forward ……… so is it worth travelling 9200 miles in two days for?
“A thousand miles from home, but in the comfort zone”……….. for us every minute !
Roll on Sutton United away in a weeks’ time :0)”
by Gill and Graeme (Kent Blues)