At the end of a campaign that saw our young Blues fight off the threat of relegation on the final day, departing development squad head coach Andy Myers reflects on the key moments of the 2021/22 season.
That final-day victory over Tottenham at Cobham brought relief and reflection, providing a very different outlook on the term with safety secured. Having finished as winners and runners-up in the previous two campaigns, Myers’s men struggled with a younger team in an increasingly competitive league.
Elsewhere, we progressed into the knockout round in the EFL Trophy and were beaten by Genk in the UEFA Youth League play-offs, having finished second in both competition group stages. Myers, who will be taking up a new role as loans player technical coach this summer, spoke to the official Chelsea website to give his assessment of the season…
Moment for reflections
The campaign was made particularly tough due to a number of factors, including several postponed and re-arranged fixtures, injuries at different points of the season and the ongoing Covid-19 uncertainty forcing strategies to be replanned.
Nevertheless, Myers and his players were able to manage the obstacles and ensure that our young Blues remained in the division, sparking wild scenes of relief at our last-day comeback win over Spurs.
While varying mitigating factors came into play, Myers believes our philosophy of individual development remains correct, despite the frequent challenges it can pose.
‘The season was one of mixed feelings because we were obviously involved in a relegation battle but with such a young group, I think it gets overlooked that we were able to maintain our status in PL2,’ he said.
‘We are a club that believe in sending players out on loan and since a few players were allowed to go on loan, the group we were left with from an experience standpoint was lacking.
‘Despite this, it gave some first-year scholars exposure into the development phase and how different it is to what they would have been used to.’
Two such players, Brodi Hughes and Lewis Hall, both played a vast number of minutes at under-23s level, with the latter going on to make his senior debut in an FA Cup fixture against Chesterfield in January.
‘We were one of the youngest groups in the division and sometimes it showed – not from an endurance perspective as our boys are fit, but from a power point of view,’ continued Myers.
‘It was sometimes difficult to compete with players who were simply much older and more experienced than our boys. That’s not to say that we deserved to be where we were as situations in certain games cost us, whether it be missed chances or an individual error at a key moment.
‘Despite that, our boys never gave up and I could never question their effort. We saw that in leaps and bounds on the final day with our two late goals to overturn the initial deficit.’
‘When we set our plan for the season, it is about development and the improvement of players, but the winning is also a part of development and we do aim to deliver on that.
‘I understand that in my first two seasons we have finished first and second but what it comes down to is that this is a different group of players. No two seasons are the same because you are working with a different group every year.
‘It doesn’t mean the players aren’t good enough but the age and experience gap between our group and the others was significant. This group is now a year older and a year wiser so hopefully they will learn from this and be able to push themselves to greater heights having gone through a tough season.’
Moment of the season
‘It has to be the last game against Tottenham and the way we did it against a London rival when the pressure was on. I have to commend the players, fans, parents and first team support on the day as it definitely had a positive impact on the squad.
‘I think it’s important to reiterate that the support from the club was long before the final game of the season. When the final whistle went in that last game, you could see the relief and togetherness from the whole club as everyone knows it has been a tough season, but we stick together. We have a culture that has been set and I have no doubts that it will maintain forever.’
Goal of the season
‘This is a tough one as there have been so many good goals but there have also been some very important goals this season.
‘Considering the season we’ve had, it’s hard for me to just pick one goal but the ones that come to mind are Jude Soonsup-Bell’s away at Derby, Joe Haigh’s goal against Spurs and Lewis Hall’s goal at home against Liverpool.’
It was announced last week that Myers will be joining our loans department next season after three years as development squad head coach. He will be replaced by former AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Robinson.
Development squad appearances (38)
Vale 29+1, Simons 25+4, Brooking 25+2, Mbuyamba 25+1, Rankine 24+9, McEachran 21, Sharman-Lowe 20, Soonsup-Bell 19+10, Hall 18+7, Hughes 18+6, Webster 16+7, Humphreys 15+1, Bergstrom 15, Gilchrist 15, Haigh 14+17, Elliott 14+2, Wareham 13+14, Baker 13, Fiabema 12+8, Nunn 11+9, Ballo 9, Williams 9, Thomas 8+5, McClelland 8+1, Uwakwe 6+1, Wady 3, Andersson 2+2, Musonda 2, Badley-Morgan 1+2, Frith (T) 1+1, Stutter 1+1, Tobin 1+1, Bilongo (T) 1, Burstow 1, Chalobah 1, Olise 1, Sarr 1, Castledine 0+4, Mothersille 0+4, Flower 0+3, Gee 0+1
Development squad goals (60)
Fiabema 8, Wareham 8 (2 pens), Haigh 6, Vale 6 (3 pens), Ballo 4, Hall 4 (1 pen), Baker 3 (1 pen), Gilchrist 3, Soonsup-Bell 3, Mbuyamba 2, McEachran 2, Rankine 2, Webster 2, Elliott 1, Nunn 1, Simons 1, Thomas 1, Uwakwe 1, own goals 2
* Stats include Premier League 2, EFL Trophy and UEFA Youth League