PL2 preview: Blackburn first for Under-21s as young Blues return

From the official Chelsea FC website:

The Under-21s kick off our 2023/24 Premier League 2 campaign at Kingsmeadow on Friday 11 August at 7pm.

Blackburn Rovers will be welcomed to Kingsmeadow tomorrow evening as they take on Chelsea in both teams’ first league games of the season.

Our two encounters against Friday’s opponents last season saw us score three goals on each occasions, with a comfortable 3-0 victory at Kingsmeadow and a tense 3-2 win away from home. Omari Hutchinson stood out as across the two games he scored three goals.

Mark Robinson’s boys had an emphatic end to pre-season as they beat Phoenix All Stars Academy 7-0 and he says his boys are prepared for the upcoming challenges that await them this season.

Robinson told the Chelsea website: ‘I am discovering pre-season is always an interesting challenge with the Under-21s as you have a high number of players, including players waiting to go on loan, your potential squad and younger talent with the potential to step up.

‘So it is absolutely critical you have a strong training culture. You are not only developing the players physically for the season, you are also looking to build player relationships and a playing style even though some of your training group will not be with you for the season.’

He underlined a lot of his thoughts about togetherness and squad harmony, which helped his side put together strong performances in the EFL Trophy and in the PL2 competition last season.

‘We put a huge emphasis on training intensity at the right times. It simply has to feel like the real game and there is no point having false success.’

Robinson also gave insight into some of the methods he and his coaching team have implemented to get the best out of the players that could potentially be involved this season.

‘One thing we have tried this season is to have a longer training period before our first pre-season game. We felt pre-season games do not always give you the outcomes you hoped for so having the players in a controlled environment for longer we felt we could get better physical outcomes before the games started. We feel like it has worked so we shall see.’

There will be a lot of changes to the Under-21 squad from last year and the PL2 league format will also see some changes of its own as for the 2023/24 season. There will be only one division made up of clubs with Category One academies. At present there are 26 such clubs.  

Robinson gave his thoughts on this change and how he and his players will adapt to it.

‘Personally I believe without the fear of relegation it should encourage more game time for younger players as well as more creative thinking. Both these will be excellent for player development. I realise relegation is a huge part of our game, but I am not convinced development through fear is productive.’

‘Our social and psychological programme should be preparing our young players to be winners. I am confident any disappointments will be met with a hunger to improve and come back stronger.

‘Although there are slightly fewer games, we have counteracted this, as we will be involved in more competitions this season. We also have the EFL Trophy which I am excited to see how our new, young squad perform after some excellent performances last season.’

Our Under-21s are the first Chelsea side in competitive action in the new season and you can secure your seat at Kingsmeadow for just £7, starting when we host Blackburn Rovers in this game on Friday 11 August, with kick-off scheduled for 7pm.

The older Academy team are then back in PL2 action at Kingsmeadow the following Friday, 18 August, against Brighton & Hove Albion, before West Bromwich Albion are the visitors to Kingston on Friday 1 September, with an away trip to Norwich City sandwiched between those two games. All of those matches begin at 7pm UK time.

Tickets for the home games against Blackburn, Brighton and West Brom are available online here now, priced just £7 for adults and £5 for juniors and seniors. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Kingsmeadow box office from 5pm on matchday, via card payments only and subject to availability.

Please note that changes to ground regulations this season mean any person attending matches under the age of 16 must be accompanied by somebody over 18 years old.





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