Mark Robinson’s Under-21s will get Chelsea’s first taste of International Premier League Cup action at Kingsmeadow when they take on Lyon, with kick-off scheduled for 2pm on Saturday.
Mark Robinson‘s side will be looking to start with a win on Saturday afternoon as they welcome Lyon in what will be a good test for our boys.
The young Blues have had a mixed start to the season with some good wins and some tough defeats. Robinson has provided opportunities for a number of young players to impress, with many making their debuts at Under-21 level this season.
The head coach of the Under-21 team spoke to us about how his preparation for the game this weekend was going.
‘Actual preparation for this particular game has been very limited due to the international break. So, although a personal focus on this game has been difficult, the boys will be raring to go for the upcoming fixture.’
In addition to this, the prospect of our boys playing against European opposition is a challenge that Robinson is relishing and he says the players are too.
‘We are really looking forward to facing a less-known opposition in terms of how they play. We have obviously watched them through analysis but there is nothing like watching a team live when you get a much better feel for their spirit and behaviours. As always the main focus will be on ourselves and how we can be at our very best.’
Kiano Dyer, Ronnie Stutter and Max Merrick are just a few of the players who are getting their first experience of Under-21s football this season. This is a massive contrast to last year’s group. Robinson’s early assessment is that progress is being made and that cannot be taken for granted.
‘I am really enjoying working with a young group of players who are eager to learn and get better.
‘It feels like starting again sometimes’, he said, as he spoke about how he is supporting the development of these young footballers. ‘But watching them grasp aspects that are so vital to the men’s game is exciting. We are seeing little bits of progression weekly which is great.’
He added that, ‘The assessment is they are learning in a new environment and the games programme is throwing up different but positive challenges for them. The positives are that we have been competitive in every game. The big learning curve means we have lost some games that were in the balance and winnable. As we move on, we expect to see that change, although you are never the finished article, there is always constant improvement to be made.’
A number of strikers have departed the club either permanently or on loan within the Academy this past summer window and a new group of strikers have contributed to a large proportion of our goals this season. Jimmy-Jay Morgan and Donnell McNeilly have both impressed scoring two goals so far, while Ronnie Stutter has led the way so far, as he has scored five goals.
‘We are creating chances for the team and of course we want our strikers to be in the position to score and then finish off chances. We have been playing with two forwards this season, so there is a focus on their relationship, as well as the relationship with our No10, so they and we as a team are purposeful and effective.’
He added that, ‘All three forwards are different to the strikers before them and they are all so different among each other as well, so it is about developing their attributes within the team environment to get the best out of them.’
Stutter received a nomination for the August Premier League 2 Player of the Month award and Robinson said: ‘I am really pleased for Ronnie. His application and hunger to improve has been excellent from the day he arrived back in pre-season. He is currently reaping the rewards for his hard work and he fully deserves his nomination.’
Before the international break, our young Blues were 3-0 winners against West Bromwich Albion at Kingsmeadow. Morgan opened the scoring in the game with a smart finish. Leo Castledine doubled the lead with a free-kick before McNeilly rounded off the scoring with a well-taken third in the closing moments.
Our Under-21s were rarely tested during the game as they did well to keep the visitors out, despite their attack which failed to threaten consistently.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 2pm as our Under-21s go in search of victory. The Under-18s will play earlier, as they take on Fulham at Cobham in a London derby at 11am.