Chelsea FC youth team

Hail to the youth champions

By Tim Harrison

The Blues stormed to victory in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night… literally. Hailstones bounced off the Stamford Bridge pitch and lightning flashed as Chelsea ensured the club’s trophy cabinet would get fresh silverware after all.

Manchester City’s youth team were beaten 3-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate, to notch up an extraordinary third Youth Cup on the trot… a feat last achieved by the Busby Babes in the 1950s.

With Chelsea ladies playing Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley in a fortnight, there could yet be a second trophy too.

It’s lifted the club when the first team appeared to have lost interest in life.

Last weekend’s 4-1 seaside jamboree at Bournemouth has added anticipation to Tottenham’s May bank holiday visit on Monday night.

With Spurs stumbling against West Brom, and Leicester powering on, the chanting has begun.

Chelsea fans limbered up on the south coast, where Eden Hazard finally got back to scoring ways. “Leicester, Leicester, win the league,” was the surreal chorus as the match against the Cherries as Hazard scored his second.

But this week belonged to the next generation. Captain Jake Clarke-Salter lifted the FA Youth Cup in front of 8,530 chilly fans after the Blues had outmanoeuvred City for the second year running.

Goals by Dujon Sterling, the unfeasibly tall Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori ensured that Brahim Diaz’s late reply was meaningless. It’s now four wins in five youth finals.

There were some excellent performances – notably by Mason Mount – and some close shaves, but it was Sterling’s persistence in first-half stoppage time that broke the deadlock and made the second half relatively straightforward.

This may not be as co-ordinated and integrated a U18 team as Chelsea have boasted in recent years, but there are many individuals who deserve to go on to greater things.

Will new manager Antonio Conte grant them the opportunities?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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