Tuesday 16 October 2012
Chelsea claimed their second youth title in as many weeks with victory in the second Premier League U16 National Tournament at St George’s Park at the weekend.
After coming through a group that included Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Newcastle United, Chelsea beat Manchester United 3-2 in the last four before overcoming Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 in the final.
United made sure of third place after beating Rovers in the third/fourth place play-off.
The title makes it a successful couple of weeks for Chelsea, who ran out winners in the Premier League's U15 International Tournament at the end of September.
Premier League Club Support Manager Chris Casper hailed Chelsea’s victory but added that their title was a close-run thing.
"All the clubs came out of this event with a lot of credit"
"They have obviously invested heavily in youth, recruitment, staff and facilities and they are becoming a successful academy," he told premierleague.com. "They won the Youth Cup as well last year and they are moving in the right direction. They have got some very technically very good players.
"Chelsea deserved to get to the final, it was an excellent game between them and Wolves, and both teams put on a really good show. Chelsea scored late on and it could have gone either way. It was a high-quality game."
As well as being impressed with the standard of play, Casper was delighted with how evenly matched the 12 teams were over the two days.
"The weekend was excellent," said Casper. "It was about the players being able to express themselves and being able to show their quality and the skills they possess. That came out in abundance over the weekend.
"There were some really good individual and team performances. The tournament reinforced that there are some very good, technical players in the academies. No question about that.
"There were some really competitive games and it’s quite telling that there were no heavy defeats. There wasn’t a major gulf between the teams so it goes to show that there are quality players even at the teams that didn’t make it through to the semi-finals.
"All the clubs came out of this event with a lot of credit."
The tournament forms one part of the Games Programme of the Youth Development Phase of the EPPP, which aims to improve player development by helping them make the transition to 11 v 11 matches and pitching the best players against the best.
Tournaments such as this are designed to play an important role in the development of the young players as they make the transition to club scholars next year and Casper said the weekend was an "invaluable" experience for them.
"It is all part of a player’s development and progression," he added. "Many of the players are six months away from being full-time scholars. That involves a competitive games programme so this is preparing them for that competition and giving them that competitive edge.
"We are looking for highly competitive players who are going to play in a highly competitive league"
"It's good for the Academies, it gives you a benchmark against other clubs, but it is also good for the players. They want to compete and play in tournament football and challenge themselves against the best players in the other academies. Everyone gains from it."
And as well as the development of the players on the pitch, Casper believes the tournament was also important for helping them experience what life will be like if they make it as a professional.
"They were away from home, they stayed in a nice hotel, they had things do to in their spare time such as video analysis, cool-downs and gym facilities and it gave them a little taste of what things are going to be like without being too much," said Casper.
"We are looking for highly competitive players who are going to play in a highly competitive league. Hopefully they will go on to play a major part in the continued success of the Premier League and the development of the national team as well."
Runners-up: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Third: Manchester United
Final: Chelsea 2-1 Wolves
3rd/4th play-off: Man Utd 2-1 Blackburn Rovers
Semi-finals: Chelsea 3-2 Man Utd, Wolves 1-1 Blackburn (Wolves won on penalties)
Group A: Arsenal, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Southampton
Group B: Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Newcastle United
Group C: Liverpool, Reading, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers