Much attention has been focused on what could be in store for Chelsea this summer, particularly regarding the transfer window following Todd’s Boehly takeover of the club.
In his first words after the £4.2 billion transaction, the American businessman referred to the consortium’s “commitment to developing the youth team and acquiring top talent”, “our action plan is to invest in the Club for the long term”. It will come as no surprise, then, that the USA team have met Chelsea youth development manager Neil Bath, who first joined the club on a part-time basis in 1993 as part of the Schoolboys coaching staff.
These discussions focused on Chelsea’s Vision 2030 strategy. This is Chelsea’s long-term plan to ensure they can tackle the changing landscape of football and has seen the Blues use the signings they have tracked outside the league – Mason Burstow passed time on trial at Chelsea while playing for Maidstone United – in addition to those they bring in and young players from other English clubs, partly over Brexit.
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The ambition of Vision 2030 is to ensure an overhaul across all departments of the academy to ensure the Blues continue to prepare first-team players. While this remains their long-term ambition, it also represents Bath’s immediate focus.
Bath said: “Our attention will quickly focus on the seasons ahead and how we can improve and improve. One of the most important elements of this is the implementation of our Vision 2030 strategy.
“We had the opportunity to present this plan to Todd Boehly and the new owners during a series of meetings, where their feedback and support was truly positive and encouraging.
“We have had tremendous support from Roman Abramovich for many years and now we are truly excited to start a new era with these new ideas, innovations and strategies at the heart of our progress. It is an exciting time to be at the Chelsea Academy!’
The likes of Mason Mount and Reece James have made Chelsea’s starting XI their home since breaking through under Frank Lampard, and while some are concerned Thomas Tuchel hasn’t fielded a teenager for the Blues in the Premier League in 2022/23, Bath believes the development team has generally not held back the growth of its academy products.
Award winner Eamonn Dolan was quick to highlight the young talent the club have sent out on loan and specifically wanted to mention a number of figures who could be challenging for a place in Tuchel’s squad in July. Colwill’s development has been seen as part of a bigger picture, although it remains to be seen whether he will take the plunge this summer, but the message from Bath will be one all prospects want to hear.
Bath said: “We’ve always tried to strike a balance between making our players available for loan or allowing them to go on transfer, because we don’t want to stunt the growth of a good enough individual.
“If you’re good enough you’re old enough and we always push that. Levi Colwill is the perfect example of that because he could have been a great asset to have in the PL2 campaign this season but we recognize the right thing was for him to play at a more senior level, which he has done so successfully this season with Huddersfield Town in the Championship.
“To name but a few, I want to say a big shout out to Armando Broja, Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour for all making positive impressions during their loan spells playing for Premier Clubs’ first team. League.”
With such quality on loan, Chelsea have had a difficult season in Premier League 2 with a young team. Talented stars such as Harvey Vale, Lewis Hall and Charlie Webster shone at Under-23 level but were still eligible to play Under-18 football last season. A tense end to the season, which saw a London derby win over Tottenham ensure the Blues were not relegated, may not have been what the club were hoping for, but Bath believe the Blues have been able to achieve a a number of objectives.
He said: “Our first aim this season was to get our young age groups back into a normal football and education routine after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, and also to bring our support staff back on site. .
“Then, of course, we look at development across all age groups and I would like to warmly congratulate our school children who have enjoyed great success with a number of tournament wins and final appearances. relentless that the players and staff put in place on a daily basis.
“I want to give my congratulations to the professional development stage because from a team perspective, we saw our Under-18s win the Premier League Cup, while our development team managed to escape relegation. the last day of the season.
“The intention before the start of the season was not to be involved in a relegation fight but in this phase of development it is very easy to find yourself in this situation. Our staff and our players have mobilized to overcome that, which was a huge positive and a real learning curve for them.”