Chelsea’s Under-18 team have history in their sights this evening, with Ed Brand’s team looking to win the FA Youth Cup for a joint-record tenth occasion and inflict yet another defeat on Manchester City’s youngsters.
A win at St George’s Park would see the young blues crowned champions for the eighth time in the past 11 years and three of the four most recent wins have come against City. But there is also a wider narrative of how divergent the paths for both club’s young players has been in recent years.
Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi all played in the hat-trick of Youth Cup finals between the clubs from 2015 to 2017.
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When they looked across the halfway line during the warm-ups in both meetings against Pep Guardiola’s first team last season, they will have been hard pressed to find more than one player who featured for City in those underage showpieces.
Phil Foden is becoming a regular in Guardiola’s team but it has taken time and there is no one else in sight.
Ultimately turning young talent into senior stars is the one area where Chelsea are light years ahead of City, and perhaps every other club in the country.
Neil Bath, head of the club’s academy, summed it up well last November when he told the club’s website: “We have to set out ambitions high because we want to be the best football academy in the world and the number one choice for players and parents.”
First, to illustrate the difference, let’s focus on the 2016 final seeing as Abraham, Mount and Tomori all scored in a two-legged tie that Joe Edwards’s team won 4-2 on aggregate.
Of the 17 players on the team-sheets for Chelsea across both legs, 10 were still contracted by the club last season, and just one, reserve goalkeeper Jared Thompson, was not playing professionally.
Two of City’s players, by…