Under 18s manager Adi Viveash believes his young side’s tour of Asia was a trip that will serve them well for the long-term, both on and off the pitch.
The trip to Thailand and Malaysia, which was designed to improve the fitness of the players ahead of the new season, saw the 19-man squad train in extremely humid conditions and play two friendlies, while also reaching out to our supporters in the area by assisting at a coaching clinic for children.
For the majority of the travelling party – both young and old – it was the first time they had experienced such a dramatic shift in cultural patterns, but as the manager admitted, the opportunity to broaden horizons is one that should be wholeheartedly embraced.
‘The players have been a credit to Chelsea Football Club with the way they’ve conducted themselves over the 10 days away,’ he said.
‘We’ve got two 15-year-olds here and we are predominantly an Under 17 group, with four Under 18s.
‘I think they’ve been fantastic and they’ve enjoyed the experience, which has meant they’ve got a lot out of it. They’ve tried new things and they’ve seen different cultures. We’ve all never been to Asia before, staff and players, so the nice thing is that we’ve all learnt together. Hopefully we can take this on board and use it on our season.
‘All in all, I’m really pleased; pleased with the staff and how they performed and how they gelled together, and I’m pleased with the players, so it’s been a good experience.’
On the pitch, the tour was brought to a close with a 4-2 victory against Malaysia Under 19s.
Alistair Gordon gave us the lead inside five minutes with a close-range finish, before Walter Figueira doubled our advantage on the half-hour mark. Both Tom Howard and Jordan Houghton then rattled the woodwork in quick succession as the Blues threatened to run riot.
George Cole made it 3-0 shortly after the break, firing home from inside the penalty area after some good approach play by Kevin Wright, while Figueira grabbed his second of the game moments later with an absolute thunderbolt, and while Malaysia scored twice late in the game to restore some respectability to the scoreline, the win never looked in any real danger.
That game followed what was arguably the highlight of the whole trip, when we played our first game against Leo All-Stars, a local select side coached by Thai legend Surachai Jaturapattarapong, in front of over 7,000 supporters in Bangkok.
The result, a 1-0 defeat, wasn’t ideal, but Viveash believes the players can only benefit from playing in such atmospheres.
‘I’ve talked to the boys and they felt that the trip has really opened their eyes, especially when the fans gave them that welcome in Thailand,’ he said.
‘That crowd, 7,500 spectators, really surprised everybody and I love the interaction with the fans and that’s what it’s about – trying to spread the Chelsea word.
‘We’re all very fortunate to work for Chelsea, so I think they’ve seen that now, and hopefully that will drive them on to come back here with the first team one day. That would be really nice.
‘If they’re going to play in the Premier League, play for Chelsea, they’re going to have to get used to this type of travel. They’ll be away a lot. When the first team schedule comes through, they only get about three days off in a month. They have to get used to that.’