As we prepare for our first Under 21 fixture of the season against Manchester City, Nathaniel Chalobah is relishing the opportunity for some competitive action.
The 17-year-old figured in the first team’s pre-season tour of America last month and had outings in Seattle and New York but is now focused on the new league format that he hopes will provide more excitement for supporters and players alike.
‘It’s good for the club but it’s good for us too because playing at Brentford gives us a different experience, a change from Cobham and hopefully there will be more support there in the new environment,’ said the versatile Chalobah.
‘That’s something we are all looking forward to, at Cobham games are generally behind closed doors, so to be in front of a crowd at Brentford will be a good experience. I’ve played for the first team in front of huge crowds in America this summer and it gives you a boost. For the team it will be a real positive if there are people there cheering us on.’
The new Under 21 format is just half of the new Academy plan, with the NextGen competition designed to test Chelsea’s youngsters against the continent’s best. It also provides further developmental opportunities for players remaining at the club rather than going out on loan into the Football League.
‘It’s good for us to have more games at this level, a lot of players are looking to break through so there will be competition among us and more chances to show what we can do, and something to look forward too aside from the Youth Cup,’ reasons Chalobah.
‘This is a good club and we have some of the best coaches and facilities. We’re not in the first team yet but it makes sense to be here developing our games. Some people might go out on loan and get some first team football lower down. Here we can keep working hard in a familiar environment and keep learning as we play.’
City and their coach Attilio Lombardo represent a huge and unfamiliar test for the Chelsea boys at Brentford tomorrow night.
‘We played Man City in the Community Shield and it was a really good game, so now we look forward to the Under 21 game. They’re like us, they have good facilities and players, so it should be a good contest,’ Chalobah said.
‘I know of some of their players. Abdul Razak, who was on the bench at the weekend might figure, so I’m looking forward to playing against them. I’ve been on and off with the first team but now I want to get a real 90 minutes under my belt and it’s a good way to kick off the season.’
Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 7.05pm with entry to Griffin Park available on the door at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. It is also live on Chelsea TV for fans further afield to enjoy the action.