Our first in-depth Academy feature of the new season sees the official Chelsea website sit down with former Blues defender Andy Myers, now in a coaching role at the club, who talks about his recent move from the Under-15s to Under-21s…
Supporters will remember Andy Myers as a solid, reliable left-back who was a member of the squads which won both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in what proved to be a successful spell in the club’s history during the late-1990s.
Nowadays, however, the man whose most memorable Chelsea goal came in a 2-0 win up at Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 can be found working in tandem with Dermot Drummy as assistant manager of our Under-21 team, having taken sole charge of the Under-15s last season.
The transition comes at a time when the Under-21s’ league as a whole has undergone some serious changes in a bid to improve the fortunes of the national team in the years ahead, but Myers is enjoying his new role.
‘I’ve found it really good,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘The staff have been brilliant and I’ve had big support from everybody, especially the likes of Dermot [Drummy], Adi [Viveash] and Neil [Bath], so the transition has been quite smooth.
‘It’s now about getting on with things on a daily basis and learning a different routine, but the workload doesn’t change too much.
‘The roles do differ, but I’ve had experience at being an assistant so it’s not something I’m unfamiliar with. When I first came to the club, I was helping out Joe [Edwards] with the Under-14s and Dermot works in a similar way to him.
‘They let you coach, let you find your feet and establish what works and what doesn’t, they don’t just keep you standing at the back. I haven’t found it too difficult because I’ve done a similar role previously.’
His involvement with the Under-21s has coincided with a decent start to the new campaign, with our opening 0-0 draw against Manchester City preceding last weekend’s 5-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge.
With the new-look league only a matter of weeks old, it’s difficult to envisage just how significant the restructuring will prove to be long-term, but for the players, as Myers admits, it can only be deemed a positive.
‘I think it’s very beneficial, we’re not exactly sure to what extent until it develops, but at the moment, given the way it’s gone so far, it’s been very good,’ says Myers.
‘The players have definitely noticed a difference. No disrespect to Cobham, because the facilities here are amazing, but to go from playing games here last season to playing now at different stadiums, it’s more like a first team experience for them.
‘They’re playing in front of bigger crowds; there was over 3,000 fans when we played Manchester City at Griffin Park a few weeks ago, so straight away the boys are feeling the tension and the nerves are there, you can see it in them. When you have that, the performances need to be right as well, so it’s good for them.
‘Both performances have been very pleasing, which is a credit to the boys and the work they put in in training, but it’s nice to have a working group, and I think that’s the difference. Having a big group allows Dermot and myself to get our points across and makes the whole thing more purposeful.’
With the influx of foreign players to the Premier League showing little sign of slowing down, supporters of all clubs are understandably taking far more interest than ever before in the development of home-grown talent.
At Chelsea, Ryan Bertrand is the most recent Academy graduate to make the step up, a move which culminated in the youngster putting pen to paper on a new five-year contract following a string of impressive displays since his elevation into the first team.
Lucas Piazon, the talented young Brazilian, scored his first senior goal for the club during our pre-season tour of the US, while the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah and Jamal Blackman were also involved with the first team.
Myers would love to see Bertrand’s path emulated in the near future, but competition at the highest level is extremely tough.
‘From our perspective, we’d like to think so, but we’re governed by what the first team are doing,’ he explains.
‘Obviously it’s very competitive at that end and there are good players. However, you never know, there may be opportunities which arise in the Capital One Cup, we’d like it to happen, but ultimately it’s not our call.
‘When Robbie [Di Matteo], Eddie [Newton] and Steve [Holland] feel the time is right for those players, because they are looking at them and monitoring them closely, I’m sure opportunities will come.’
On the subject of Bertrand, Myers, as somebody who has also represented the club at left-back, has been watching his journey closely, and he believes the future is bright, with players who have recently gone out on loan also beginning to make their presence felt in the best possible manner.
‘Ryan’s gone out on loan at such a young age and played a lot of games, and now he’s come back here, stepped in and made an impact,’ he says. ‘He’s represented England and he’s warranted all the opportunities that he’s been given.
‘He’s a great advert for the Academy because it goes to show that all the work we do in terms of preparing youngsters and getting them out on loan and giving them experience is worthwhile.
‘You’ve got Sam Hutchinson on loan at Nottingham Forest, Nathaniel at Watford, a couple of other boys at Yeovil, and it just gives them that experience so that when they do come back they know what it’s all about, they know what it’s like to play for three points week in, week out and have that pressure, so that when they do get an opportunity – hopefully at Chelsea – they’re ready for it.
‘Sam scored the winner last weekend, he took it really well. He didn’t start the two previous games, but he got his chance and took it, and that’s what you have to do at any level, take your opportunities when you can.’
Our Under-21s are in action again when we take on Liverpool at Brentford FC’s Griffin Park on Friday 14 September. Tickets are available on the night, priced at £3 for adults and £1 for juniors and seniors.