Kevin Wright’s first season as a full-time scholar at Chelsea has seen him play more youth team league games than anyone, it has seen him take part in the NextGen Under-19s European competition including every minute of the semi-final and final, and it has seen him make his debut for our Under-21s.
Missing is an appearance in the FA Youth Cup but with Chelsea playing Liverpool away in the first leg of this year’s semi-final, that opportunity remains open.
Our Under-18s under manager Adi Viveash have reached this stage in the defence of the trophy by beating Colchester, Charlton, Barnsley and Derby. Now it is an appointment at Anfield on Friday evening for a 7.45pm kick-off, a match that can be viewed live on Chelsea TV.
‘I have been working hard every day and these are the type of games that you need to impress in and you need to gain experience playing in,’ says 17-year-old left-back Wright as he considers the possibility of his Youth Cup debut.
‘It will be a big crowd in a big stadium and these are the games you have deliver in, so if I get the opportunity I will just do my best and try to prove myself to everyone watching.’
If Wright is selected for the semi-final he will be among familiar team-mates. There is plenty of crossover between this season’s Youth Cup side and the one that competed for the NextGen trophy a fortnight ago, just falling short in the final against Aston Villa. And for the young man from Essex who joined Chelsea as an Under-10, some friendships go back a lot further.
‘The first NextGen game at the start of the season I was on the bench which was quite a good achievement because not many of the young players were, so when I came on in the game I tried to be confident and keep it simple,’ he recalls.
‘Then when I played for the Under-21s against Everton in March, I think I did all right and impressed the manager [Dermot Drummy] and he had confidence in me which meant I could start the Juventus game, and it went on from there.
‘I played the semi-final against Arsenal and had a bit of a hard time but I had to learn from it and I thought I bounced back from that against Aston Villa. I was told I did quite well in that game.I went forward and was quite strong defensively so I was pleased.
‘There are a few of the same players here that I have played with since I was 10,’ he confirms.
‘People like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fankaty Dabo. I have a good relationship with them and hopefully that comes out on the pitch.
‘Ruben is a very good player, he goes forward a lot and he lets his football do the talking. Fankaty is a bit of a character, he is very lively, very funny, but on the pitch he is a good leader. He is strong in the tackle and is good to have around when times are not very good because he motivates you.’
Wright was a left winger when he first came into our Academy and although now a defender, his attacking past helps him fit the profile of a modern full-back.
‘My main job is to defend one-on-one and stop crosses coming in but to add something extra to my game I have been told to go forward and get crosses in, link-up and maybe even score,’ he says.
‘Full-backs like [Barcelona’s] Jordi Alba score quite a few goals so I am just trying to add that to my game.
‘Game time is key to improving as a player so I really cherish my moments on the pitch and I hopefully keep improving.’
Ticket prices at Anfield are £5 for adults and £1 for children. They will be available on the day of the game.
Chelsea TV’s Friday Night Live begins at 6.30pm with special guest Lord Sebastian Coe and Frank Sinclair.
– The home leg is at Stamford Bridge on Friday 19 April. Tickets can only be bought in advance.