Chelsea take on Norwich City at Carrow Road in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final on Monday, a game which can be seen live on Chelsea TV, and John Swift, who was part of the side which lifted the trophy a year ago, is delighted to have an opportunity to retain it.
The Blues secured our place in a second successive final courtesy of a 4-1 aggregate win over Liverpool in the semi-final.
‘It’s a great achievement for the club,’ the young midfielder tells the official Chelsea website.
‘This will be the third time we’ve been to the final in four years and we’ve won two of them. To be involved in the last win was the highlight of my season.
‘We’re playing really well at the moment and hopefully we can get the right result. At Carrow Road they’re expecting a massive crowd, they had a large one at their semi-final, so I’m looking forward to that. It will be a great atmosphere and another good experience for me.’
Having won the first leg of our semi-final 2-0 at Anfield, we went into the return as strong favourites, and after falling behind to Kristoffer Peterson’s goal midway through the first half, displayed character to turn the game back in our favour.
Instrumental in that comeback was Swift, who scored a crucial equaliser shortly before half-time, arriving late in the box to finish in style after initially starting the move in our own half.
Frank Lampard is widely considered the greatest midfielder to pull on a Chelsea shirt, and the 17-year-old recently sat down with the Blues star to seek advice on ways in which to improve his game.
It was a conversation Swift took a lot away from, and his goal against the Merseyside outfit was one Lampard himself would have been proud of.
‘It was probably my best goal for Chelsea, although I haven’t got too many to compare it with,’ he says. ‘I got one in the competition last year against Doncaster, and that brought us back into the game as well, so to do it again at Stamford Bridge against a team like Liverpool was brilliant.
‘I didn’t really know how to celebrate to be honest, but to come back from going 1-0 down was tough. We scored the two goals, though, and while we didn’t cruise towards the end, we played the game out and I thought we did it well.
‘I just wanted to ask Frank Lampard about how I can improve my game, but also what I’m doing right as well as what I’m doing wrong, and he was really helpful, so I was delighted.’
It’s been a season of progression for Swift. Having played a pivotal role in last season’s FA Youth Cup triumph, he has made the step up this campaign to feature recently for Dermot Drummy’s Under-21s, while also captaining the Under-18s.
The opportunity to test himself against the best Europe had to offer at Under-19 level in the NextGen Series was another indicator of his development, with Swift coming off the bench in the semi-final to set up the winner for Lewis Baker in a 4-3 win over Arsenal.
‘In the NextGen we got to the final and played against different types of teams including foreign opposition, and obviously we played in other countries as well,’ explains Swift.
‘We played Arsenal and Aston Villa at Lake Como. It’s always a big game when we play Arsenal and I managed to set the winner up, which was probably the highlight of the tournament for me on a personal note. I didn’t actually play in it a great deal, but I took my chance when it came along.
‘Just being involved, even when you’re not playing, is good for me. Travelling with the team, going to new places and coming up against different teams is all good experience as a young player. I’ve been involved in the Youth Cup for the second time and it seems to get better with every game.’
Timing is everything in football and based on recent performances, Swift appears to be clicking into gear at the perfect moment.
Impressive displays against the likes of Aston Villa and Sunderland preceded the semi-final second leg against Liverpool, while on Thursday he played the full 90 minutes in the Under-21s’ 0-0 draw at Everton.
Should he start against Norwich, a side we eliminated en route to last season’s final, Swift will undoubtedly be a key figure, but while he is desperate to produce the goods on a personal level, collective success remains the priority.
‘It all started at home to Villa, when I thought I did really well,’ he says. ‘I took that into the game against Sunderland and felt I stepped my game up.
‘I thought I did quite well against Liverpool at home, especially to get the goal at such a crucial time, so my confidence is high.
‘Winning the Youth Cup again would mean everything. Along with the NextGen it’s the best tournament a young player can play in, and I think winning it this time would even surpass last year’s triumph as it will mean we’ve won it two years in a row.’
– Tune in to Chelsea TV on Monday from 7.30pm for all the build-up ahead of the game, followed by live coverage from Carrow Road.
Tickets for the match at Carrow Road are priced £2 and are available on the night.
Live text coverage of Monday’s game will be available, although NOT via the usual page. Those supporters wishing to follow the match can do so here.
The Under-18 league match against Crystal Palace will now take place at Cobham on Friday 10 May, kick-off 11am.