Chelsea’s youth team did the club proud on Monday night by winning the prestigious FA Youth Cup for the fifth time in our history and the third time in five seasons. For the coaches on the bench at Stamford Bridge, the second-leg win must have been a rollercoaster of emotions, with fortunes fluctuating in what was eventually a 5-3 victory over Fulham on the night.
Chelsea were still losing on aggregate with 10 minutes left to play, but two goals from Dominic Solanke, the schoolboy striker who netted eight times in the cup run, won the game, with the deciding strike coming in stoppage time.
For Adi Viveash (pictured below), it was his second FA Youth Cup win as youth team manager following on from the 2012 success when dramatic fight backs were also part of the story. He was assistant to Dermot Drummy when the trophy was lifted in 2010.
‘A comeback against Nottingham Forest [two seasons ago] is the closest there has been to this but this was in a final so it’s a special day,’ Viveash told the official Chelsea website after the game.
‘It’s something that everyone involved will treasure. I felt for Fulham, they contributed to the final, same as we did last year versus Norwich, though we were never in a position to win the final last year because we were behind from the first leg, and then we conceded again.
‘We were in that same position this time at half-time, a goal behind on the night but two behind on aggregate and you just have to take a risk.’
Three substitutions were made at half-time, with three players brought on who had been in the starting 11 for the Under-21s in their important win at Manchester City on Thursday night.
‘The players weren’t playing well enough, it’s a final, we can’t wait, and the players that came on at half-time gave us a lot,’ explained Viveash.
‘They deserve special credit because they played 120 minutes on Thursday. I couldn’t start all of them tonight but they found something and really pushed for 45 minutes.’
The young Blues had gone in at half-time 3-2 down on the night, Charlie Colkett from the penalty spot and Jordan Houghton our first-half scorers. Isak Ssewankambo closed the aggregate on 77 minutes before Solanke’s two late goals.
‘It was an unbelievable goal from Ssewankambo, a fantastic strike,’ praised his manager.
‘Izzy Brown had had a couple of sighters and that raised the belief, and Solanke did what he has all season. Colkett set up two goals and to stay that calm in the 90th minute in the box, to move it like we did with Colkett’s back-heel and Solanke’s finish, is what we’re trying to get out of them. To do that in front of 13,000 Chelsea fans at key moments is the right development.
‘I was really pleased for the five boys that played in last year’s final and were still on the pitch at the end tonight. We had a separate motivational chat with that group on Sunday. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mitchell Beeney have been involved over three years but the first year was bit-part for them so they now feel like they’ve won it.
‘I’m thrilled for Alex Kiwomya, who’s been ill recently but has added so much for us in the Youth Cup over three years. I’m pleased for people like him, Jeremie Boga, Kevin Wright who has missed most of the campaign having started it; Reece Mitchell who after breaking a leg against Derby last year has come back and played a part in setting up goals; George Cole, Jon Muleba who was in the dressing room with the boys after playing exceptionally well in the first two games before he moved to Bournemouth, so it’s been a real squad effort.
‘We had five Under-16s in a squad of 17 for a Youth Cup final so it makes it extra special. To do it without Boga and Kiwomya over two legs, two key players who were unavailable, says a lot for us.
‘It’s a fantastic achievement for everybody in the Academy. I’m as pleased for the people that work in the Academy as I am for the players. The staff I work with every day are exceptional and winning the Youth Cup just reinforces that. They work every day and they put the players first as they look for that extra one per cent we need to try to get them involved in the first team, so I’m really delighted for the staff because they deserve this too.’
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (pictured below with the trophy) is one of those who was playing in consecutive Youth Cup finals and was captain for this season’s campaign. He was a sub in the 2012 final victory…
‘It was an amazing experience,’ he said after last night’s win. ‘We were all gutted to lose against Norwich here at Stamford Bridge last season but to be captain this year has been amazing. It was a crazy game to be involved in and to then come off and watch the second half is even worse, it was so nervy.
‘It feels so much more special this time round, to be involved throughout the campaign and to lift the trophy at the end, I can’t describe that feeling. This competition is the pinnacle of football at Under-18 level and you only get two or three chances to win it. I’ve been so lucky to have played in three finals and now to have won it twice.’
Jordan Houghton (pictured below middle with Charlie Colkett left and Dominic Solanke right), who scored the second goal from long range, won his place in midfield as the cup run progressed, having overcome past injury problems…
‘I’m still in shock. I can’t believe we managed to come from behind like that. It was unbelievable and the fans were amazing. We stuck together and really pushed in the second half. It’s what we deserve for the last 12 months, we’ve been working hard so to finish it like that is amazing.
‘After last year for me, to be out for so long with a knee injury, it’s been such hard work. I owe it all to Stuart Vaughan [head Academy physio] and all the medical staff, I wouldn’t be here in the final without them.’
Attacking midfielder and set-piece specialist Charlie Colkett (pictured above left) was second topscorer in the cup run with four goals…
‘I’m absolutely over the moon, especially after the devastation of last year. I think it shows how we are as a group, everybody believed in each other. I’m in bits now but that’s what it’s all about, it’s so worth it when we get the end result and win the trophy.’
Fankaty Dabo (pictured below) was a regular at full-back…
‘There are no real words to describe this moment. To go through the season and get here and to win like that, it’s a struggle to put into words how it feels.
‘The first half was difficult because we didn’t play as well as we can. We showed in the first leg how well we can play but we didn’t really turn up in the first half tonight. So Adi got onto us a bit at half-time and gave us a lift to go again and believe in the second half. We have the best conditioners and best coaches and without them we wouldn’t be able to play this amount of games at this level.’
Defender Andreas Christensen (below) was the one member of the squad who played every minute of both legs of the final and the Under-21s’ play-off at Manchester City…
‘It was my third game in just over a week and I could feel that but I was up for it because we want to be winners. Near the end I was asking the ref how much longer and he said three minutes, and I thought no chance, we are going to extra-time, but we got the goal and it feels great.
‘Last year was a big disappointment and now we have waited 12 months for this and we got what we wanted. Our first aim was just to win the game and get extra-time if we needed it, but luckily for us we didn’t, because Dom scored a great goal so we are very happy.
‘The atmosphere was fantastic, over 13,000 here and it was fantastic support.’
Neil Bath (pictured below right with technical director Michael Emenalo centre and assistant head of youth development Jim Fraser left) was overseeing his third Youth Cup win as head of the Academy…
‘I am really proud and the lads did fantastically well to show the personality and desire they did in the second half.
‘I’m sure the match was great entertainment and I have had several texts from family and friends saying how much they enjoyed it. In youth football there is something different about it, young kids kind of just go for it, almost fearless, and that was the case in the second half and it has been throughout the whole tournament this year.
‘There have been some fantastic performances, particularly against Arsenal in the semi-final when I thought we were awesome. We started a bit slow first half tonight but changes at half-time affected the game and the boys have done very well.
‘The crowd was an amazing turn out, we are so pleased with that support and there has been a hardcore that have followed the youth side. An attendance of 13,000 was brilliant and it means so much to the players and staff.’
– A clip of Chelsea TV’s post-match reaction can be viewed above with the full video available now via the channel’s online access.