Keeping it in the family – Chelsea’s super siblings past

Years later, when Allan was plying his trade just up the road in west London, the two men found themselves in direct competition: Ron as captain of Chelsea, his older brother skipper of QPR, as the two clubs met in a competitive game for the first time.

‘It’s a rare occasion when we were divided, but I suppose that’s what football can do,’ added Allan.

The Wilkins clan

Had things worked out a little differently, the next set of Chelsea siblings could have raised the bar in terms of how many of them turned out for the Blues.

At one time we had three Wilkins brothers on our books, as Graham and Ray, who did make it in the first team, were joined by Stephen, who was training with the club while Eddie McCreadie was championing our youth set-up in the late Seventies. Then there was Dean, the fourth Wilkins brother, who instead learned his trade just up the road at QPR. Now that is a football family!

Graham, as the eldest of the brothers, had already debuted for the club when Ray, the most highly rated of the family and just over a year younger, was put forward by Dave Sexton to make his debut as a 17-year-old against Norwich.

Dujon Sterling discusses competing with the best and coming back stronger than ever

‘I’ve been working on those things with the coaches at Chelsea and even in the gym by myself when I’m away from the club. I’ve been putting in the work to get stronger, because I know where I need to be at to be able to compete at first-team level.

‘It was an encouragement to me for the coaches to say “take every moment as a chance to improve yourself” and “don’t dwell on the things you’re not able to do”.’

Of course, there is no better way to develop match fitness than taking on some of the best players around on the pitch, which is exactly what Sterling was doing when the Chelsea squad split into two teams for a training game in Ireland on Thursday.

For much of that 1-1 draw in Dublin, Sterling found himself directly facing off against Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech, as well as linking up with his old Academy team-mate Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wing for their goal, and says it was exactly the kind of challenge he needed.

‘When you come up against top players, world-class players, Champions League winners, that’s how you want to be tested, to have the chance to compete at that level. I thought I did well, especially against Christian! Personally, it was just good to get the run out and keep building up fitness.

First Words: Lauren James

How do you think you have developed in recent years?

Physically I’ve come on a lot. The last time Emma saw me, I was in the Under-12s and I was a very little, slight girl. I’ve come on in that side, and with skills too, I feel I’ve come on a lot.

How strong do you feel the WSL is at the moment?

Every year it is getting stronger. The transfers to the top teams, players moving all over and I think this year will be very interesting.

How strong do you think this current group are?

The bench is just as strong as the starting 11. When I’ve come and played here against Chelsea, you couldn’t write it off. You don’t know who is going to play, and whoever plays, you know they are all good.

Do you need that competition throughout as an elite player?

The strength in depth within the team is always good to have because there are always a lot of games, a lot of competitions and it also makes you a better player with the more competition for places.

What does it mean to be joining a club that has reached the Champions League final with both the women’s and men’s teams?

It’s great. The club have great ambitions, they always want to win trophies, it’s part of the DNA here. I’m looking forward to joining and hopefully we can get the Champions League this year.

Lauren James joins Chelsea Women

The 19-year-old made history by scoring Manchester United’s first-ever goal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and finished as their top scorer in the 2019/20 season with six goals in 12 appearances. She was also shortlisted for the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year that season.

James, sister of Blues defender Reece James, has represented England at Under-17 and Under-19 level and received her first senior call up as part of a training camp in November 2020.

A technical player who is excellent in using her body to shield the ball, James has the ability to carry the ball past players with ease and she showed those qualities with a goal-of-the-season contender in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last season.

Hudson-Odoi and Broja hit the net in Ireland game

The bibs were also using cross-field balls to find space for Callum Hudson-Odoi to exploit. With one of his attacks, he found Ziyech for a shot that lacked the power to beat Kepa so the second period began with the game still awaiting a goal, although that wait would not be much longer.

Before the first goal, Lewis Baker, playing in a defensive position, ambitiously went for goal from distance and was on target, but his shot was saved, unlike the one from Hudson-Odoi after he attacked with the ball at pace having collected a Dujon Sterling pass midway inside the opponents’ half. The winger’s sweet strike rippled the net.