Football Features

How Chelsea’s 2017 FA Youth Cup winners bucked the club’s notorious trend

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:16, 24 April 2020

Many followers of the FA Youth Cup will know about Chelsea’s domination of the competition in recent years.

Between 2014 and 2018, the young Blues won five consecutive FA Youth Cups, matching the streak first recorded by the Manchester United side of 1953-57 that brought the Busby Babes.

But at the heart of Chelsea’s run, there was another team trying to cause an upset, reaching three FA Youth Cup finals — Manchester City.

The 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 finals saw Chelsea and Man City fight it out for glory, with the London Blues getting the better of their northern rivals.

Over recent years, both Chelsea and Man City have made a name for themselves as having some of the best academies in the world and the talent on show in the 2016/17 final — the last of the trilogy — proves that.

Unfortunately for a lot of Chelsea’s academy players in the past, their success in the FA Youth Cup has been unable to help them grab a place in the first-team, instead falling victim to the club’s vicious loan system.

However, a number of the 2016/17 crop have found their way to breakthrough, due to favourable circumstances, pure ability and determination. But how did they do it? And what has happened to their Man City opponents?

Chelsea

Jared Thompson

Position: Goalkeeper

Career path: Swindon, Chelsea, Chippenham Town (loan), Warrenpoint (loan), Exeter City

Senior appearances: 8

The goalkeeper joined Chelsea at the age of 13 and rose through the ranks to keep goal in the first leg of the 2016/17 final. Thompson was then loaned to non-league side Chippenham and, after another temporary move to Northern Ireland with Warrenpoint, was released. Now plays for Exeter, though is yet to make an appearance.

Jamie Cumming

Position: Goalkeeper

Career path: Chelsea

Senior appearances: 0

  • Joined Chelsea as a youngster and remains at the club.
  • Yet to make a first-team appearance for Chelsea.
  • He has appeared on the bench seven times, including for the 2019 Europa League final.

Reece James

Position: Right-back

Career path: Chelsea, Wigan Athletic (loan)

Senior appearances: 72

One of a handful of Chelsea’s current first-teamers to appear in the 2016/17 FA Youth Cup final, James was key to the Blues’ domination. James remained with the academy sides until 2018/19 when he was sent on his first, and only, loan spell to Wigan.

The 20-year-old was excellent for the Latics at both right-back and midfield winning the club’s Player of the Year award and earning calls for a place in Chelsea’s first team, which he is currently on his way to securing under Frank Lampard.

Marc Guehi

Position: Centre-back

Career path: Chelsea, Swansea City (loan)

Senior appearances: 7

Another big member of the all-conquering Chelsea youth side, Marc Guehi was a rock at the heart of the defence and has so far made two appearances for the Blues’ first-team — both coming under Lampard in the Carabao Cup. In January, the centre-back was loaned to Swansea City where he has featured five times.

Cole Dasilva

Position: Right-back

Career path: Chelsea, Brentford

Senior appearances: 0

  • The younger brother of Bristol City full-back Jay Dasilva.
  • A late substitute in second-leg against Man City, scoring just three minutes after coming on.
  • Joined Brentford in 2018, where he remains in the reserve side.

Juan Castillo

Position: Left-back

Career path: Zeeburgia, Ajax, Chelsea, Ajax (loan)

Senior appearances: 0

  • Joined Chelsea in 2016, winning the FA Youth Cup in his first season.
  • Capable of playing across the left flank.
  • Was loaned to Ajax in 2019, spending his time with their U-21 side in the Dutch second division.

Dujon Sterling

Position: Right-back

Career path: Chelsea, Coventry City (loan), Wigan Athletic (loan)

Senior appearances: 52

A flying right-back or wing-back for Chelsea, Sterling got himself on the scoresheet in the second leg playing in a more advanced role. Handed his Chelsea first-team debut by Antonio Conte in 2017/18, Sterling would play twice before embarking on his first loan spell at Coventry City.

Sterling is now following in James’ footsteps, on loan at Wigan, although his time with the Latics has been hampered by injuries.

Tariq Uwakwe

Position: Central midfield

Career path: Chelsea

Senior appearances: 0

  • Joined Chelsea as an under-9.
  • Capable of playing in central midfield or out wide.
  • Remains part of Chelsea’s development squad.

Trevoh Chalobah

Position: Defensive midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, Ipswich Town (loan), Huddersfield Town (loan)

Senior appearances: 74

The younger brother of Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah, Trevoh also came through the Chelsea academy. Capable of playing both in midfield and defence, Chalobah was deployed at centre-back against Man City and helped restrict Lee Carsley’s side to just two goals across the final while also opening the scoring in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

In 2016, Chalobah was loaned to Ipswich Town and played 44 times across all competitions, but was unable to prevent their relegation from the Championship. Now at Huddersfield Town on loan, Chalobah is a regular in midfield — although his performances have divided opinion.

Jacob Maddox

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Bristol City, Chelsea, Cheltenham Town (loan), Tranmere Rovers (loan), Southampton (loan)

Senior appearances: 46

Maddox was one of Chelsea’s brightest midfielders at youth level during this time but is yet to make the switch to the first team.

The 20-year-old has so far had three loan spells away from Chelsea, first at Cheltenham where he made 44 appearances before adding just two with Tranmere. Now on loan at Southampton, Maddox features for Saints’ development squad.

Conor Gallagher

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, Charlton Athletic (loan), Swansea City (loan)

Senior appearances: 36

Arguably the biggest star of the current Chelsea crop out on loan, Gallagher was a very late substitute in the first leg against Man City, enjoying his breakthrough the following season.

After youth football was deemed not enough for the midfielder, Gallagher was sent on loan to Charlton for the 2019/20 campaign where he thrived in a struggling side. But Gallagher left Charlton in January to test himself further up the Championship table, moving to Swansea and continuing his fine season.

Harvey St Clair

Position: Attacking midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, Venezia, Kilmarnock (loan)

Senior appearances: 17

Another substitute appearance maker in the 2016/17 final, St Clair made the move up to the developmental squad the following year but lasted just one season before leaving Chelsea permanently.

St Clair made the bold switch to Italian side Venezia but returned to the UK in 2019, on loan at Kilmarnock.

George McEachran

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, SC Cambuur (loan)

Senior appearances: 2

McEachran followed in older brother Josh’s footsteps in thriving for Chelsea’s youth sides, although he only had a cameo role against Man City. After being key to the 2017/18 Youth Cup win, McEachran moved up to the developmental squad to continue his progress.

The 19-year-old was then sent on his first loan spell away from Chelsea, joining Dutch side SC Cambuur in January 2020.

Mason Mount

Mason Mount started Chelsea's Boxing Day defeat to Southampton on the bench.

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, Vitesse (loan), Derby (loan)

Senior appearances: 125

This was Mount’s last season as part of Chelsea’s FA Youth Cup squad and in the summer of 2017, the midfielder was loaned to Vitesse — where he thrived.

Another good loan spell at Derby County followed in 2018/19, under Lampard, which helped Mount earn his spot in the Chelsea first team for the current campaign. Mount has missed just one of Chelsea’s 42 games across all competitions so far this season and looks set to be part of the side for years to come.

Ike Ugbo

Position: Forward

Career path: Chelsea, Barnsley (loan), MK Dons (loan), Scunthorpe United (loan), Roda (loan)

Senior appearances: 80

Another player who looks set to be victim to Chelsea’s loan system, Ugbo scored in each of the legs against Man City in 2017.

That summer, he was loaned to Barnsley but remained until January 2018 before another loan at MK Dons. Ugbo is now on loan in the Dutch second tier with Roda and has scored 13 goals in 28 league games.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Position: Winger

Career path: Chelsea

Senior appearances: 53

Hudson-Odoi was one of the stars of Chelsea’s academy and scored in the second leg against Man City. Showing signs of greatness from early in his Chelsea career, Hudson-Odoi became part of the first team in 2018/19 under Maurizio Sarri but his future was in doubt with many feeling he was not being played enough.

Following interest from Bayern Munich, Hudson-Odoi was handed more first-team appearances and, after an injury setback, eventually signed a new long-term deal at Chelsea. The 19-year-old looks set to be part of Lampard’s long-term plans, but injuries have hampered his development.

Martell Taylor-Crossdale

Position: Striker

Career path: Chelsea, Fulham

Senior appearances: 1

A substitute in the second leg, Taylor-Crossdale was a solid goalscorer for Chelsea’s youth side, managing 35 goals in 53 appearances for the under-18s.

But the forward left for Fulham on a free transfer last summer, where he remains part of the developmental side — although he has made a brief Carabao Cup appearance.

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Manchester City

Aro Muric

Position: Goalkeeper

Career path: SC YF Juventus, FC Zurich, Grasshopper, Man City, NAC Breda (loan), Nottingham Forest (loan)

Senior appearances: 11

Muric joined Man City in 2015 and went straight into their academy side. Rising through the ranks, Muric has made five first-team appearances for the Citizens, all of which have come in the Carabao Cup.

The goalkeeper is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest, although he is deputy to Brice Samba.

Demeaco Duhaney

Position: Right-back

Career path: Man City, Huddersfield Town, Boston United (loan)

Senior appearances: 4

Coming through the academy at Man City, Duhaney left for Huddersfield in 2018 and has made two first-team appearances for the Terriers, although most of his time has been spent in the developmental squad. A brief loan spell at Boston United at the end of 2019 brought a further two first-team appearances.

Sadou Diallo

Position: Centre-back

Career path: Man City, Wolves, Accrington Stanley (loan)

Senior appearances: 10

Another player who joined Man City as a youngster, Diallo was released by the club in 2018 and joined Wolves shortly after. He was then loaned to League One side Accrington Stanley, appearing 10 times with seven starts.

Ed Francis

Position: Centre-back

Career path: Man City, Almere City (loan), Wolves, Grasshopper (loan)

Senior appearances: 3

Francis was sent on loan to Dutch side Almere in 2018 and made three appearances before his return at the start of 2019. The centre-back was allowed to leave permanently for Wolves, becoming a regular in their developmental squad, before joining Grasshopper on loan in February 2020.

Tyreke Wilson

Position: Left-back

Career path: Cherry Orchard, Man City, Waterford

Senior appearances: 4

Completing the backline of players to have left Man City permanently, Wilson remained part of the Premier League club’s youth set-up until January 2020 when he was sold to Irish side Waterford.

Jacob Davenport

Position: Defensive midfielder

Career path: Man City, Burton Albion (loan), Blackburn Rovers

Senior appearances: 19

Moving up the ranks following the defeat to Chelsea, Davenport was eventually loaned to Burton in January 2018, making 17 appearances for the Brewers. Upon his return to Man City, Davenport was sold to Blackburn and remains on their books, often featuring for the developmental squad.

Brahim Diaz

Position: Attacking midfielder

Career path: Malaga, Man City, Real Madrid

Senior appearances: 33

One of Man City’s stars from this squad, there were high hopes for Brahim to become a long-term member of the first team having joined the club’s academy as a 14-year-old. However, Brahim made just 15 appearances for the Citizens, four of which were starts in the Carabao Cup.

In 2019, Brahim was allowed to leave for Real Madrid in search of first-team football, but his breakthrough at Los Blancos has taken some time with just 18 appearances so far.

Matt Smith

Position: Defensive midfielder

Career path: West Brom, Man City, FC Twente (loan), Queens Park Rangers (loan), Charlton Athletic (loan)

Senior appearances: 49

One of just a few players still on the cards at Man City, Smith has spent the past two seasons on loan, looking to get first-team experience after time in the academy.

Smith’s best loan spell came with FC Twente, making 37 appearances, with the midfielder struggling for game time at both QPR and Charlton — although the latter was only a recent move.

Phil Foden

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Man City

Senior appearances: 62

Like Brahim, there were high hopes of Foden breaking into the first-team at Man City after his exploits in the academy — which included scoring in the first leg against Chelsea.

The club have been unwilling to loan Foden out, with Pep Guardiola frequently speaking highly of the youngster. To date, he has made 62 appearances and was recently named Man of the Match in Man City’s Carabao Cup final win over Aston Villa.

Tom Dele-Bashiru

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Man City, Watford

Senior appearances: 4

A substitute in both legs, Dele-Bashiru remained part of Man City’s youth set-up until 2019 when he left for Watford — but not before making an appearance for the first team. This season, the midfielder has played three times for Watford’s first team, including twice in the FA Cup.

Lukas Nmecha

Position: Striker

Career path: Man City, Preston North End (loan), Wolfsburg (loan), Middlesbrough (loan)

Senior appearances: 66

Nmecha scored Man City’s goal in the second leg, although it proved only to be a consolation, and showed promise at youth level. However, he has received most of his first-team action away from the Etihad thanks to three loan spells, including one in Germany — although playing time has been sparse.

Jadon Sancho

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Position: Winger

Career path: Man City, Borussia Dortmund

Senior appearances: 90

Whatever happened to Sancho? A starter in both legs against Chelsea, Sancho would leave Man City in the summer of 2017 as he deemed his first-team chances low, moving to Dortmund.

Since his move to Germany, Sancho has gone on to become one of the brightest young players in the world, known for his incredible assists record and recently adding more goals to his game. The 20-year-old is now being linked with a return to England, with Manchester United reportedly leading the way.

Luke Bolton

Position: Right midfielder

Career path: Man City, Wycombe Wanderers (loan), Luton Town (loan)

Senior appearances: 37

A substitute in both legs, Bolton remained in the Man City set up until 2019 when he was sent on loan to Wycombe. The midfielder made 10 appearances for the club in the first half of the year before being sent on loan once more, to Luton Town, where he has enjoyed his time.

Lorenzo Gonzalez

Position: Striker

Career path: Servette, Man City, Malaga, St Gallen

Senior appearances: 6

Gonzalez spent three years with Man City and was a substitute in the FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea. But like many of this crop of Man City players, he was unable to break into the first team and was allowed to leave for Malaga in 2019. But his time in Spain lasted just six months, as Gonzalez was sold to Swiss side, St Gallen.