Football Features

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

By Harry Edwards

Published: 13:40, 29 May 2021

Chelsea and Manchester City face off in the Champions League final on Saturday, looking to be the second English club to win the competition in three years.

Both teams have reputations for their money spending, pushing billions of pounds to build their squads capable of challenging both domestically in Europe. In Chelsea’s case it started with Roman Abramovich purchasing the club in 2003, while Man City came a few years later with Sheikh Mansour.

But while both teams have their stars, such as Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Timo Werner and N’Golo Kante, the 2021 Champions League final will also feature academy products.

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For Man City, Phil Foden has been one of their top men especially in the Champions League, truly making his breakthrough in 2020/21. Chelsea, meanwhile, have the likes of Reece James and Mason Mount in their frequent starting XI, with Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi at least on the bench.

Excluding Abraham, this won’t be the first time the academy products have faced off in a final. In 2016/17, a Chelsea side including James, Mount and Hudson-Odoi faced Man City and Foden in the FA Youth Cup final. The London Blues got the better of their northern rivals with a 6-2 aggregate victory for their fourth of five consecutive FA Youth Cup wins.

We know what the likes of Foden and Mount have gone on to achieve, but how about the rest of the players from the 2016/17 FA Youth Cup final?


Jared Thompson

Position: Goalkeeper

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

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. After a spell at Exeter without an appearance, Thompson is now on the books at Brentford.

Jamie Cumming

Position: Goalkeeper

Career path: Chelsea, Stevenage (loan)

Senior appearances: 46

  • Joined Chelsea as a youngster and remains at the club.
  • Appeared on the bench seven times, including for the 2019 Europa League final.
  • Impressed on loan at Stevenage in 2020/21, keeping 17 clean sheets in 46 games.

Reece James

Position: Right-back

Career path: Chelsea, Wigan Athletic (loan)

Senior appearances: 90

At the age of 21, Reece James is considered to be one of England’s top right-backs and will be part of the Three Lions’ squad at Euro 2020. The Champions League final is also another step on the growth of James, who was key to Chelsea’s FA Youth Cup domination before going on loan to Wigan.

The defender was excellent for the Latics at both right-back and in midfield winning the club’s Player of the Year award and earning calls for a place in Chelsea’s first team, which he has now secured with Tuchel happy to use him as a wing-back, midfielder and wing-back.

Marc Guehi

Position: Centre-back

Career path: Chelsea, Swansea City (loan)

Senior appearances: 58

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 2020, the centre-back was loaned to Swansea City and returned for the 2020/21 campaign, making 40 appearances to help the club to the Championship play-off final – winning Man of the Match in each of the semi-final legs.

Cole Dasilva

Position: Right-back

Career path: Chelsea, Brentford, Leicester City

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, but left two years later without an appearance and signed for Leicester in February 2021.

Juan Castillo

Position: Left-back

Career path: Zeeburgia, Ajax, Chelsea, Ajax (loan), AZ Alkmaar (loan), ADO Den Haag (loan)

Senior appearances: 18

  • Joined Chelsea in 2016, winning the FA Youth Cup in his first season.
  • Was loaned to Ajax in 2019, spending his time with their U-21 side in the Dutch second division.
  • Sent on loan again to AZ Alkmaar in 2020 where he made his senior debut, before returning to the Netherlands once more with ADO Den Haag.

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 followed in James’ footsteps, being sent on loan to Wigan, although his time with the Latics was hampered by injuries. After a long layoff Sterling, still only 21, became a part of Chelsea’s U23 Premier League side in 2020/21.

Tariq Uwakwe

Position: Central midfield

Career path: Chelsea, Accrington Stanley (loan)

Senior appearances: 21

  • Joined Chelsea as an under-9.
  • Capable of playing in central midfield or out wide.
  • Had a bright start in his first loan spell away at Accrington Stanley before falling out of favour.

Trevoh Chalobah

Position: Defensive midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 112

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. Chalobah divided opinions at Huddersfield and spent 2020/21 on loan with Lorient in Ligue 1, helping them stay up as a centre-back.

Jacob Maddox

Position: Central midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 52

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

The 22-year-old had three loan spells away from Chelsea, first at Cheltenham where he made 44 appearances before adding just two with Tranmere. One final loan at Southampton, featuring for their development squad, followed before Maddox was allowed to joining Vitoria permanently.

Conor Gallagher

Position: Central midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 79

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. Gallagher spent last season on loan at West Brom, playing 30 times in the Premier League.

Harvey St Clair

Position: Attacking midfielder

Career path: Chelsea, Venezia, Kilmarnock (loan)

Senior appearances: 26

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), MVV Maastricht (loan)

Senior appearances: 5

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 20-year-old was then sent on his first loan spell away from Chelsea, joining Dutch side SC Cambuur in January 2020 before returning to the Netherlands with MVV Maastricht.

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: 189

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. After initial criticism due to his perceived overuse, people started to come around to just how good Mount is, especially under Thomas Tuchel. The Englishman was named Chelsea’s Player of the Season for 2020/21 and will be part of the Blues side for years to come.

Ike Ugbo

Position: Forward

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

Senior appearances: 114

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. After a loan in the Dutch second tier with Roda, Ugbo was sent to Cercle Brugge in Belgium and thrived, scoring 17 goals in 34 appearances. He is now being linked with a permanent move away from Chelsea.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Position: Winger

Career path: Chelsea

Senior appearances: 98

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 20-year-old continues to show what he can do when given time on the pitch, but those opportunities are not often, and Hudson-Odoi is once again being linked with a permanent departure.

Martell Taylor-Crossdale

Position: Striker

Career path: Chelsea, Fulham, Colchester United (loan).

Senior appearances: 2

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.

Manchester City

Aro Muric

Position: Goalkeeper

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

Senior appearances: 31

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 spent 2020/21 on loan at Girona and then Willem II, being first-choice for the latter.

Demeaco Duhaney

Position: Right-back

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

Senior appearances: 23

Coming through the academy at Man City, Duhaney left for Huddersfield in 2018 and has made 10 first-team appearances for the Terriers, becoming part of their first team in 2020. A brief loan spell at Boston United at the end of 2019 brought a further two first-team appearances. He is now a free agent, leaving Huddersfield at the end of the 2020/21 season.

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), Harrogate Town

Senior appearances: 23

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. After his release from Wolves, Francis joined League Two side Harrogate Town for six months, playing 20 times.

Tyreke Wilson

Position: Left-back

Career path: Cherry Orchard, Man City, Waterford, Bohemians

Senior appearances: 27

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. He is still in Ireland with Bohemians.

Jacob Davenport

Position: Defensive midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 43

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, recently becoming part of their first-team.

Brahim Diaz

Position: Attacking midfielder

Career path: Malaga, Man City, Real Madrid, AC Milan (loan)

Senior appearances: 75

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 21 appearances so far. He spent the 2020/21 campaign on loan at AC Milan, making an impact in Italy.

Matt Smith

Position: Defensive midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 92

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, now on loan at Doncaster Rovers.

Phil Foden

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Man City

Senior appearances: 123

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 were unwilling to loan Foden out, with Pep Guardiola frequently speaking highly of the youngster despite hardly playing him. That all changed in 2020/21 as Foden became one of Man City’s best players, crucial to their run to the Champions League final. His performances have also made him an almost-guaranteed starter for England at Euro 2020.

Tom Dele-Bashiru

Position: Central midfielder

Career path: Man City, Watford

Senior appearances: 6

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 played twice Watford but saw his campaign ended in October due to a serious ACL injury.

Lukas Nmecha

Position: Striker

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

Senior appearances: 113

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 four loan spells, including at Anderlecht where he found impressive form, scoring 21 goals in 41 games.

Jadon Sancho

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Position: Winger

Career path: Man City, Borussia Dortmund

Senior appearances: 137

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 has since added more goals to his game. The 21-year-old is constantly being linked with a return to England, with Manchester United always at the top of the list.

Luke Bolton

Position: Right midfielder

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

Senior appearances: 68

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 enjoyed his time. He once again thrived on loan in 2020/21 playing 30 times for Dundee in Scotland.

Lorenzo Gonzalez

Position: Striker

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

Senior appearances: 9

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.