Chelsea have parted ways with five players from their U21 squad today, releasing the players from their contracts so they can go about finding a new long term home. The five players released include Conor Clifford, Ben Gordon, Adam Phillip, Rohan Ince, and James Ashton. U18 player Alistair Gordon was also allowed to leave to join Crystal Palace on a permanent deal.
Head of youth development Neil Bath had the following to say about the releases:
'There were two sides to it. There was a group of players whose contracts were up, and we felt it appropriate to tell them now that they will not be offered new deals.'
'We made a decision from a welfare point of view to tell them early, and pay their contracts up early to put them in a position where they are not in the same as many other players at the end of the season, where there could be a couple of hundred guys in the summer looking for new clubs.'
'It's a good aftercare thing to do for boys that have been with us a long time, and it gives them the opportunity to go and seek opportunities for their next move. Between the staff here we have good contacts within the game and we look to use those to help the boys on their way.'
'It also allows the club to blood emerging youngsters in the Under-21 side over the second half of the season. For the remainder of the season our Under-21 side could now be quite young, which means the lads could struggle physically, but the result is not so important, it's the development and for them to experience the Under-21 league earlier than others might have done at other clubs.'
'It allows us to push them on too, while helping the other lads with their career pathway.'
It's always disappointing to see Chelsea youngsters stall in their development, but it happens frequently at every academy that operates anywhere. I'm very impressed with the way that the club have handled their releases, and the full statement has some nice things to say about each of them individually.
Hopefully all five of these players manage to latch on somewhere and continue to pursue a career in professional football. We already have word that Ben Gordon is likely heading back to Scotland, and most of the others will likely have several trials with lower level clubs in the next month. Best of luck guys, and thanks for your service to Chelsea.