It's pretty easy to write off the last month or so of Chelsea's season as a mere exercise in going through the motions. The league was unofficially won some time ago, officially claimed in the first week of May, and since the matches simply haven't been very important. Even if the league hadn't been wrapped up with three games to spare, the post-season tour to Thailand and Australia we've just sailed through would have taken much of the wind out of our competitive sails.
It's easy to be cynical about these friendlies, cash-grabbing exercises though they may seem. But while it's true that they might not mean much for established first-team players and/or weary fans, they are rather a big deal to those who didn't get a chance to contribute to the senior squad last year. I mean, you can practically feel Jordan Houghton beaming in these quotes:
I’ve been with the Under-21s all season, and in and out of first team training sessions, so for me to come into the first team environment has been great. It’s something I would like to do in the future more or more. This trip will be something I will savour forever as an experience. It’s been a great honour.
Before this trip the biggest crowd I had played in front of was probably in the Youth Cup final where there must have been around 12,000 fans. It’s a big step up to play in the Olympic Stadium. It was a surreal but amazing feeling coming on in front of 83,000 people ... Just being around the first team players and seeing how they conduct themselves off the pitch has been so helpful. I have been trying to learn from them and that is something to keep hold of and go on with in the future.
Combine that with our supporters in Bangkok and Sydney having a great time, and the whole experience starts feeling a little more worthwhile. Chelsea got a chance to connect with fans in far-flung places, and gave some of the kids a taste of first-team life and what it takes to get there permanently in the process. That can never be a bad thing.