More dedicated observers of the Chelsea U18s might already be familiar with the name Ike Ugbo. The 16-year-old schoolboy scored 11 goals last season for the Baby Blues, and as a first-choice member of the U18 squad for the upcoming season, he's gotten his quest to match the one-year older Tammy Abraham's goal-total from last season (41 in all competitions) off to a rather fantastic start.
"Seeing your front player get a hat-trick in the first game is obviously a big plus and we've asked Ike to see how close he can get to Tammy Abraham's tally from last season. However, it wasn't just about his goals today because he put in an incredible shift up front in quite hot conditions and I felt that approach spread throughout the team in the second half. We were constantly pressing and didn't let them get a foothold in the game."
-Joe Edwards; source: Chelsea FC
Ugbo's hat-trick — you can watch the non-embeddable highlights over at the official site — led the way in Chelsea U18's season-opening 4-1 win over Norwich City in the U18 Premier League. All three of his goals came in the second-half, including the pick of the bunch, lashed home from the top of the box after a flowing team move.
Iké Ugbo has 15 goals in his first 25 #CFCU18 appearances. Both Dom Solanke and Tammy Abraham had 18 by comparison at the same milestone.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) August 8, 2015
With the quality of players coming through the system increasing every year, but the level of youth competitions not really matching that progression, our youth teams have gotten even younger on average than last season. Over half the U18 team on Saturday was comprised of
schoolboys first-year scholars, for example.
Meanwhile, at the U21 level, 17-year-old Tammy Abraham continues to not only put in better and better performances, but score in just about every single game that he plays. Though we had to wait until stoppage time on Sunday: an excellent finish, and an even better run and pass from Charly Musonda to set it all up.
Even though we practically have loaned out (or called up) a starting eleven that would dominate the U21 league, the young kids currently in the U21 squad, many, if not most, of whom are under 18, are showing similar qualities already as well. Charly Jr, for example, is easily above this level on most days, which of course leads us to the familiar "what now?" dilemma.
For more regular and in-depth coverage of the Chelsea youth sides, be sure to follow @chelseayouth on Twitter. And get yourself a Chelsea TV subscription, since they do show the U21 matches regularly (if not so much the U18s).