With our inability to translate historic successes at youth levels into actual first-team players at Chelsea, the club's Academy has been the subject to much criticism over recent years. This situation may be improving (see: Ruben Loftus-Cheek), but whether that's a long-term change or just a passing phase as we see out the season remains to be seen.
One area where Chelsea have had undoubted success however, and that's largely ignored in the overall narrative, is coaching development. Since the start of the Roman Era and its emphasis on improving training and learning facilities, Chelsea have produced several coaches who have gone on to great success both in England and in Europe. Brendan Rodgers, Paul Clement, Steve Clarke have all tasted first-team management since "graduating" from the Chelsea youth ranks, while Steve Holland has been a fixture on the Chelsea first-team bench since being promoted from the reserves by Carlo Ancelotti in 2009.
The line of succession — Rodgers to Clement to Drummy to Viveash to Edwards to Morris — has followed a fairly regular pattern, with coaches essentially "growing up" right alongside the kids they're in charge of. Dermot Drummy, to take a classic example, joined Chelsea to coach the U16s, then moved up to the U18 level and then to the U21 level with them, and then into senior team coaching and consulting.
This development process and excellence is the main topic of Neil Bath's interview with the Chelsea official website. Bath is a very highly respected 23-year veteran of the Chelsea system, the last dozen of which he's spent as Academy Manager, overseeing just about anything and everything that's to do with the Chelsea Academy.
"We have had a very successful few years in terms of trophy wins and producing young players who are competing for first team places, like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, or developing out on loan."
"Our coaching is obviously fundamental to that so it is crucial we have coaching development plans in place so our staff can develop. We remain at the forefront of the game with regards to our coaching content. It is a subject fully supported by the club's technical board and one which Michael Emenalo and I regularly discuss."
"Not only do staff complete qualifications like coaching badges, we also encourage them to use mentors as support tools and observe best practise from other sports, business or education. We have a coaching philosophy that is constantly evolving, in line with the modern game, so we recognise the importance of being able to adapt and reshape our programme."
As the current season draws to a close and the futures of various players are decided, it's time to start thinking about the coaching setup for next season as well.
Current U18 manager Joe Edwards is set to move into a liaison role, either replacing or supplementing former player Paulo Ferreira in the role of supporting, tracking, and communicating with the Chelsea Loan Army for the next 12 months. Eddie Newton, who's currently on Guus Hiddink's staff had been in charge of this department since the end of 2012.
"You can observe and learn things by watching others, particularly observing the work that goes on within our own first team. But I feel strongly that the best learning comes from experiencing different roles yourself."
"Joe [Edwards] is doing a fantastic job in his role as coach of the youth team, winning the FA Youth Cup last season, reaching the final again this year and finishing top of the Under-18 Premier League south section two years running."
"However, it is important for his professional development to put himself in a new situation. He will visit our loan players, watch them regularly and be on hand to support them throughout the year."
Of course, changing roles within the club isn't the only way Chelsea develop our coaching staff; we also guide them through the UEFA credentialing and licensing process. Some of the most experienced members of the staff, such as U21 manager Adi Viveash have already gotten their highest coaching qualifications, while others are in the process of completing their lower level licenses.
"It is important for us to keep the development of all our coaching staff in mind and ensure there is a pathway for them to develop to their full potential. Adi Viveash and Andy Myers will continue to lead the Under-21s having had a lot of success themselves in recent years, winning back-to-back UEFA Youth League titles. Both have also recently completed coaching qualifications - Adi with his Pro Licence and Andy with his A Licence."
"Jody [Morris] and Ed [Brand] will take the Under-18s while both complete their A Licence course. At the younger age groups, Tore Andre Flo will finish the final year of his Pro Licence while leading the Under-14s and Jon Harley will continue to take the Under-15s and assist the Under-16s while completing his A Licence."
-Neil Bath; source: Chelsea FC
That's homegrown coaching excellence in action. Now, about those homegrown players...