Long-time Chelsea director Neil Bath is confident that the club’s new ownership will continue supporting the Academy that has become one of the best in the world over the previous two decades, under the stewardship (and investments) of the previous owner, Roman Abramovich.
One of the first things Abramovich did after taking over in 2003 was to improve the club’s training facilities with the construction of a massive, state-of-the-art complex in nearby Cobham, Surrey, which also included a youth training center. Since its official opening in 2008, Cobham has become synonymous with Academy excellence, thanks in great part to Bath, who’s overseen the entire Academy operations since 2011 and was recently promoted (reportedly) to a position of even greater influence across the entire organization.
“Yes 100%, I really do [think the new owners will continue to support the Academy]. They have gone on that fact that we will continue that opportunity and I am very confident they are excited about supporting and taking this vision forward. It will get their full support.”
The opportunity that Bath’s talking about is the opportunity for young players to actually make the jump from youth football to senior football, and ideally doing so for Chelsea. For most of Cobham’s existence, that had not been the case, with pathways strewn with obstacles or entirely blocked, but over the past few years, the situation has improved markedly. Of course, there’s always room for even more improvement.
“We met as a management team and reviewed how things were going in the Academy. We said, ‘We are in a good place in terms of young players getting an opportunity, but we need to go again.’ [...] It’s always a team effort, everybody’s in it. Frank put them in and gave them the opportunity. Subsequently Thomas has kept going, Graham has kept going.”
-Neil Bath; source: Training Ground Guru
Chelsea’s Vision 2030— Training Ground Guru (@ground_guru) November 18, 2022
▶️ 15% of PL minutes = Academy players
▶️ 25% of 1st-team squad from Academy
▶️ above average GCSE/ A Level results
▶️ more Academy players in pro game than anyone
▶️ win more national/international comps than anyonehttps://t.co/XFkxa85TOB
Part of that improvement is the Academy’s “Vision 2030” project, which has been in the works already for the past couple years. As explained over at Training Ground Guru, who interviewed Bath during the Premier League’s 10-year anniversary celebration of the EPPP (which was held at Cobham), the project has five main targets. They are:
- for 15% of our Premier League minutes to be from Academy players
- for 25% of our first-team squad to be from the Academy
- to have above national average GCSE and A Level results
- to have more Academy players in the professional game than from any other Academy
- to win more national and international competitions than other Academies
Realistic goals that seem attainable indeed, we might even be close on some of them already.
So, here is the brighter, Blue-er future. Let’s go!