Southend United U16's were given the opportunity to test themselves against Premier League outfit Chelsea on Saturday as the London club visited Boots & Laces.
The match also gave U16s coach Lewis Dallas and Youth Development Phase coach Mark Moss a chance to pit their tactical wits against their counterparts from Cobham, who included former England international Ashley Cole amongst their ranks.
Blues managed to earn a 3-3 draw against their illustrious opponents, fighting back from two goals down for a share of the spoils, and Dallas was delighted with how his young charges had acquitted themselves: “The performance of the players was outstanding. We really showed how much quality we’ve got within the Academy and the standard of our players,” he said.
“It showed that we’ve got so much ability, and it was great that Chelsea wanted to come and play us. That is testament to all the hard work that the staff do at the Academy and the standard of players we are producing.
“The respect Chelsea have shown us by coming here and the team they’ve put out shows that the players we’ve got coming through are a real positive for the club. We’ve gone toe-to-toe with them and got a positive result, and arguably our players are disappointed because we could’ve won the game.”
Many of the youngsters involved in the squad have already stepped up to the U18s and made their competitive debuts for the youth team, with fourteen schoolboys having represented Danny Heath’s side during the 2020/21 season.
However, a fixture against some of the best young talents in Europe gave the teenage Shrimpers an opportunity to face different tactics. Dallas believed they were equal to the test. “The challenge for the boys was coming up against a different style of football,” he explained.
“Chelsea are an Academy that can bring players in from wherever they want. They will have international players and players who will probably go on to represent various countries, so it’s a good standard for our boys to play against.
“It shows them a different type of football and a different way to play, so it was a massive challenge for us, but one that we think our players are able to cope with, and they were,” he declared.
The high-quality opposition for the Academy continues next weekend when the U18s make the trip north to take on Manchester City in a friendly on Friday afternoon.