CHELSEA’S prolific academy can be summed up in just one photo.
In 2019, Blues assistant manager Joe Edwards shared an astonishing picture from 2008 when 15 youngsters had just signed their first schoolboy forms with the London club.
Two of those – Marc Guehi and Reece James made their debuts for Chelsea in the Carabao Cup demolition of Grimsby in September 2019, while another was on the bench. Guehi has since signed for Crystal Palace for £20million.
James, of course, is now Chelsea’s first-choice right-back and plays for England.
And the line-up of fresh-faced kids also boasts players who featured regularly in the Premier League.
Rhian Brewster, bottom left, impressed at Anfield before joining Swansea on loan and then Sheffield United permanently.
Ian Carlo Poveda, bottom right, made his City debut in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup before joining Leeds. He is now on loan at Blackburn.
It shows the huge strength of the academy system at Stamford Bridge which saw the club win five successive FA Youth Cups between 2014-18.
Recently, the likes of Mason Mount broke into the first team on a regular basis.
The sales of Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori for £34million and £25million respectively certainly swelled the coffers to allow Chelsea to buy Romelu Lukaku last summer for £98million.
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Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also made the step up at Chelsea in recent seasons.
Generally in most age groups, clubs are fortunate if two or three go from promising eight-year-olds to making the grade.
So to see nine come through is a remarkable example of how the development system expensively set up by the Blues is reaping rewards.
Chelsea’s Class of 2008 – Where Are They Now?
1: Marc Guehi
Highly rated defender who made his debut in a 7-1 win over Grimsby.
Born in Ivory Coast, his family moved to London when he was young and was spotted by England as a schoolboy.
Captained the Young Lions to the World Under-17 Cup, now plays for Crystal Palace.
2: Andrew Demby
Midfielder who was eventually released by the Blues but was then snapped up by Crystal Palace.
Spent eight years at Selhurst Park before being released in June. Was last known to play for non-league Staines Town.
3: Taylor Munroe
Didn’t make the grade at Chelsea, last known playing for non-league Leatherhead.
4: Tariq Uwakwe
Midfielder who was a regular in the development squad and was tipped to be another who makes the first team breakthrough.
Signed a new three-year deal last summer with the option of a further 12 months, and is also an England Under-19 international.
Went on loan at Accrington Stanley then signed permanently for Crewe Alexandra.
5: Jamie Cumming
Was touted as potentially making his Prem bow last season but did not come to fruition.
Went on loan to Stevenage, then to Gillingham last season.
This campaign he’s playing with MK Dons, again, on loan.
6: Reece James
Another Under-17 World Cup winner, James was sent out on loan to Wigan as an 18-year-old – and was voted the Championship club’s player of the season.
Asserted himself in the first-team in 2019-20, making 24 appearances in all en route to the Blues finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League.
A year later, he would win the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel.
Is now right-back for club and has represented his country.
7: Harrison Hume
Released by the club and spent time with Kent non-league sides Margate and Rochester.
8: Conor Gallagher
Central midfielder who was tied down to a long-term deal by the Blues in 2019.
Sent out to spend the season on loan with Championship side Charlton before also joining Swansea on loan.
Then enjoyed a loan at West Brom and getting some Premier League action. Impressed at Palace and is now hoping for a chance at Stamford Bridge under new manager Graham Potter.
9: Jamie Bradley-Green
Defender who just failed to make the cut at Chelsea after leaving school, but went on to sign a scholarship with Southampton.
Looking for a club having been released by Saints.
10: Rhian Brewster
Highly-rated England youth striker who decided to leave Chelsea to join Liverpool.
Another U17 World Cup winner, Brewster was tipped for big things by manager Jurgen Klopp.
Went to join Prem hopefuls Swansea, scoring 10 goals in 20 Championship appearances, before moving permanently to Sheff Utd.
11: Martell Taylor-Crossdale
England U20 international forward who rejected the offer of a new contract at Chelsea earlier this year amid interest from several clubs.
Travelled to Bundesliga side Hoffengheim for a medical but ultimately decided to sign a two-year deal with Fulham. Is now playing for Weymouth.
12: Dujon Sterling
Long regarded as big hope at Stamford Bridge, made his first team debut for Chelsea in 2017.
The defender was part of England’s Euro Under-19 winning side in the same year and spent time on loan at Wigan and Blackpool.
Is tied down to a contract at Chelsea until 2023, and currently playing right-back at Stoke City.
13: Finlay Savill
Left the club as a schoolboy. Current whereabouts unknown.
14: Harry Riley
Defender who missed the cut when he left school, last seen in the system at non-league Hendon.
15: Ian Carlo Poveda
Attacking midfielder who also spent time in the academies of Arsenal, Barcelona and Brentford.
Then snapped up by Manchester City, and made his debut for Pep Guardiola’s side in the Carabao Cup semi-final win over Burton two seasons ago.
Joined Leeds on a four-and-a-half year deal. Made his debut in 2020 as a second-half substitute in a 2-0 Championship defeat at Cardiff City. Now at Blackpool on loan.