'Fabric of Chelsea': Roddy pays tribute to Bath after rankings success
Written by Simon Austin — October 30, 2022
NEIL BATH has been described as the "stand-out practitioner in player development” and "the fabric of Chelsea" after his Academy finished top of TGG’s Productivity Rankings for the first time.
Bath joined the Blues in 1993 as a part-time schoolboy coach and went on to become their Academy Manager, in 2004, and Head of Youth Development in 2011.
During his time at the club there have been monumental changes, with three owners, more than 20 first-team managers and hundreds of expensive signings.
However, Bath and his assistant Jim Fraser have remained constants and have transformed the club's youth set-up.
Ged Roddy MBE has witnessed the Academy changes at Chelsea at first-hand, having been Director of Football Development at the Premier League for eight years from 2009.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Neil, both as a person and for what he has achieved," said Roddy, who launched the transformational Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) in 2011. "He is woven into the fabric of Chelsea and represents continuity and consistency.
“He is a leader in his field and a stand-out practitioner in player development in this country. The environment he has created at Cobham is world-leading. That phrase might be over-used, but with Neil it is truly justified. He’s a real innovator.”
Roddy picked out two examples of this innovative approach.
“The first is in coaching and holistic development, because there is outstanding support for Chelsea’s young players in every aspect of their development, both on and off the pitch,” he said.
“There is an incredibly successful system for coach as well as player development. Look at the coaches who have cut their teeth at the club - Brendan Rodgers, Michael Beale, Paul Clement, Steve Holland, Jody Morris, Joe Edwards and more.
“And the second big area of innovation has been in player pathways. Neil has managed that transition - both through the phases and into senior football - better than anyone else.
You can buy a hard copy of the Academy Productivity Rankings in a special 16-page A4 booklet. This includes:
- Extra analysis, including top 10 clubs for producing U23 players.
- Feature on Chelsea Head of Youth Development Neil Bath.
- Ged Roddy MBE article on a decade of EPPP.
- Compare productivity of different Academy categories.
- Directory of Academy Managers.
The price is £6.50, to cover production and postage (UK only).
“He has been incredibly astute in managing the future careers of young players, with Conor Gallagher just one example. Conor had loans in League One (with Charlton), in the Championship (with Swansea City) and in the Premier League (with West Brom and Crystal Palace) and is now playing for Chelsea and England.
“Not all players will follow that trajectory, of course, but these rankings show that a significant number of Chelsea’s players are coming through to the professional ranks.”
Every year TGG ranks clubs according to the number of England-qualified professional players they have produced in the given season. For the latest edition, of the rankings, which cover 2021/22, Chelsea are top for the first time. They have leapfrogged Manchester United, who had been top for the previous three editions.
In recent seasons, Bath and Fraser have really begun to see their efforts bear fruit, with a host of Academy graduates, including Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James, going on to play for Chelsea's first team.
Speaking in 2019, Bath said: “It’s what we’ve been working towards for 15 years since we restructured the Academy in 2004.
“We’ve always been very clear that our job is not really to win youth trophies year after year, but to develop and produce Chelsea and Premier League players."
However, there have been question marks recently about whether pathways could be being blocked. American Todd Boehly took over the club in May this year and embarked on a £278m transfer splurge - a record for a summer window.
But Bath told TGG: “It is incredibly pleasing to see us top these ratings and it is recognition for the Academy and the club as a whole. This is something I know our new ownership will only want to build upon in the years to come.”
This season Chelsea have a new-look coaching set-up in their Academy. Mark Robinson joined in May as Development Squad (Under-21s) Head Coach, after 18 years with AFC Wimbledon.
The Chelsea supporter had been youth coach, loans manager, Academy Manager and, for the final 14 months, the first-team manager.
Jack Mesure, who joined in the summer of 2021 from Crystal Palace, is Robinson’s assistant. Ed Brand has led the U18s since the summer of 2019, with Jimmy Smith as his assistant.
Andy Myers, who has been with the Blues’ Academy for more than a decade, is now Loan Player Technical Coach, having been U23s boss for the last three years.
He replaced Tore Andre Flo, who has become manager of Sogndal in Norway. Chelsea Academy coach James Simmonds has joined the club on secondment, having enjoyed a similar stint under Robinson at AFC Wimbledon last season.
CHELSEA ACADEMY: COACHING ALUMNI
- Brendan Rodgers (Leicester manager) - Chelsea Academy/ reserves 2004 to 2008
- Michael Beale (QPR manager, pictured above) - Chelsea Academy 2002 to 2012
- Paul Clement (Everton assistant) - Chelsea Academy/ reserves 1994 to 2000 and 2006 to 2009
- Steve Holland (England assistant) - Chelsea reserves 2009 to 2011
- Jody Morris (former Derby and Chelsea assistant) - Chelsea Academy 2013 to 2018
- Joe Edwards (Everton assistant) - Chelsea Academy 2004 to 2022