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INTERVIEW: Paul Clement, Chelsea FC youth manager
December 30th, 2008 8AM

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As manager of Chelsea's youth team program and now manager of its reserve team, Paul Clement is familiar with the U.S. soccer scene.

Indeed, he has traveled to the United States twice in two months, first with the U-18s to the Newark International Soccer in November and now with the U-17s, who advanced to Tuesday's final against Kentucky's Javanon in their Showcase division at Disney's Soccer Showcase.

Clement gave the Youth Soccer Reporter his impressions on Chelsea's trip.

"This the second year we have come out here to Disney," said Clement. "We have a partnership with Disney, a good relationship with them. The experience has been good on our players. It's a nice break from the cold back home. It's to nice to get to play in warm weather."

Clement said the travel is hard. The young Blues traveled on Friday from London to Orlando and played the next day, the first what will be four games in four days.

"The 26th was a very long day," Clement said, "and it had a bit of an impact. The games are challenging."

The Christmas holidays in Orlando might seem to be a vacation, but Clement says his players are taking the trip very seriously.

"The boys are very professional," he said. "They understand that football is first and foremost. The schedule is so busy they little time to do anything else."

Clement says the long trip itself is an experience for the players, the kind they'll have to deal with if they move on to have international careers.

"They have to deal with time zones and jet lag and recover quickly."

Chelsea's team includes four first-year scholars -- full-time members of its academy program -- and the rest are schoolboys, many of them England U-16 internationals. A special soccer-schooling program Chelsea runs allows the schoolboys to spend two days a week with the club.

Clement is realistic in his view of the U.S. teams he's seen.

"It's a mixture," he admitted. "All of them are competitive, want to win and try very hard. There are some good individual players on the teams that have caught the eye. The players have a good work ethic."

The Chelsea youth boss reiterated the concern he has about the overemphasis on competition at the youth level.

"My advice for U.S. soccer is to play less games and practice more," said Clement. "Just playing all the time with tournaments like this and games will get you fit and competitive, but you need practice to develop technically and tactically. There needs to be a balance."



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