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Academy to First Team: The Impossible Step?

The expensive training facilities at Cobham were the future stars are trained.

The expensive training facilities at Cobham were the future stars are trained. But why do many not leave the Academy to join the First Team?

Last week, Cristian Cuevas – Chilean starlet – was talking about an agreement he, and his club, have with Chelsea over the transfer of Cuevas in the summer. He is said to be a rising talent with a bright future so you can certainly see why Chelsea went in for the young fella but in all honesty, I’m no longer excited by news like this. Our academy is filled with bright players from all around the globe, much like Cuevas, who have been brought in at young ages in the hope of someday turning out as a big star for the Blues. Sadly though, a select few get the chance to wear the Blue jersey and walk out at Stamford Bridge in a competitive game and this is why I am just not excited by Cuevas, no matter how good he looks on YouTube.

I must say though that the lack of players coming through the youth system is not down to the Academy coaches or the Academy in general. Dermot Drummy is doing a fantastic job with the Under-21s and Adri Viveash also doing tremendously well with the Youth team. We have won the FA Youth Trophy twice in the last two years so how come none of these talented youngsters are getting their chance? Well, here’s what I think is the reason why.

Prepare for my rant..

Any manager who takes the job at Chelsea is under a lot of pressure. Even more so Rafa Benitez at the moment and because of the pressure of the fact that their job is on the line if they lose, Chelsea managers cannot afford to lose. For this reason, Chelsea managers will try and pick the strongest team possible for each game as they have to win otherwise the supporters get angry and the board drop the axe. I believe that it is because of this reason that the youth often are hardly given a sniff.

I’m no expert in coaching young players and developing potential global superstars but surely it is obvious that in order to help their development, you have to actually play them in the First XI. No youngster is ever going to be ready or good enough if you don’t give him chance to develop by playing him in the first team environment. The manager is so scared of gambling with playing a youth player to develop him incase we end up losing the game, and the manager losing his job.

This is why 26 of our players are currently out on loan, to gain experience of first team football and the theory is that many of them come back to Chelsea and get a place in the team. So far, the theory part hasn’t really come to reality. Only Daniel Sturridge has so far returned from a loan and gained a place in the First XI for an extended period and it took Ryan Bertrand about 5 or 6 loans to get into the first team squad! Many of our players spend their entire Chelsea careers on loan (Michael Mancienne, Scott Sinclair) and despite promise and obvious talent, they all seem to get sold and it’s not like these Chelsea younsters haven’t suddenly turned awful, or had complete failures of careers, take a look at these examples. Fabio Borini now plays for Liverpool and is a starter when not injured. Miroslav Stoch won the Puskas award in 2012 and is one of the best players in the Turkish League. Mbark Boussoufa has been having good seasons in Russia for Anzhi. And Franco Di Santo has been brilliant for Wigan this season. None of these players are doing badly with their careers but none ever got the proper chance at Chelsea.

The last man, and only man during Abramovich’s reign, to give youth a chance at Chelsea was Carlo Ancelotti. In his final season in charge, Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffery Bruma, Fabio Borini, Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran were all given chance to flourish in the first team and all did actually deliver and showed great promise with McEachran being the shining light making sure that the future was bright for Chelsea and England. Sadly though, Ancelotti’s faith wasn’t truly rewarded and the team slumped and Ancelotti was fighting the unwinable battle to keep his job. The faith in youth hasn’t been showed by his successors apart from in pre-season friendlies meaning that one of the worlds most expensively assembled academies is just not being utilised.

Here lies my worry for any player hoping of chances at Chelsea who joins the Academy. All around the world we have poached young talent to a top club but these players are never going to get the chances at this club that they would have done had they stayed at their previous clubs. Chelsea aren’t a team to be content with what they already have. Instead of allowing Jeffery Bruma or Tomas Kalas to develop and help out the defence (which has been shocking this year at moments), we will most likely go out and buy a very expensive defender to solve a problem that the club could have had the solution for without spending such money. It’s not these young players we have at the club are cheap either! Kalas was brought for £5million and Lucas Piazon for £7 million and if we don’t get these players playing for our 11, all seems like money down the drain to me!

The club prefer to spend big on gambles when in all honesty, it isn’t worth it most of the time. We scour the globe looking for talent when they will probably never feature for the first team and we could save a whole lot of time, and money, developing some homegrown talent. With FIFA Finacial Fair Play schemes soon to be in place, the club can’t afford to be spending big on players or their wages, thus putting emphasis on not buying big players who take a large chunk out of the balance in both fee and wages. Also, new Premier League teamsheets demanding a minimum of 8 homegrown players in the squad of 25 means that we really need to be looking to develop some homegrown talent.

McEachran, Chalobah and Bertrand are examples of homegrown talent that should be developed and given a chance at our club. The club hasn’t had a player come through the academy and become a first team regular since JT in 1997. Since then, we have favoured buying a shorter term solution than developing a longer term solution. Look at Manchester United, look at Dortmund, look at Bayern Munich, look at Barcelona and Ajax. These are all massive clubs but when you look at their starting 11, a very large portion is taken up by homegrown players who have either come through the academy or have been bought from smaller teams and had their abilities honed at these top clubs. These clubs have the models that I think our club should be aspiring to replicate. They’re all big clubs, they all play with managers and players under pressure from the media, supporters and clubs directors but they still deliver young developed talent. How do they do that you wonder? Well, the answer is faith and sadly, we don’t see enough of it here with the youths at Chelsea.

If any youngsters do force their way into our extremely expensively developed squad then I take my hat off to them because that is one big acheivement.

Share your views below as always and feedback is always welcome! 

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