I have to admit I was out of my seat when the winning goal hit the Fulham net. What a brilliant fight back from the under 18s and the third Youth Cup triumph in 5 years was achieved. A week later some of the same players are bossing Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams to win the league. Brilliant stuff.
Over the last 14 days or so I’ve seen some great football from our youngsters and like most fans want any Chelsea team to do well. That being said I’ve also asked the question what’s the point?
Most fans of any football team love a home grown youngster to make it into the first team but looking at the successful youth teams of the last 5 years I would question the purpose of the huge investment in our academy. I was incredibly impressed with Tomas Kalas on his debut and read great things about Andreas Christenson. So why do the club then go and pay big bucks for St Etienne’s Kurt Zouma? Is Marcus Van Ginkel going to be any better than if Josh McEachran would have stayed at the club and been given more game time and better coaching. We will never know.
The modern game is a world away from when I first started watching Chelsea. In the late 60s the team then had Hollins, the Harris brothers, Osgood, Bonetti, and latterly the Fulham born Hudson In addition I had just missed Bridges, Venables and Graham all of whom were youth team players.
In the 70s Chelsea introduced the Wilkins brothers Stanley, Locke, Swain, Wicks, Finnieston, Droy, Fillery. Perhaps less impressive than the 60s crop but the point was the club in the mid to late 70s had no money and played a lot of kids. You also have to question how much better some of those players could have been if they would have not had to play in struggling teams and played with better teams. You just have to look at Ray Wilkins and Kenny Swain and how well they did.
During the 80s there was Jason Cundy , Phil Priest, Robert Isaac, all decent players but with all due respect to them, nothing exceptional. There was however a real thrill when any of these players appeared. The goodwill towards them was always incredibly strong.
Things noticeably changed in the mid 80s where the majority of the iconic 84/85 promotion team were bought. I remember Ken Bates saying after we escaped relegation to the 3rd tier of football that rather than sack the manager as was the norm, he was going to effectively sack the players. This to me was the time when the attitude to bringing youth through changed. That being said we still continued to produce good young players such as Canoville, Sinclair and Jones. One of my favourite players from that time was the keeper Steve Francis.
The team that started to win things in the 90s included Eddie Newton, Frank Sinclair and occasionally Andy Myers but that in many respects was the beginning of the end. From that period onwards there were a lot of foreign players introduced and I can only really remember Hughes and Burley in the Gullit teams.
As is well documented JT is the last of the homegrowns to force himself into the first team. In the last couple of years players have stopped coming through. We as a club appear to have been doing a lot to hoover up young world talent in anticipation of FFP but as has been trawled out in the press we have “hundreds” of players out on loan.
In reality what we appear to be doing is buying kids and letting other teams find out if they are good enough as we can not risk having them on our playing staff. I am convinced that Chelsea are constantly monitored (Courtois being the best example) but it is hard to tell if it’s a money making exercise or simply to stop our rivals getting these players as even with this system we have, not one player has got near the first team.
So is there any likelihood of any youngsters/homegrowns breaking through? I have not watched enough Championship football to see how Josh has got on. He looked decent in the FA Cup semi final against Arsenal and certainly held his own. Would he survive in our first team squad? Great things were being spoken about Nathan Chalobah but with Baker and Loftus Cheek on the verge of a “breakthrough” will he be further edged out.
Most of us were completely bemused by the loaning out of Lukaku. Whatever happened behind the scenes it arguably cost us the title. His may not be the style of play we are aspiring to but one feels he may be another player purchased and then sold for profit that we never get to see. Surely even if he wanted to go out on loan he should have been told no. Where better to learn than with Jose?
In some respects this summer could be pivotal for some of those players. Most of our first team squad will be at the world cup and the initial pre-season training /games will be without the main stars. So of the current youngsters and loanees has anyone a chance of getting into the 25 next season?
An obvious statement I know but a lot will depend on who we buy but the aforementioned Lukaku, Piazon, Van Aanholt may return in addition to Courtois. I find it hard to see anyone from our current youth set up joining though. I find it incredibly frustrating. This article is not specifically about Josh but he is the best example. If he is on the cusp of being good enough, give him until Christmas with the first team. If he’s not up to it let him go.
I am not naïve enough to think that we should pack the side with kids but the 2010 winning team was Walker, Clifford, Ince, Brumha, Conteh, Sala, Djalo Clifford (c ) Tore McEachran, Mitrovic subs: Lalkovic, Haxhia, Saville, Sampayo, Rodgera
and the 2012 winning team was: Blackman, Kane, Davey, Nkumu (Loftus-Cheek 60), Gordon (Nditi 45), Chalobah (c), Swift, Baker, Lucas Piazon, Affane (Kiwomya 28), Feruz Subs not Used: Beeney, Nortey.
and so as I said at the start, as enjoyable as winning the FA Youth cup and the League was, what is the point?
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