In the last decade or so, ever since Roman Abramovic took over Chelsea Football Club, there has been a common theme with almost all teams ever since. An absence of academy players in the squad, let alone the starting eleven. A promising player is given a chance every now and then, only to make a handful of appearances and unfortunately get ‘banished’ to a relatively less fancy team. With an insatiable owner and an increasingly trophy-hungry supporters, is Chelsea the place where youth careers come to die? Probably yes.

Off the top of one’s head, Josh McEachran is a player that immediately pops up as case in point. A promising start to his Chelsea career under Carlo Ancelotti was eventually scuppered when in 2012, when just one season after he had signed a five-year deal, he was sent out on loan to play at Swansea City under Brendan Rodgers. A series of rather unsuccessful loan moves followed in the seasons to come, including Middlesborough, Watford and Wigan. Granted he is still only 21 years of age, just that clubs like Everton, Southampton would have begun to nurture him to stardom by giving him his fair share of chances. He could still have a bright Chelsea career, but going by recent trends and the plethora of options that Chelsea have in midfield, McEachran’s Chelsea career looks all but over.

Josh McEachran

McEachran has been on loan at various clubs ever since graduating at Cobham

A whole host of academy players have come and gone at Chelsea without ever getting noticed by the first-team coach. Michael Mancienne, Steve Sidwell and Scott Sinclair are just a few of many players who were either signed very young or came through the academy, but failed to establish themselves in the first team. Manager after manager preferred experienced internationals in their place who guaranteed immediate success.For many, this is a disturbing trend that is sure to do more harm than good. Not only Chelsea, clubs like Manchester City or Newcastle United in recent times have preferred established stars over youth/ academy players. Granted these billionaires bring in world class talent for the public to watch every week, but the question remains about the grassroots of English football, which going by recent international failures, needs a massive overhaul.

This trend is now being/ has been followed by quite a few number of the big clubs in Europe. Real Madrid were always known as the “Los Galacticos”, which meant they bought superstars and got trophy after trophy. More recently, Paris Saint- Germain and AS Monaco have been added to the list of clubs who can splash the cash around. Even the previously lowly FC Malaga are now under Qatari ownership and can “buy” their way to success.

This maybe precisely why clubs like the aforementioned Everton and Southampton garner massive respect around the country and even sometimes in Europe. They have elevated a host of their academy products and turned them into household names. And not only recently, they have been doing it for a long time now. However, the fear is that these clubs will/ have become “feeder clubs” for the big teams who conveniently use their financial muscle to buy these young superstars.

To be fair to Chelsea though, this has not always been the case. The pre-Abramovic era academy graduates include a host of club legends. Peter Osgood, Peter Bonetti, Terry Venables, Bobby Tambling, John Terry and most recently Ryan Bertrand among others have made a name for themselves at Stamford Bridge. On the flip side, it is slightly disturbing that of all the names in the list, only John Terry has stayed at Chelsea throughout his career (at least so far he has).

John Terry

Terry: Chelsea’s youth academy success story

Clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City will always be “buying clubs”. The philosophy can be somewhat attributed to the respective clubs’ owners. At a time when the league is so competitive, a failure for a season is seen as “too long” by the owners. The fans have also caught along with the theme, expecting instant success from players and managers.

So the question remains as to where the youth players will find themselves still at Chelsea, say five years from now. That is a question only time can answer. This pre-season, however, judging by Jose Mourinho’s team selection, the club is looking to give youth players who have come through the academy, a chance. Players like Dom Solanke, Nathaniel Chalobah and Jamal Blackman stand a chance of gaining experience under Mourinho to advance their careers at Stamford Bridge itself.

All said and done, the trend, if it continues, is no doubt disturbing. If not for anything, the homegrown players rule the English FA has introduced has brought a semblance of sense back into the “English” Premier League. That along with the Financial Fair Play rule that UEFA have introduced has been done with keeping in mind that not only do clubs need their superstars, but also some of their “own” to bring them success.

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