“He’s one of our own, He’s one of our own; Harry Kane, he’s own of our own”, chanted the White Hart Lane crowd as Waltham’s very own Harry Kane ran the show in the match against Chelsea early on in January. While we are sure that Spurs fans do not need to be reminded of that match, the Blues fans will want to quickly erase any memory of that, as soon as possible. However, that got us thinking. Will Chelsea fans ever get a chance to sing that song at Stamford Bridge? After all, it has been a very long time since a good old London boy got through the ranks at Chelsea and made a lasting impact on the fans. The last one, as one can recollect, has been John Terry – who admittedly was not born in West London neither was he a boyhood Chelsea fan, but he did get through the ranks at the youth setup in Cobham and went on to become a club legend.
So for our next piece, us here at TheHardTackle, look at the prospects emerging from the Chelsea academy (especially the London boys) and see if they have what it takes to displace the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian in the Chelsea first eleven.
Dominic Solanke (forward)
Ask any ardent Chelsea supporter and their eyes immediately sparkle at the mention of Dominic Solanke’s name. Among his many fans, current first team coach Jose Mourinho said of him, ” (if he is) not national team players in a few years, I should blame myself”. That is the level he is expected to be at in a few years, but first he will have to break into a star-studded Chelsea team (no pressure, son).
Having joined Chelsea academy the age of 7, this Reading-born striker has been hitting all the right notes recently. Having made his debut for Chelsea academy side in the 2012-13 as a 15-year-old, Solanke has an impressive record since. Although he managed only 2 goals during that season, the next season he managed to score 20 goals in 25 appearances and managed to get the attention of the England set up. He went on to make 6 appearances for the under-16s in the ’12-’13 season. Like his club form that season, he managed to find the back of the net 11 times in 14 appearances for the England under-17s in 2013-14. True to his form, he also ended up being the top scorer in the UEFA European U17 Championship.
Given his impressive run, he was called up to play for the Chelsea first-team during the pre-season of 2014-15. Having been named in the 25-player squad that Chelsea submitted to the FA before the start of the season, Solanke has been training with the first team ever since. He made his senior Chelsea debut to a huge ovation at Stamford Bridge in a 6-0 victory against Maribor in the UEFA Champions League. If the stats tell us anything at all, it is that he does not shy away from finding the back of the net. And with Mourinho and the Chelsea setup looking within their own ranks to find the next superstar (partly due to FFP regulations), do not be surprised if in a few years time we hear the commentators shout out, “Solankeeee!! Scores!!” more often than not.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (midfielder)
Similar to Solanke, Loftus-Cheek also joined the Chelsea academy in 2004 at the age of 8. Primarily a deep-seated midfielder who can join up in attack as and when needed, the South London-born youngster is an essential part of the academy side at Chelsea.
Undoubtedly his best achievement to date has been being a part of the Chelsea youth side that won the 2011/12 FA Youth Cup and again lifted it in 2013/14. The latter achievement, however, came under his leadership. He is a regular part of the Chelsea academy setup and also at the national level where again, similar to Solanke, he has represented England in the under-16s, the under-17s and most recently the under-19s. Also a part of the first team squad under Mourinho, he made his Chelsea debut as a substitute in a 3-1 victory over Schalke in the Champions League. Most recently, he was also a part of the Chelsea squad that won the Under-21 Premier League title. Another feather in his cap was that he was recently being linked to Manchester City and Barcelona as a potential transfer target. He did opt to stay with Chelsea, signing a million-pound-a-year deal at Stamford Bridge.
Already being described by many to be the next ‘pivot’ for the England national team, he is the kind of player that they need at the moment. A central midfielder who can string in passes from deep and also be a part of a pacy counter-attack if needed. Admittedly to do that, he will have to first play for Chelsea regularly. However, if his talent and pedigree is anything to go by, England’s midfield hole left by Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard’s retirement, Ruben Loftus-Cheek could fit the bill perfectly.
Lewis Baker (midfielder)
Although not exactly born in London and not a Chelsea player through-and-through, Lewis Baker joined the Blues setup as a nine-year-old from Luton Town football club after being prized away from his hometown by the club’s scouts. For all practical purposes, however, he has been a Chelsea player since and has been consistently making a mark on the club and the international level.
Much like his aforementioned teammates, Baker has represented his country at the under-17, the under-19 and the under-20 levels and has been a part of Chelseaa s academy squad for more than 9 years now. He was also recently called up to the under-21 setup, which is generally seen as a stepping-stone to the senior side. Much like Solanke, Mourinho made a similar comment about Baker and asked the media to a blame hima if he does not play for his national side in a few years.
His only Chelsea appearance to date came in the FA Cup in the 2013-14 season and with the idea of him getting more game time, Baker has been loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday until the end of this season. An impressive run of consistent performances in the youth ranks in both local and European tournaments has made Baker to be the a first in linea , according to Jose Mourinho, to get some game time in the Premier League in the near future.
All in all, whether it be the trio of Englishmen mentioned in this piece or the other youth players such as Bertrand Traore, Nathan Ake or Isiah Brown, Chelseaa s future seems to be in safe hands for now. What it boils down to, in the end, is if one of the three players profiled does make an impact, the Stamford Bridge faithful will finally be able to sing their lungs out with the a one of their owna song.