Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Josh McEachran - an old head on young shoulders

Over recent years, several Premier League sides have been lambasted for their reluctance to bring through young home-grown talent, with Chelsea often at the forefront of the media's glare.

And admittedly, since the breakthrough of John Terry to the Blues' first-team an unbelievable twelve years ago (time flies when you're winning trophies...), few home-grown players have made the grade at Stamford Bridge, with many seeking pastures new. Michael Mancienne looks to be the latest of those tipped for great things with the current Champions, only to fail to live upto the hype.

This year, however, things could be very different. A combination of factors look to be coming into conjunction to see not only the promotion but hopefully the prolonged stay of several youngsters to the Chelsea first-team.

When Roman Abramovich arrived in West London in 2003, one of his priorities was for the club to leave their run-down, dilapidated training facility at Harlington and build a modern, state-of-the-art complex at Cobham, complete with huge levels of time and investment in the youth set-up.

The fruits of this are starting to ripen, possibly assisted by new Premier League laws governing a certain percentage of home-grown players in each club's squad - along with an unlimited number of under 21s.

Last season, big things were expected of centre back Jeffrey Bruma, striker Daniel Sturridge, Patrick van Aanholt, Nemanja Matic and Fabio Borini.

And one youngster in particular has already started to make a massive impression with Blues fans this campaign. Not plucked from the list above but from relatively out-of-the-blue (sorry!), midfielder Josh McEachran has burst onto the scene since August, making several substitute appearances not just in the league but Europe as well.

At just 17 (despite easily being able to masquerade as an Under 12 squad player), Chelsea fans have been stunned by McEachran's composure, level-headedness, decision-making, confidence and ability. But not only does he have a great first-touch and an ability to play a pass through the eye of a needle, the youngster has a footballing brain to boot. And, even better news, he's English!

If McEachran can continue his development and keep forcing Carlo Ancelotti's hand into selecting him (even as a substitute), the young midfielder could have a massive future not only for Chelsea but for his country as well. And who knows, when the Blues' current number 8 eventually hangs up his boots, in a few seasons' time we could well be asking, "Frank who?"

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