The prospect of Frank Lampard hanging up his boots is one that sends shivers down the spines of Chelsea fans (and causes most England fans and Stevie G to crack open the champers!).
But the emergence of seventeen year-old central midfielder Josh McEachran could make the transition away from the Blues’ halo-adorning number 8 that little bit more comfortable when that fatal day dawns.
Since his arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2009, Carlo Ancelotti has reaffirmed his commitment to promoting youth players to the Blues’ first team. Partly due to his belief in this system and partly due to the tight knot Roman Abramovich has tied in his purse strings, youngsters such as Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt and Daniel Sturridge have found themselves regularly warming the Stamford Bridge bench over the last year.
And until the beginning of this campaign, the west London faithful thought these would be the names of the future, but little did they know a youngster who was part of the FA Youth Cup winning side last season would make the jump so readily.
Introducing Josh McEachran. Born to Scottish parents (mits off Craig Levein!), McEachran was snapped up from a youth team in his hometown of Oxford at the tender age of 8.
The left-footed youngster, who can play on either the left side or central midfield, has come on leaps and bounds in the past year – an improvement that’s not gone unnoticed by England’s coaching staff.
Having starred as his nation won the European U17 Championships earlier this year, McEachran has seemingly bypassed the Under 19s - being called up for tonight’s U21 tie with Germany.
To put the icing on the Chelsea bun in what has undoubtedly been an incredibly successful year for the Blues’ youngster, McEachran also made his first-team debut in September for his side’s away European Cup tie with MSK Zilina. His 79th minute substitute appearance made him the first player to take part in the competition having been born after the tournament was rebranded the UEFA Champions League in 1992.
He has since been utilised by Carlo Ancelotti in all of Chelsea’s Champions League ties this season. But it hasn’t been just bit-part cameos in matches the Blues have already sewn-up. Ancelotti has entrusted McEachran with helping his side chase the game against Manchester City and Sunderland, as well as trying to gain maximum points at Villa Park.
And whilst the newly-promoted England U21 man has impressed on each showing, it was his performance against Newcastle in the Carling Cup which really got Chelsea fans’ heads turning. Despite the 4-3 home defeat, the performance of McEachran was a real shining light for both Ancelotti and the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Despite his years - and easily being able to masquerade as an Under 12 squad player - Chelsea fans were stunned by the starlet’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 – gaining him plaudits from the very top of the game.
Both Sir Trevor Brooking and Jamie Redknapp have been singing his praises in the press, whilst Blues boss Ancelotti said after the Newcastle game, “He is very young but he showed fantastic ability and quality. If we need him he is ready to play the Premier League and the Champions League.”
Having been likened to Chelsea stalwart Lampard, the young midfielder admits his aim is to emulate the former West Ham man. “Chelsea say to me 'look at Frank Lampard'. I need to get into the box more," he told the club's website.
Whilst McEachran’s captain and the last player to break through the Chelsea ranks, John Terry, believes the youngster has “amazing ability and can open defences with a pass.”
It’s high praise for such a young man, but if McEachran can continue his development and keep forcing Carlo Ancelotti's hand into selecting him, the midfielder could have a massive future not only for Chelsea but for his country too. And who knows, when the Blues' current number 8 eventually hangs up his boots, we could well be asking, "Frank who?"