You guys get two top ten entries today after none were posted yesterday. The No. 5 prospect on our list got considerably higher marks from the WAGNH readers than he did from the writers, finishing 2nd in the community voting results. That's not all that surprising, considering the amount of exposure this youngster has had to the Chelsea community already, our No. 5 prospect is:
Josh has been at the Chelsea academy since the age of seven, and was a contributor at most of the England youth ranks as he progressed with his development. He has been a regular member of the youth and reserve sides for several years now, and actually made his senior debut in the Champions League in 2010. He remained at Chelsea until January 2012, making 22 total appearances for the club before his first spell on loan.
Much was expected of Josh as he went on loan to Swansea City, but the loan itself was massively disappointing. Brendan Rodgers knew Josh from his previous work with Chelsea, but clearly preferred his more experienced players to the 18-year old loanee. Josh totaled just 216 minutes of work in his loan spell, a number he'd have likely bettered by staying at Chelsea with the way league matches were treated at the end of that campaign.
Needing minutes badly, Chelsea agreed to a less aggressive loan for McEachran this season. The sent the now 19-year old midfielder to Middlesbrough, and he's been a regular for the Championship side. Due to the agreement with Chelsea, Josh has not been able to play in any cup games for Boro, but he's still managed over 1900 minutes already as Boro push for promotion. He's done well there, and The Northern Echo had some quotes form his manager about what he'd like to see from Josh going forward:
"My talks with Josh, because he is only a tender age, he’s only 19, have been about pushing on in the second half of the season."
"I’ve said to him if he’s going to play for Chelsea’s first team and try to win European Cups, he has to have a bigger impact on our team in the Championship and I’m sure he can, as I’ve seen him do some amazing stuff in training."
"I think he can have that extra ingredient that can make a difference in games. We’ve seen it in flashes where he can drift past three or four people."
"So I think it’s almost time for him to push on and influence the game more and he understands that. He’s settled in great and has been very integral of what we’ve achieved so far. He didn’t come to Middlesbrough to be a superstar."
"He came here to be a part of our team and he’s doing the job we’ve been asking him to, whether that’s sitting next to Grant Leadbitter and passing the ball to feed the strikers or the wide players, which he’s been doing very, very well."
"Maybe now we can get him to pick the ball up and start travelling with it and going past people, slipping the centre forward in to score. I think he can add that to his game because I’ve seen it in training."
McEachran started the season playing on the right side of a four man midfield at Boro, but he's moved into a central role as the season progressed. He's showing clear signs of progress with his all-around game this season, most notably on the defensive side of the ball. He's still a long way from first choice at Chelsea, but there are certainly signs of progress to be seen.
It's notable that his manager is looking for him to start being a bit more aggressive, as he's clearly happy with Josh's ability to do the simple things well. Continued minutes are definitely going to help with that, as will increasingly meaningful games with Boro pushing hard for promotion.
Josh could certainly get some minutes here in the spring if Chelsea make a deep Europa run, but it may be best for all parties involved if he's allowed to remain at Boro for the remainder of the year as opposed to being recalled. He's seeing a ton of time, and he's clearly comfortable with his teammates and his manger. After a 2011/12 season that was largely wasted, that's probably best for his development.
Where Josh ends up next season is probably best left until the summer to discuss. Chelsea may have a use for him, he may end up in the Premier League, or he may well be best served by more minutes in the Championship. Until we see what progress he makes this spring, it's just impossible to say where he should be playing in a year. It could certainly be Chelsea though, especially if he adds a bit more physical strength.