Chelsea's Neil Bath sat down with TheFA.com recently to discuss the much-improved academy at Cobham. While he's clearly pleased with the success Chelsea's youth setup has had over the past several seasons, Bath was quick to point out that this isn't the ultimate aim:
"The Holy Grail will always be to get players into our first-team. Then the second goal will be to produce as many professional footballers as we can."
"Getting players through the academy and into the first-team is what we’re all about. If we win tournaments on the way that help their development, then great, but it’s not our priority."
"I do believe that we have young players that can be future Chelsea players. I’m strongly passionate about that because I think we’ve got the best players we’ve ever had."
I have to agree with Bath that the current crop of players coming through the academy is vastly superior what we've had in the recent past, anf that players like Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are brighter prospects than the Scott SInclairs and Fabio Borinis of the world. That said, I don't think any are ready to displace players like Ramires or John Obi Mikel in the first team squad just yet.
For now, Bath and Chelsea fans probably need to be content watching this talented crop of players develop their talents on loan, and hopefully pushing for places in the first team squad in the next season or two. One of those loanees, Lewis Baker, made his home debut for Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, and was only denied a debut goal by some fantastic goalkeeping:
"I thought it was going in, I got a good connection but their defender just got a leg to it and the chance was gone. It was really frustrating because we deserved to get back into the game after going 2-0 down."
"We were in charge in the second half but it was just one of those days as we saw at the end when we had a good goal ruled out. So for me, it was special to make my home debut but I came off the pitch disappointed because we got nothing from the game. But this is a good team and a good club and we have to pick ourselves up and go again for the next game against Birmingham."
Hopefully Baker did enough to impress that his next match for Sheffield is a start, and he contributes enough to help the Owls push for a spot in the Premier League.