At age 17, Josh McEachran made his Chelsea debut in a Champions League match against Slovakian side Zilina. Impressing head coach Carlo Ancelotti as well as the viewing the public with his finesse on the ball, McEachran was put under a microscope, becoming the next great hope of an academy player graduating to become a first-team regular.
Unfortunately, a set of bad loans, untimely injuries, Andre Villas-Boas, and perhaps too much expectation heaped on his frail shoulders, eventually resulted in McEachran going his own way, away from the constant loans at Chelsea to the relative stability of having a permanent contract with Championship side Brentford.
"I hadn't thought I was even going to be on the bench that game, and then Ray Wilkins called me over. It is lovely for everyone when a homegrown guy comes through. There seems to be an affiliation with the supporter that is lovely to watch."
"When I was playing, there was a little bit of pressure. But there's loads of statistics, isn't there? So you try not to look too deeply into things like that. Chelsea handled it really well. They didn't really put pressure on me, I don't feel. I just went into training each day."
"I met [Brentford's] chairman and he was telling me about the club,. The way I see Brentford playing is perfect for me. It's a footballing team, they play through midfield, so I couldn't wait to sign for them."
"I wanted to be settled. I didn't want to go back out on loan from Chelsea."
Former Chelsea manager José Mourinho recently claimed that he needs only 10 minutes to judge whether a young player is ready to play under his command. If McEachran was ever given this assessment, he must not have passed, though the 22-year-old doesn't seem too bothered by all that.
"He's one of the best managers in the world and he hasn't got too much wrong. If he says he feels he can do that then I believe him."
Nor does he seem to harbor any regrets about his 15-year association with Chelsea.
"They would come three or four times a season to wherever you are and meet up with you, at the hotel, wherever you were staying, come to your games and keep in constant contact. They didn't just forget about you."
"[In preseason] there was normally a reserve group, a loan group and a first-team group."
"The Dutch league was good for me because it was technical, tactical, every team wants to play through midfield. I really enjoyed it."
-Josh McEachran; source: ESPN
McEachran's season at Brentford got off to the worst possible start, with a "freak injury" (three broken bones in his foot) suffered in pre-season training. He finally made his first appearance for the fellow West Londoners last week, coming on as a midfield substitute to try to spark a comeback. It almost worked, too, as Brentford came back from two down away to Cardiff, Chelsea loanee John Swift scoring the equalizer, but then conceded a stoppage time winner. McEachran made another substitute appearance over the weekend and he looks set to establish himself as part of Brentford's promotion challenge.
Best of luck, Joshie. Perhaps one day our paths will even cross in the Premier League again! Until then, we'll keep your basket in the WAGNH museum.