Youth development has been a hot topic lately, especially with the Chelsea U18s reaching our fourth straight FA Youth Cup final earlier this week but still no first-team regular other than John Terry around from our academy. Even Mourinho has been quite chatty about it, singing Ruben Loftus-Cheek's praises, for example, whenever given the opportunity. But what about actual playing time for the youngins, Bossman?
"For a player to play in the Chelsea first team, they must be ready. There is no space with this level of demand and responsibility and pressure, there is no space for a player that is not ready. For example, when did I play Solanke? I played Solanke while winning 5-0 against Maribor, in a competition where we qualified easily in the group phase. I cannot play Solanke against Southampton with 30 minutes to go and the score at 1-1. I can't."
So what hope do they have? Obviously "I can't" here basically means "I won't take that risk." But at some point, the risk has to be taken. And it's not like risks haven been taken at all; Kurt Zouma, barely a non-teenager, has been plugged in at crucial times this season and has rewarded the faith placed in him with great performances.
"I work them, I bring them to the first-team squad every day when I feel the level is almost there, to try to make the player ready. That is what I am saying. I think next year Ruben will be ready. Pre-season he will start with us immediately. Not like this season because this season he joined us only in December. Our pre-season will have three big clubs as opponents in friendly matches. This is another experience for him. So I think next year Ruben is ready, also mentally, to cope with that."
It's going to be super awkward when we loan out Loftus-Cheek on the first day of the season... Winning the Premier League -- should we manage to not blow it in spectacular style -- won't decrease the pressures facing the team and the manager either.
"If they are good enough and if they are ready, yes [they will play]. It is important but this club is very demanding. It is a club where it is not easy to play football. The level of demand is high. The pressure is big. It is not the same to play in a club where people just accept a so-so performance, or a so-so result or people accept that you finish fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth. This is not the best habitat for a young player to be developed. It is not the best one."
Well, at least we do claim that it is "important" to bring through a few youth players. Now, we just have to back those words up with actions.