Until recently, Chelsea, like most English clubs, typically sent their academy products on loan within England, Wales, or Scotland, theoretically making the lifestyle transition for those youngsters a bit less difficult. Over the past several seasons, however, the Blues have begun sending English youth abroad, with Vitesse Arnhem in particular being a popular destination.
This season, Chelsea have already sent three English players to the Eredivisie, and the first of the three, Lewis Baker, especially seems to be enjoying his time abroad.
‘A lot of the English boys maybe don’t want to try coming out abroad for some reason. The first loan I did go to I maybe didn’t want to go abroad but seeing different cultures and different ways of playing I would advise it to younger players.'
‘I think if you go and try different places you pick up different things and styles of playing and it’s experiences I think. Maybe staying in England won’t benefit you, maybe it will benefit you. It depends what you are comfortable with.'
‘I think it’s a great experience for me playing in League One, the Championship and now trying abroad. So far it’s been good and all the players and staff have made me welcome and I think it will be a good development stage for me. They play football the way I like to play football and I think that’s good.’
I'm also a fan of challenging these youngsters with a trip out of England, as I feel like the experience should help them when they're fighting for first team minutes with the Blues. Getting away from home when I did my undergrad was one of the better learning experiences of my life, and while loan spells are a bit different, the sort of experiences these kids are having really can't hurt them down the road.
With any luck, Baker and his Chelsea teammates will have a fantastic season with Vitesse, helping them qualify for European football, and making the experience even better for next years crop of loanees.