I've always had high hopes for Milan Lalkovič. For a long time, from all the other Chelsea academy youngsters, I wanted him to be the one to make the big step up. This may have been an irrational hope — League One appears to be his level — but I still maintain that he should've gotten at least his token bench appearance. In any case, he was eventually released in June 2014, eight years, almost 100 youth appearances, and four loans after officially joining Chelsea as a 14-year-old.
Since leaving the club, Lalkovič first tried his luck in the Czech Republic, but returned to England after just six months. He played out the second half of the season at Barnsley, making 17 appearances, before rejoining Walsall on a one-year contract this summer. From the different loan spells he got as a Chelsea prospect, the one at Walsall in 2013-14 was the only one that clicked, and he returned to the League One side almost as a conquering hero.
The likable 22-year-old (though again, I may be biased a bit) now gets his Lalkovic Derby against former club Chelsea, the club that "made him a man" and the club that he still supports.
"It was nearly the perfect draw! I was hoping we would get them away, but maybe it's good for us that we've got them at home because it would have been more difficult at Stamford Bridge."
"I have good memories of my time there. It just didn't work out, unfortunately. But I have nothing to prove to them. It's in the past and it's about me being a Walsall player. Playing against Chelsea is a little bit different because I grew up there and became a man there, but I haven't got anything to prove."
"I'm just going to enjoy the occasion and play as well as I can. We're not under any pressure. We have to make it as hard as we can for them."
-Milan Lalkovic; source: Walsall FC
Walsall are off to a great start in League One and have so far survived two rounds in the League Cup and one round in the Football League Trophy as well. Lalkovic has played in 9 of their 11 matches so far, starting six and scoring once (in addition to a few assists). It's lovely to see him find success and happiness.