Young midfielder John Swift ended his nine-year association with Chelsea recently, after seeing out his contract, declining a contract extension and then sealing a permanent move to Championship side Reading. One of the better performers at the youth level in recent years, Swifty has made one solitary first-team appearance, on the final day of the 2013-14 season, coming on as a substitute against Cardiff City.
Currently in the midst of pre-season training with the Royals, Swift talked a bit about his Chelsea experience, about the likelihood of first-team chances (or lack thereof) and just the mathematical odds that youngsters have to overcome even before any discussions over skill or talent could happen.
"It's obviously hard for any young players because it's such a big team and there are so many big players there. And there is so much pressure on the club to be high in the league and do well in the Champions League. They have high expectations for every single game they go into. So it is difficult for the manager to put young players in."
"But I do think there are quite a few at Chelsea who could push up into the first-team and do really well, if they are allowed to show what they can do."
"All you want is to try and prove yourself but it's really hard for a player to get into the first-team. Everyone knows that. You go back for pre-season, you train with the first-team and try and show what you can do. But there are obviously so many other players that you are in and amongst."
While talking about the typical conundrum faced by Chelsea's youngsters, Swift also put a bit of pressure on the one player who has seemingly been able to push into at least the fringes of the first-team, but now must show that he can do a little better.
"Ruben has done well to push into the first-team. He's worked hard and got his chance to play and he's taken it. Hopefully he can push on and show the other young players behind him that there is an opportunity."
- John Swift; source: Get Reading
There are arguments and counter-arguments aplenty when one goes down the youth integration rabbit hole, but as fans we can only hope that at least a couple of our current crop of highly promising youngsters might be deemed good enough to play for the club at some point in the near future.
When it comes to John Swift, however, he probably made the right decision for his career by opting for stability and a more obvious path into first-team senior football. His talent is undeniable though, and we should expect to see him playing in the Premier League in a few years' time.