In the space of less than two months, Ola Aina has gone from being out of contract to making his Chelsea debut while still just a teenager.
The 19-year-old versatile defender let his contract lapse alongside fellow Chelsea Academy grad John Swift, but unlike the now Reading-man, Aina relented after a few days, and re-upped with the club he's been at since age 10. Soon after he was joining Antonio Conte's traveling squad for preseason camp in Austria, then for the Tour of the USA, where he started all three games.
Entering the season as backup for both left and right full back, Aina was on the bench for the first two games before starting as the left back against Bristol Rovers in the League Cup. A minor injury threatened to spoil the day, but the youngster toughed it for most of the game before making way for the last Chelsea Academy graduate to truly establish himself in the first-team. Perhaps Aina will be that long-await next one after John Terry?
"It was a big achievement for me and I was really happy because I felt like all the hard work over the years had finally paid off. I was really excited on the day and I enjoyed it. I've grown up watching all of the different Chelsea teams through the years and I love the club, so it was a special feeling."
"Before the game the manager was going around to everybody and telling them what they needed to do. He gave me a big high-five but I just treated it as any other game."
"I'm happy with how I performed. I took a knock early in the game but it was my debut so I really didn't want to come off. I felt I did okay, I played left-back and I enjoy that so all in all it was pleasing. Playing alongside Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta was good because it made me feel part of the fold. With their experience they helped me a lot and they were talking to me throughout the whole game."
-Ola Aina; source: Chelsea FC
Since Chelsea still haven't properly addressed the lack of depth in defense, Aina's good performances should lead to even more involvement as the season moves forward.