Two days after his 18th birthday, goalkeeper Jamal Blackman was named to the substitutes bench by André Villas-Boas for a match against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. That may be the best thing to remember from the Gunners’ 5-3 win on that day, but that sort of duality — personal landmark success and achievement couched in overarching caveats — has been hallmark of his Chelsea career in the seven years since.
Jamal Blackman has a Champions League winners’ medal, serving as Chelsea’s third goalkeeper in Europe in 2012 (homegrown rules and all). He has a Europa League winners’ medal from the following year, for exactly the same reasons. He has yet to play a single game for Chelsea, just a month shy of his 25th birthday. He’s played in preseasons and he’s been named to the bench 18 times, most recently in late November 2015 away to Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he’s not come close to actually making his debut.
His first loan was to Middlesbrough, where he made exactly one appearance. He did get his money’s worth at least, as it was the League Cup tie against Liverpool that was decided by a record-equalling 30-kick penalty shootout. (Guest appearance by Bamfordinho, too.)
Blackman next turned up in Sweden for a couple months before dropping all the way down to League Two, to Wycombe Wanderers, where he collected over half of his now almost 100 senior professional appearances. Those good performances were leveraged into a Championship loan at Sheffield United, where he won the starting job only to be denied the chance to play in the final match of the season, and instead, a bit bizarrely, get booted back to Chelsea a week early.
No matter, having proven himself in the second tier, Blackman managed to secure a move to Leeds United for this season. The promotion hopefuls have big ambitions and a big name manager in Marcelo Bielsa, and Blackman, alongside fellow loanee Lewis Baker, could certainly make a name for himself. So far however, the goalkeeper has only played in two cup games, with Leeds’ own Bailey Peacock-Farrell, a full Northern Ireland international at 21, holding down the starting job.
Still, for Blackman, a confident young man who runs his own business on the side (Prodigieux, a big & tall yet fashionably stylish clothing line), it’s all part of the process of completing that ultimate dream. It’s a dream shared by every young player, regardless of position. It’s the dream to play in the Premier League.
“But just to play in the Premier League, show what I’m about and make a name myself would be my dream.”
Of course, having joined Chelsea as a 12-year-old, he’d very much prefer to do so with the Blues.
“Growing up in the academy, you always want to play in the first team. You see great players, especially players I’ve trained with like Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois and seeing what they can do.
”I think if I can keep going and working hard, then I could play for Chelsea.”
The first step before any of that can happen however is to win the job at Leeds. Marcelo Bielsa has fostered an exciting, friendly, yet competitive atmosphere at the club, which is something that Blackman can hopefully take full advantage of.
“I’ve come to Leeds to try and play. We’re going so well, and I think that’s the main thing. We’re working together and training hard and everyone’s battling to get into that first eleven.
”Starting so well, I think it pushes everyone to try even harder because we all bounce off each other. It’s one of those things that will help us win the Championship and get into the Premier League.”
-Jamal Blackman; source: The Sun
Good luck, big man! (And Lewis, too!)