While Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Bohemians on Wednesday was largely a 90-minute fitness exercise, it was also an opportunity for some of the younger players to get some preseason gametime, showcase their skills and try to earn a longer stay with the first-team. One of those who did that successfully was 17-year-old left back Ian Maatsen, who was one of the few bright spots in a rather disappointing second half. In fact, Maatsen, alongside fellow teenager Billy Gilmour, was reported to be staying with the first-team through the weekend, unlike many of the other younger academy players.
Maatsen joined the Academy last summer from PSV Eindhoven, and made an immediate impression, from which he’s only continued to improve. He was a mainstay of Chelsea’s UEFA Youth League finalist U19 squad and even made his EFL Trophy debut against senior opposition in September, at just age 16.
Early days and all that, but Ian Maatsen is a fine prospect. Has everything you want from a modern left-back, trusts his technique, and has quickly made an impact at Chelsea. A long way to go but he's started very, very well.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) September 1, 2018
His talent got him noticed, but it’s his hard work on the training ground that has continued to impress the coaching staff and earned him the 45 minutes against Bohemians as well as the extended stay with the team. Maatsen himself was very happy with the opportunity and the post-match praise from the head coach.
“The manager was satisfied. He thought that I had done a fantastic job and that he saw the way in which I train every day during the game. That gave me a very good feeling of course.
“I had to be myself, just do my thing and I did that. I tried to play uninhibited, made attacking moves, stood my ground defensively. It went well with the support of my teammates.”
For many in the Academy, working with Lampard, Chelsea legend and idol, is a surreal dream come true. Maatsen isn’t quite in that same boat, but he’s been impressed nonetheless.
“The manager is very relaxed, but knows very well what and how he wants it. He explains everything and when you talk to him, you can already feel that you can learn a lot from him. Then he will participate during the position game and he will immediately be one of the better players.”
Of course, this is just the very beginning, hopefully for both Lampard and Maatsen himself. One thing they do have in common is an insatiable drive to work hard and be better.
“But I am not satisfied, because this must be just the beginning. [...] I am seventeen years old. What I am experiencing and learning now is priceless. The only thing I can do is train hard and believe in myself. Then everything should be fine.”
“This debut feels like a start.”
-Ian Maatsen; source: Voetbal International via Google Translate
Here’s hoping for much more to come from the young left back!