Dublin-born Conor Clifford spent six years on Chelsea’s books, joining as a 15-year-old in 2007, rising through the ranks of the Academy, but never quite making it to first-team action. He was a key part — captain, even! — of the U18 team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2010, starting Chelsea’s dominance of the competition over the next decade, but couldn’t quite find consistent success in five loan tries and was eventually released in 2013.
His story since has taken plenty of twists and turns as well. He’s spoken many times about the disillusionment and personal demons he’s battled after his time at Chelsea, but in the last few years, he seems to have found a good situation for himself in the League of Ireland. He’s played for his hometown St Pats since last summer, for whom he’s been a key player in the heart of midfield.
Because of his importance, his participation in today’s friendly is not certain. St Pats played the first leg of a Europa League qualifying match on Thursday, losing 2-0 at home, but still have the second leg coming up next week. It’s unlikely that they would turn around a two-goal deficit away from home, but the focus remains on that competition. Still, Clifford’s hoping for at least a brief runout against some familiar faces.
“I don’t know who will play today as Thursday is the priority but I want to play, it would be nice to play against my former club as there are still some of the old faces there and it’d be nice to see them again, it’s a good occasion for the fans as the place will be jammed.
”Obviously Frank Lampard was there from my time but there’s staff too, Jody Morris, Chris Jones, the physio, I’d know a good few of them, it’ll be nice to catch up.”
Like many who came through the Academy, Clifford says he has no regrets about the lessons he learned, but is pleased to see that the usual situation is improving — forced, or not, as it may be by the transfer ban.
“You learn so much, I learned a lot, on and off the pitch, stuff that helped me later in my career, Chelsea was the best time of my career, training with the best players in the world at the best facility in the world, I loved it.
”Chelsea are the same every year, with 40-odd players out on loan, so many players that it’s difficult for anyone to break through. But seven of the young lads have gone back to London from loans. It’s difficult to get a chance, but with the transfer ban maybe it’ll happen. Jody Morris won everything there is at youth level, the UEFA Youth League, he knows all the young players coming through and if anyone is going to get a chance, this is the time.”
-Conor Clifford; source: Herald
The 27-year-old Clifford’s youth days are long behind him, but the feeling remains.
Hopefully we’ll get to see Conor for at least a little bit today — he was always excellent in his youth days — while we wish him the best of luck for the season ahead.
“It Will Be Great To Catch Up With Him, Hopefully I Play Well & He Offers Me A Trial!!” - @conorclifford91 moved to @ChelseaFC in 2007, at 16. Frank Lampard was one of his teammates. Tomorrow, he’ll be playing against Lampard as Chelsea’s new Manager at a sold out Richmond Park pic.twitter.com/oslRHCq0dg— St Patrick's Athletic FC (@stpatsfc) July 12, 2019