This is the second entry in the new series dedicated to the individuals involved in Chelsea lifting the 2009-10 FA Youth Cup trophy.
Previously: EPISODE 1 - Jeffrey Bruma
EPISODE 2: Josh McEachran
It is scary to think how quickly time flies.
Hearken back to a decade ago, and the state of the club was very different to today. Chelsea were perennial title-contenders, striving for the ever elusive Champions League trophy. The academy was maturing. The pulse around the club was that a bridge between the academy and the first-team, then headed up by Carlo Ancelotti, was close to materializing.
Of those players on the cusp, Josh McEachran was widely believed to be future of Chelsea’s midfield. It seemed inconceivable at the time that McEachran’s career wouldn’t unfold in some grand manner at Chelsea.
Clearly, a lot of hope and promise were laid on his frail young shoulders to make the grade. And with all those expectations came pressure, which can become a player’s undoing.
Ancelotti showed faith in McEachran, giving him his debut at the age of 17. He earned plaudits in a memorable Champions League match against MŠK Žilina, becoming the first player born after the inception of the competition to play.
He was a familiar name around West London by the time he was thrust into his debut. After the match, his reputation had reached beyond England.
“I had the chance to go to Real Madrid or Man United. Real Madrid had the contract waiting for me and they wanted all my family to fly over but I said: ‘No, I want to stay at Chelsea’. I was a Chelsea fan.”
- Josh McEachran, source: Telegraph
He would go on to make 17 appearances in his breakout season, earning himself links to Real Madrid. He stayed.
But soon after, he’d fall victim to Chelsea’s managerial cycle. Under André Villas-Boas, McEachran made only five appearances. His remaining career with Chelsea included loan spells at Swansea City, Middlesbrough, Watford, Wigan, and Vitesse Arnhem.
McEachran restarted his career at neighboring Brentford and found relative success. Over his four-year spell, McEachran, when healthy, looked a key member of the squad. He made a famous visit back to Stamford Bridge in the 2017 FA Cup 4th round.
After more injuries and another managerial change, he found himself out of the team; by the end of last season, he found himself gone. He’s currently with Birmingham City, having featuring eight times before matches were suspended.
As for where it all went wrong for McEachran and Chelsea, we can chalk it up to a series of factors, both player-specific and institutional. No one doubted McEachran’s skills; some of his other attributes and physical qualities were frequently questioned. Player confidence and minutes are crucial to development. Stability is never easy to find for players in the loan system.
Over the years, the Loan Army itself has developed and evolved in its approach and methods, changing fo the better. Chelsea now have multiple points of contact for the players out on loan, a strong support system, and even a realistic pathway back to the first-team. Notable ex-players such as Carlo Cudicini, Paulo Ferreira, Tore Andre Flo, and Claude Makélélé assist and oversee this operation at the moment, keeping a constant and open line of communication with the players and their host teams.
Alas, righting past wrongs does not help McEachran. On the bright side, having just turned 27, he still has plenty of football left to play in his career.