Chelsea’s (in)famous Loan Army has been getting leaner, meaner, and more productive in recent seasons. Part of that is due to the change at the top of the operation with the departure of Michael Emenalo. Another part of that is due to the incoming new FIFA regulations, restricting the number of older loanees, to which we’ve already started to adapt so it won’t affect us much at all. And last but not least, part of that is due to the Lampard & Morris Youth Revolution™, which has been built around a homegrown core, most of whom have spent time on loan in previous seasons.
For example, before becoming key players for Chelsea, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, and Fikayo Tomori spent a combined 8.5 seasons on loan — so about two seasons each. This has been standard procedure for some time; but the difference now is that they’ve gotten an actual chance to turn success on loan into success at home.
And that makes the Chelsea Loan Army technical staff happy as can be, validating their hard work in supporting the players involved in the operation. Those positions are filled by ex-Chelsea players like Tore Andre Flo, Paulo Ferreira, Carlo Cudicini, with the likes of Claude Makélélé, Ashley Cole, and long-time goalkeeper coach Christophe Lollichon also chipping in. It’s clearly still a big part of the club’s setup, and after this season’s model success, it’s only set to increase in importance.
“I think that this season has been a success story for Chelsea’s loan programme overall. It has been a brilliant season. We have had so many players from previous years go into the first team and be an amazing success for the club. It is nice, especially for those of us who work with the youngsters to see that our policy is working.
”This is something we have been working for a long time and we are really seeing the benefits of it now in the last few years. It is very important for these guys to show the younger ones a way to get through to the first team. It is important for the academy and young players.
”It has been a great year and Lampard has definitely made our jobs easier. I think everyone working for Chelsea are very happy to see these young players coming through and getting the chance. They all have surprised us a little bit by making the step up so quickly. But it just goes to show that when you give them a chance, they can take the opportunities. They have definitely done that this season.”
-Tore Andre Flo; source: Goal
Naysayers will of course say that were it not for the transfer ban, it would’ve been business as usual at Chelsea this season. They may be right. Perhaps Lampard would not have been appointed in the first place were that not the case. Some will also say that this is no way to win trophies.
Lampard himself has acknowledged both of those issues, and as one of the winningest players to ever grace the shirt, he wants nothing more than to return Chelsea to our former glories. But this season shows that there is a way to do that by building from within and augmenting surgically from without. This season was an opportunity to shift the paradigm, and Lampard has done just that. Now we can build better, smarter.
And the Loan Army will continue to play an important part towards those aims.
”I think what [Lampard] has been doing so far has been good. We look forward to seeing the club win trophies in the future, especially with these young boys who are playing now. When they grow up, they will be the future of this club.
”Reece James, Mason Mount and Abraham have all been very good. Billy Gilmour has been outstanding recently: This is what you are looking for. They still need time and more opportunities but I have no doubt they will be the future of this club.
”We have players with great potential who we would love to see coming back next season again but that will be not our decision. That’s up to Frank on whether the player is ready to come, not mine. For us, it is just to make sure that we give the best support, help them, or to go for a bigger club and to continue their progression.”
-Paulo Ferreira; source: Goal
Subsequent seasons may not see as much influx of homegrown youth, partially because the current influx will take some of those spots away from the next generation (see: Tariq Lamptey opting to leave). But the precedent has been set, so the best of the best of those coming next — such as Conor Gallagher — can have a real shot.
“In terms of how many players we have in the first team, that will go up and down year-by-year. Still, the likes of Conor have been very good. This is his first year as a senior player and he has got a lot of valuable experience by playing football at Championship level, which is great. So, he’s a very exciting prospect for us.”
-Tore Andre Flo; source: Goal
It may be tough to look past our current (non-football-related) predicament, but the coronavirus will eventually blow over, and if we still have football and society on the other end, we’re set up for the good times to flow.