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Frank Lampard sets Chelsea Academy first-team debuts record

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Youth Revolution™

Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Frank Lampard has given more first-team debuts this season to Chelsea Academy graduates than any other manager in Chelsea history. He already held the record jointly with Ted Drake*, but with the 85th-minute introduction of 18-year-old Armando Broja, Lampard is now out on his own at the top.

Broja was the eighth (8th!) Academy product to make his debut this season, and we’re only in March! He joins Mason Mount, Reece James, Billy Gilmour, Tino Anjorin, Ian Maatsen, Tariq Lamptey (who’s since left), and Marc Guehi (now out on loan) in making his senior bow. (Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori had already made their debuts before this season.) Gilmour and Maatsen joined the Academy as teenagers, but the rest have all been here since a very young age (6-8).

Obviously, Lampard’s hand has been partially forced by both the transfer ban as well as Chelsea’s inordinate amount of injuries throughout the entire season, but he and his coaching staff have set out to engineer a Youth Revolution™ this summer, and that’s precisely what they’ve done. Lampard & Morris & Co. have been clear in their intentions to break down the barriers between first-team and the Academy, to open a pathway to those who deserve it on merit.

That they’ve kept many of the veterans happy and involved to a certain degree at the same also speaks to their man-management skills.

This perfect storm of youth opportunity will not occur every year, obviously. Some of those who made their debuts this season will in fact keep future youth out (see for example Lamptey opting to leave with Reece James looking like the future at right back). But the intention is there, and that’s most certainly a paradigm shift from the last couple decades.

And that’s something that deserves to be celebrated, especially as results on the pitch improve.

*Ted Drake gave debuts to seven Academy players in 1956-57, in what was just the beginning of the era of Drake’s Ducklings, which would go on to include the likes of Jimmy Greaves (‘57), Barry Bridges (‘58), Bobby Tambling (‘59), Ken Shellito (‘59), Peter Bonetti (‘60) and Terry Venables (’60).