We have a lot of reasons to be happy about this season, despite yesterday’s disappointment. While none of them are as concrete or tangible as an FA Cup trophy, and it always hurts to lose a final, especially one to a rival and especially one in such an infuriating manner, in terms of the bigger picture, we have plenty of things to be happy about and look forward to in the future.
The Youth Revolution™ is at or very near the top of that list, with the Chelsea Academy bearing fruit and, for the first time in two decades, Chelsea not just taking the harvest to market.
The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Billy Gilmour, and Fikayo Tomori look set to play major roles for the foreseeable future, even as Chelsea are once again splashing the cash in the transfer market.
But the Academy hasn’t just suddenly run dry. There are countless exciting new talents coming up behind the current crop, some of whom have already made their debuts (Tino Anjorin, Armando Broja, etc.), some of whom are close to making their debuts (Lewis Bate was part of the traveling squad yesterday, for example), and some who are putting in the loan miles right now just like most of the aforementioned first-teamers had put in their graft over the past couple seasons.
The head of that class is quite possibly (versatile) midfielder Conor Gallagher, who turned heads with Charlton Athletic at the start of the season, then switched to Swansea City halfway through, where he continued to earn rave reviews as they pushed for Premier League promotion. Alas, their season ended in a gutting defeat in the playoffs, with Brentford overturning a 1-0 first leg deficit earlier this week to advance to the final 3-2 on aggregate (where they will face fellow West Londoners Fulham in a couple days).
Gallagher played every minute of Swansea’s playoff games, and missed just 41 minutes of their Championship season after his arrival in mid-January. Prior to that, he had been similarly ever-present for Charlton, finishing the season with over 4000 minutes played, all-told, the most of any loanee by some distance.
And so, we arrive at the familiar question. What’s next?
In years past, we’d pay a bit of lip service to first-team chances then send him out on loan a few more times before selling him for peanuts. But those are the pathways of old. The paradigm has shifted, or so we believe. After all, we’ve only seen it in action for one season. If we’re truly committed, this season’s youth impact will not be an isolated incident.
a) Good player wanted by good clubs shocker.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) August 1, 2020
b) 'Exodus' here apparently means 'following Sancho and Bellingham'.
c) 'koff https://t.co/bAnV4XgCQz
Gallagher himself doesn’t know yet either. The season did just end, but with an extremely short off season, there’s little time to waste in starting to figure things out — and not just for Chelsea, but for all the other teams as well.
“I am not thinking about that (his future) now, we just finished the game and I had a great second half of the season with Swansea and I have enjoyed it so much.
“I am very thankful to the whole club and the fans, I am not thinking about next season at the moment. I don’t know what’s happening with me having just got off the pitch. I have loved it here and I knew [Swansea manager] Steve Cooper from England [Under-17s] so I knew what he was about.
“I really enjoy working with him and he was a big part of the reason I came to Swansea and I am glad I did come. It is a great club and why not [come back]? It is a great club that I really enjoyed but I don’t know what’s happening next season.”
-Conor Gallagher; source: Goal
A full season with Swansea could indeed be a realistic outcome. But the 20-year-old could also be ready for more, already.
Chelsea are well-stocked with midfielders at the moment and may be adding Kai Havertz and/or Declan Rice, but we shouldn’t forget about our own up and coming stars either.
You have to find the right place for him if it's the PL though; you can't go from almost 50 appearances to fewer than 20 as a rotation option for someone. Similar situation to Mount last summer but 50 appearances at Chelsea next season for Conor seems unlikely. Big summer ahead.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) July 29, 2020