Youth development and pathways at Chelsea have come under scrutiny once again this summer, especially in the wake of several highly promising youngsters deciding to leave, including a few who didn’t even want to bother with the Loan Army.
But Thomas Tuchel restored some of our faith in those pathways between the Academy and the first-team remaining open, even if he admits that it’s not so easy at a club like Chelsea. Quite the opposite in fact.
“If you want to make it at Chelsea, it is so much harder than most other clubs in Europe. It’s the reality. We cannot start to prefer someone from the Academy over another player if he does not provide the same level, because in the end we are here to win football games and push the group to the highest level.”
Tuchel, a former youth coach himself at VfB Stuttgart, FC Augsburg, and Mainz 05, obviously remains happy to give youth a chance, especially as it increases the team’s bond with the supporters. But the harsh reality of football also means that he must do so while maintaining levels of excellence and meeting expectations of performance and achievement.
“The door is always open. Always, always, always. I love it, and I truly believe the supporters love it.
“The mix between big names from abroad, big personalities, and famous players with the Academy guys is what makes a club special. When you look at the photo when we raised the trophy in the Champions League, there are so many boys from the Academy in this photo. That makes it special, and this is how it has to be. It is always about the mix.
“At the same time, there are no gifts at this kind of level. You have to earn your way, overcome obstacles and fight hard for it.”
A lot of what Tuchel is saying is similar to what we’ve heard from other Chelsea head coaches in the past. As usual, he’s saying it better than most of those. But the proof, as ever, will be in the pudding.
Tuchel’s elevation of Trevoh Chalobah gives hope that those pathways indeed remain open, that our own homegrown players are indeed given opportunities and can indeed win places in the squad.
“I am more than happy to have [Chalobah] in the squad. He joined the Academy at eight years old and this is simply fantastic. I will always be happy to push players like this, but then you have to take your heart into your hands and be brave and courageous enough to take responsibility when it’s there. We will never hold anybody down.
“If you come from the Academy, if you can produce, if you are a nice guy like Reecey, like Mason, like Trevoh, like Callum, we will never stop pushing you. But we cannot go through the door. We can just open it and show them the way, but the guys need to go through it themselves.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea FC
Obviously, not every player will “make it” at Chelsea. Given the constantly running production line of talent at Cobham, most will inevitably leave for other (top) teams. The success of the Academy itself shouldn’t be judged by how many “make it” at Chelsea, but rather how many of them go on to have successful careers in professional football.
But it sure is lovely to see some of them (ideally the best of the best) star in a Chelsea shirt, especially when that also saves us from wasting money on mediocre signings in the transfer market, and hopefully that continues — if not to the level seen at start of Frank Lampard’s tenure, but at least at the level seen this summer.
If you extend this into the Championship you had 9 of 12 matches, meaning more than 75% of matches in England's top two divisions this weekend featured at least one player to have been in the Chelsea academy during his development. pic.twitter.com/LcUqVMhmEy— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) August 15, 2021