Chelsea’s last Champions League group match against Schalke last week was of less relevance as they had already gone into the group stages as toppers.
It was obvious that the manager was going to field his fringe players. But it came as a surprise when Jose brought the 18-year-old lad, Ruben Loftus Cheek, to the Pre-match press conference. Especially, in a club like Chelsea, where no one can boast of the first team regular graduated through the academy ranks, other than John Terry.
Though his cameo role for 8 minutes at the end won’t have backed the hype which Jose created by promising it to be an ‘Academy day’, it still can be taken as a positive gesture, keeping in mind the good times to come for the kids in the academy.
What makes this midfielder special enough to make the cut into the first team? What is there in the store for him and his fellow mates? Let us know about our new comrade.
Born in Lewisham, England Loftus-Cheek started playing for Chelsea at Under-8 level. Standing tall at 6ft 4 inches, he is an enormous physical presence on the field with excellent strength and reasonable turn of pace. This helps viewers to spot him with ease on the field. He was just 14 when he made his under 18 debut and also came as a substitute in the under 18 FA Youth Cup win that season for Chelsea.
Since then, he has been there, even leading the club to the same trophy again this year, but as a skipper. He has starred in the UEFA Youth League and been a regular in the Chelsea Under-21 side over the last 18 months. It’s not the first time that he has represented the Chelsea seniors. He did play in the two friendlies against Manchester City under Rafa Benitez in United States at the end of 2013 season.
Loftus-Cheek captained England schoolboys to the Under-16s Victory Shield three years ago and has since featured at both Under-17 and Under-19 level. For the 19s, he has won 10 caps, scoring six goals, most recently netting in a 3-0 win over Italy in November.
Style of play:
On his playing style, he is a typical box to box midfielder. He can be touted as a future replacement to Nemanja Matic in the typical holding midfield role, given the physicality and the similar playing position. But his playing style resembles more of Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira at his pomp. Like Vieira, he mixes the ability to make tackles in his own defensive thirty with a knack for driving forwards with the ball, running powerfully through midfield and dragging his team up the pitch. He looks more ambulant than Matic in that respect, though the comparison can’t be justified.
On making his first team debut at the 82nd minute, he was quick to show his class. He started to reignite the match that had already become a dead rubber as Chelsea was leading three goals to 1. He was quick on the ball; his control was extraordinary and above all, no tinge of nervousness. He was confident in making his runs throughout and was linking well with the midfield.
This is what Jose had to say on the lad’s performance:
“He showed immediately the quality he has. Everyone in the stadium had the feeling that we have a kid with talent. So keep going, keep working hard, and hopefully people around him don’t disturb the work we are doing with him.”
The future of the academy:
As soon as the season kicked off, Jose had given a hint that he has the academy in his mind. He justified it by giving Dominic Solanke, another 17-year-old striker, his sole start in the Champions League match against Maribor. Along with Solanke, we have a bunch of promising guys in the likes of Lewis Baker and Izzy Brown who can make into the team in the future.
“If, in a few years, [Lewis] Baker, [Izzy] Brown and [Dominic] Solanke are not national team players, I should blame myself. I have players who will be Chelsea players. And when they become Chelsea players, they will become England players, almost for sure.” – Jose Mourinho
Even though the situation looks better for the kids this season, there has always been an inconsistent future looming around their heads. The past examples can make them feel insecure, taking the case of what happened to the likes of Josh McEachran, who excelled under Ancelotti; was soon farmed out ever since after the manager got sacked. With Chelsea’s first team players all having an average age of 26, it will be hard to see the kids from the academy replacing the established seniors in the near future. As Mourinho indicated, it has always been the instability associated with the Chelsea manager job that has resulted in the academy to be neglected to an extent.
Given the short timelines to make an impact with instant success, no manager would dare to risk their job by giving youth a trial. The club requires managerial stability and he believes to be there in the helm for years to come, and so do we. This is the promise Jose has made. And in him, we trust. KTBFFH!!
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Edited By: Harshal Ahire