The kids are alright but will they break into the Chelsea first team?

By All Blue Daze.

For five years, Chelsea have been one of the top powers in English football. The West London club became European Champions in 2012, won the Premier League and the FA Cup to claim the domestic double five years ago, and lifted the old pot again in 2012.

They also won the Europa League in 2013, and having already secured this season’s League Cup, look odds-on to win the league again. It’s all pretty impressive but certainly not dominant. Despite the recent absence of any homegrown talent in Jose Mourinho’s first-choice eleven, the same cannot be said for the club’s youth team across the same period.

In this five-year timespan, the club has been in every FA Youth Cup final except for 2011 – winning three of them – and finishing runners up to Norwich City in 2013. The Under-18s take a two-goal lead back to Stamford Bridge for the return of this year’s final with Manchester City next week. In a performance with echoes of the first team, they went two up before city pulled a goal back and they then drew their opponents on to them; hitting them with a third, and potentially killer, goal. They have to be strong favourites now to retain the trophy.

And a couple of weeks ago, the Under-19s became champions of Europe after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 in the Uefa Youth League final. Blues overcame the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the Nyon showpiece.

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You would imagine that this all adds up to a bright future at Stamford Bridge for the club’s youngsters. But not a single player from those successful sides has established themselves as a first-team player. Some have notched a few appearances, such as Nathan Ake, who’s since returned from his loan at Reading, and Josh McEachran, now out on his fifth loan spell at Vitesse; making regular first-team football with Chelsea a distant prospect. In fact, of the 16 players that won the 2010 cup final against Aston Villa, only McEachran is still a Chelsea player. So, why is that?

Some will of course point at Chelsea’s penchant for signing overseas players that block the progress of academy graduates. Witness the imminent arrival of Brazilian ‘wonderkid’ Nathan, for example. There may, however, be another reason. Uefa’s cock-eyed FFP regulations, which has failed to level the playing field, may also have played a part. The need to ‘balance the books’ has led many to look at their Academy system not as a production line of talent for the first-team squad, but as a money-making operation, almost separate from the rest of the club.

There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule. In Nathaniel Chalobah, Chelsea have a 20 year-old player currently serving his fifth loan spell, but who remains very much on the club’s radar as a potential first-team player. Of the current successful U19 squad, much the same could be said for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Izzy Brown and Dominic Solanke, all of whom excelled in the recent European success – and are all English.

There may well be an element of the quick-fix mentality by buying in the ready-made quality player. It’s not beyond reason, however, that FFP is having the effect of thwarting Greg Dyke’s aspiration of having more homegrown talent in the Premier League. Although, of the 11 players that started this year’s Youth League final, nine were qualified to play for England. The success – or otherwise – of Loftus-Cheek, Brown and Solanke, may just prove the point one way or the other.

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