Glen Hoddle believes the future is bright for Chelsea and thinks that Frank Lampard’s youthful revolution will continue to flourish.
The 62-year-old was player-manager of the west London club from 1993-96, officially retiring from playing in 1995, before England came calling and made him head coach the following year.
Academy products Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Billy Gilmour have all appeared in the Premier League this season, while the likes of Marc Guehi, Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen have made Carabao Cup appearances.
Lampard’s men have won six league games on the bounce, sit third in the table and are playing an exciting brand of football far removed from the stagnant play under Maurizio Sarri last season. On Saturday afternoon they head to The Etihad Stadium to take on a Manchester City side that has spluttered of late.
“I have enjoyed watching the young players at Chelsea this year,” says Hoddle. “It’s very exciting times for the club if they can keep those youngsters together.
“It (the transfer ban) may have been thrown upon the club, and Frank Lampard to put them in, but they have to be good enough. It’s one thing to put young players in, but they need to be able to respond and these guys are doing that.”
The current crop of young players mark the first real academy products to make the grade since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, despite a sustained period of success at age-group level. The club won five successive FA Youth Cups from 2013-2018, plus the UEFA Youth League twice in three years (2014-2016).
Despite the quality being produced, past Chelsea managers have been reluctant to introduce them into the first team. There have been high expectations for players like Josh McEachran, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake, but you have to go as far back as John Terry – who made his debut in 1998 – for a youth product establishing themselves as a regular in the first team.
With each new manager has come the tendency to go for short-term strategy, rather than promote from within, although this may be in part because of the club’s insistence on immediate results. Since Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea the club has spent £1.772 billion on new players, regularly signing world class talent from abroad.
The club’s current transfer ban has provided the homegrown talent an opportunity to impress.
Hoddle says: “The old adage of these youngsters being stopped by foreigners and whatever is no longer the case.
“The Chelsea boys have suddenly seen a pathway through and they’re getting their opportunities.
“It is an exciting time with the way they play and who knows where they will be in two years’ time – they could be really challenging back again for the title.”
The former England boss also expects the exposure of these youngsters to have wider benefits for the England team.
He adds: “It’s very healthy for England because they’re getting the chance.
“I think there’s probably four or five in that squad that could end up in Southgate’s squad for the Euros next summer.”
Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, in particular, have impressed at club level this season and featured for England in the recent qualifiers against Montenegro and Kosovo, with both getting on the scoresheet.
Hoddle believes that it’s this duo that could form part of a thrilling group of expressive English talent.
“They’re a very exciting group of players; attacking wise they’re as good as anyone,” says Hoddle. “Southgate seems to want to play with a lot of pace and there’s some depth there. Attacking wise, I think it is really healthy for the future.”
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