It was interesting to observe one distinct difference between the starting line-ups of both Chelsea and Tottenham as they lined up prior to kick off at Wembley. As the national anthem played overhead, as many as six Spurs men could be seen singing along, a stark contrast to the two in Chelsea blue.
Of those six, five have risen from Spurs’ own academy; John Terry was the only player on show for the Blues to have progressed from the youth setup, although Nathan Ake’s presence on the bench helped to boost the number overall the in the squad. Still, it makes for concerning reading.
There is certainly not a lot to complain about as a Chelsea fan at present, but this issue has long been a source of mild discontent for Chelsea fans. At 34 years of age, Terry remains the last player to fully establish himself in the first team. He made his debut in 1998. That equates to 16 barren years. Inexplicable considering the vast sums pumped into the youth system every year.
A few seemingly promising prospects have come and gone: Scott Sinclair, Ryan Bertrand, Gael Kakuta and Daniel Sturridge have been among a throng of players making fleeting appearances and look destined to break the mould in recent years, but all have been unable to for one reason or another.
What seems to be the most important mitigating factor has been a lack of stability – take Sturridge for example, who had almost cemented his place under Andre-Villas Boas, but fell out of favour once Roberto Di Matteo came to the helm. Kakuta and Josh McEachran looked to be staking a claim under Ancelotti, Bertrand was getting more game time with Di Matteo. Ultimately, managerial changes seemed to halt their progress.
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This is where the cup triumph comes in. Mourinho’s four-year contract offered a certain amount of security, but I find it hard to believe that Abramovich would have tolerated two trophy-less years. The Capital One Cup triumph has been seen as a springboard for more success in the league and perhaps in Europe, buying Mourinho plenty of patience from the chairman.
This reduces the instant pressure on Mourinho to deliver and allows him to give the new breed of Chelsea youngsters more opportunities – indeed, he recently vowed to help the likes of Izzy Brown, Dom Solanke, Lewis Baker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek develop into international footballers. He feels committed to helping the club and English football, which is a good sign.
Moreover, it allows Mourinho to develop a philosophy, one that can pervade the club right to its roots. This will make the players more familiar with his style and allow them to fit into the system with greater ease. See Barcelona for evidence.
But why is this so important? One factor will be appeasing the fans – any home-grown talent strikes a chord with a fan because he used to be one of us, we can relate. More importantly though they show that extra passion, loyalty and knowledge of the club and style of play that can see them established in the team for a long time. As much as many of the current Chelsea squad care about the club, none seem to quite show the same passion as John Terry.
Look at Bayern Munich’s current team with Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Muller. Look back to Barcelona’s dominant side of a few years ago. Even Manchester United’s recent Premier League successes under Sir Alex Ferguson. Most great sides in history, in fact, had a group of home-grown talents and, as Mourinho will have seen from his side at Real Madrid with the likes of Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas, the impact of academy graduates is vital for long-term success. And with one trophy in the bag, a new era can begin at Chelsea, with one manager at the helm, hopefully led by boys with blue in their veins.