In April 2015, the Mail reported: ‘Mourinho insists he will give youth a chance’. Now almost and year on and with no notable youth prospects to the better, was Jose Mourinho’s stubbornness to trust young talent instrumental in his dismissal?
Picture the scene: It’s the start of the 2015/16 season, you’re a young, talented footballer ready to burst onto the Premier League’s front pages. Where would you like to be playing your football? Tottenham? Southampton? Liverpool?
One thing’s for sure you wouldn’t have wanted to be at Chelsea, a team that has one youth team product in their starting 11. Not a chance… especially under Mourinho.
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Out of Chelsea’s 37-man squad at the start of this season, four players had graduated from their academy having been at the club for over five years, John Terry being one of them. There are eight ‘home-grown’ players, which also include one Spaniard and a Bosnian.
Although a bold statement, Mourinho's reluctance to offer opportunities to young talent might be the reason the Chelsea dressing room had grown stale at the start of the season. With the manager refusing to show faith in his players, they’re bound to grow wary and realise they’re just as replaceable as the next player.
It may be clichéd, but perhaps a lack of team morale and togetherness explains why Chelsea fell apart so disastrously.
Interestingly, Chelsea currently have 32 players - many of whom English - scattered on loan across Europe, more than any other team. And for a young player, little confidence can be taken from being loaned consecutively to numerous difference clubs, especially if you feel you’ve been performing well.
A fascinating example can be found in Patrick Bamford, a now 22-year-old centre-forward who joined Chelsea from Nottingham Forest in 2012.
Bamford, who has been loaned out five times by Chelsea to five separate clubs, fired at his first loaned club MK Dons as he averaged just shy of a goal every other game.
He replicated this goal-scoring form at his next loan spells at Derby County and then Middlesborough, but was never recalled by Chelsea despite gathering a lot of media attention.
At this point, it was important for Chelsea to finally show some faith in the young forward and really back him, potentially giving him the confidence to fulfil his obvious talent.
Instead, he was sent to Crystal Palace and was shunned for Connor Wickham and Dwight Gayle. A few bad substitute performances for them and he is sent back to Chelsea before being subsequently discarded back on loan to Norwich City for the remainder of the season.
Bamford was an opportunity. An opportunity to hijack the momentum he had gathered from the Championship and develop a brilliant young striker. But this was simply never going to happen at a club like Chelsea, he never stood a chance. Mourinho never gave the young Englishman a chance.
So Chelsea have had a disastrous defence to their Premier League crown, Radamel Falcao a flop, Diego Costa injured or not firing and Romelu Lukaku long gone. Surely there would have been an opening to give a young striker a chance to prove himself?
Instead, the Blues sign Alexandre Pato, a player so clearly on the wrong side of his sell-by date - a complete injustice to Chelsea’s decorated youth system.
Chelsea have consistently let young talent slip through their fingers but continue to emerge without criticism because of their constant success rate in winning trophies. Only doing so having bought a fresh £100 million crop of players. But with the arguably irreplaceable old guard of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Terry depleted to just one man, maybe some more criticism will be directed at not just their recruitment system but managerial philosophy.
Previous players such as Romelu Lukaku, Andre Schurrle and Daniel Sturridge are just a few of the stars that were neglected by Chelsea.
Schurrle interestingly was bought and then sold by Chelsea, only to be replaced by Juan Cuadrado who now himself is being bizarrely loaned out again at Juventus. Meanwhile, the German is thriving at Wolfsburg, scoring on Tuesday night to put his side through into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The frivolous use and neglect of players in the Chelsea squad and first team is a large contributing factor to their early season demise. Mourinho didn’t give nearly enough time to the new players and his dismissal will allow a new wave of players to breathe life into a side that grew stale over the period of a few months of poor football.
Guus Hiddink, however, seems to be turning things around at Chelsea. Although out of the Champions League, domestic results are going their way and this is potentially due to Hiddink gifting opportunities to youngsters such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek - a player Chelsea fans have been eager to see for a long time.
Hiddink has gifted the young defensive midfielder five premier league starts as well as blooding Bertrand Traore and Robert Kenedy with first team starts, the latter having rewarded the faith shown in him by his manager with a stunning early strike against Norwich. The Brazilian also impressively held his own in the tough Champions League fixture against PSG on Wednesday evening.
This season’s Premier League is showing that the time has come to start showing faith in young English academy products. Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford are just a few of the names that have taken the Premier League by storm, all benefitting from their respective managers keeping faith in them.
Not only does this benefit our domestic sides but it also suggests things are looking up for England nationally. Had this type of rotation started with Mourinho then perhaps Chelsea’s season would have gone a lot differently.