Chelsea naive to forget McEachran

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With weak opposition facing them, Chelsea used Wednesday evening's Champions League tie to give some of their first-team peripherals the opportunity to get some minutes under their belt.

The likes of Alex, Paulo Ferreira and the recently returned David Luiz were all handed run outs, while Juan Mata, John Terry and Didier Drogba sat out ahead of a week of fixtures which climaxes with the visit of Arsenal.

Another handed the opportunity to impress was Oriol Romeu, a summer recruit from Barcelona.

Those who had missed his Carling Cup appearance against Fulham, before last night his first start for the Blues, were given a glimpse of the 20-year-old's calmness on the ball and adept positional sence, seemingly inherited from his time at the Nou Camp.

Despite Chelsea plundering five goals past the Belgian champions, it was the performance of the Spaniard that caught the eye at Stamford Bridge.

It appears, at least in the recent history of the Barclays Premier League, that Chelsea more than most have possessed some of the world's best holding players.

The likes of Claude Makelele, Didier Deschamps and more loosely Dennis Wise have applied their trade protecting the Blues' back four, and with John Obi Mikel, only 24, having failed to stamp his authority on the position, Romeu is being prepped as the club's long-term midfield solution.

While on commentary during last night's win over Genk, former Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins compared Romeu to Brazilian World Cup winner Dunga for his no nonsense approach in midfield, while the morning's papers reported shades of Makelele in the former Catalan protege.

But everything isn't quiet as rosy as you might think. While Romeu is impressing, the west-Londoners are neglecting a player who in many quarters is considered to be one of England's prized young assets.

Following the game, Jamie Redknapp immediately raised the issue where Romeu's assured display leaves 18-year-old Josh McEachran.


The England under-21 international has featured just twice for Chelsea this season after being assured of regular first-team opportunities this season.

Such were the fears of the midfielder that he would be restricted to a bit-part role that he requested a loan move during the summer, which was subsequently rejected by manager Andre Villas-Boas.

"I did ask to go out on loan at the start of the season but Andre said he wants me to stay because he thinks I will get enough games here," McEachran said.

"I saw in the paper that Fabio Capello wanted me to go on loan to get more experience but Andre is my manager and if he wanted me to go on loan, that's what I'd do.

"It's not going to happen before the transfer window closes next week, but maybe it could happen in the new year."

Many in the ranks at the Football Association see McEachran as the future of England's midfield alongside Jack Wilshere, but with appearances rare at Stamford Bridge, Capello has signalled that he wishes the player to go out on loan this season.

The move worked for both Tom Cleverley, who spent last season at Wigan Athletic, and Wilshere, who spent 12 months at Bolton Wanderers, with both now pivotal members of their club sides, while in Wilshere's case, established internationals.

Andre Villa-Boas would do well to follow the acts of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, and give McEachran the experience of regular first-team football in the Barclays Premier League, so not to see his undeniable talent fall away.

Too often we've seen home grown talent held back by club's bringing in expensive foreign imports, and let's hope one of those latest additions, manager Villas-Boas, doesn't hold back the career of another potential England star.

With England lacking creatively in their midfield, and given Capello's insistence to occasionally go against the grain, an impressive season lower down the division may give the Italian reason to chose McEachran for next summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine, a potentially vital experience for the teen.

His transfer policy suggests Villas-Boas is gearing towards refreshing Chelsea's squad and he's doing youth a favour by blooding them in the Blues first-team, but he's going to do any favours to the future of the club and of England, providing the country's leading light with the chance to shine would be a good place to start.

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Josh McEachran
Premier League

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