An incredibly productive academy

          The wonders of Cobham

          2021/11/24 13:41
          Alex Lawes

          La Masia, De Toekmost, Genk, La Fabrica, Knappenschmiede, Carrington. Some of the very best places for the production of talent throughout the history of football and most recently.

          However, there is a place now standing above the rest. Cobham. 

          In the rural areas of Surrey whereby some of the most privileged in England live is the village of Cobham; now most famous for Chelsea’s training ground and academy. 

          The current generation

          Last night, Chelsea hammered Juventus by four goals to nil. On the scoresheet for the European champions was Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah and Callum Hudson-Odoi, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek providing an assist. Mason Mount also came off the bench as the Blues’ rested one of their most important players.

          This isn’t a selection of players getting a game due to the rest of the side under-performing and they have just taken advantage of a very limited competition. This is a selection of players that are playing regularly because they are crucial to the reigning UEFA Champions League winners and current Premier League leaders.

          To be able to produce one or two players that will eventually go on to be world class footballers, not just first-teamers, is extremely rare. To be able to create a batch is remarkable.

          This is a batch which includes several players not currently at Chelsea but impressively plying their trade elsewhere. That includes Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Tammy Abraham to name just a few of that generation.

          The previous generations

          Chelsea have often been heavily criticised for letting their players go without giving them much opportunity, loaning them out too regularly or not giving them adequate first-team chances at all, anywhere.

          There is still the remnants of that unhelpful policy at Chelsea with 26 year-old Lewis Baker now still in the squad, unable to be sold or loaned out and nowhere to go or play. Charly Musonda would be another example of that. 

          Before this influx of players into the first-team, a process that was majorly progressed and helped by Frank Lampard when Chelsea were under a transfer embargo, John Terry was the most recent Chelsea player to come through Cobham and have a regular and meaningful contribution to the first-team. 

          ©Getty / Thananuwat Srirasant

          Bertrand Traore, Gael Kakuta, Declan Rice, Ryan Bertrand, Nathan Ake and Ola Aina are all other players that will feel they could’ve contributed more than what they were eventually allowed. 

          The next generation

          Now the academy is handled differently and the pipeline into the first-team is more obvious, the next generation will expect to be able to imprint themselves at a senior level.

          Some of those players coming through include the likes of Conor Gallagher, currently on loan at Crystal Palace. 
          The loan system has worked for Chelsea, as much as it hasn’t, too. For example, Mason Mount and Reece James both had stellar seasons in England’s second division with Derby and Wigan, respectively.

          In the Championship at the moment, there are players such as Dujon Sterling, Levi Colwill, Jake Clarke-Salter and Juan Castillo. The most exciting prospects, though, outside of Gallagher, remain Billy Gilmour, who Chelsea signed from Rangers at 15, Armando Broja on loan at Southampton and Tino Anjorin on loan at Lokomotiv Moscow.

          ©Getty / Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC

          Cobham’s success is a testament to the financial focus and prioritisation that has been placed upon it and the first-team, and therefore club, are now seeing the rewards of that hard work in their coaching infrastructure at a young level. 

          Chelsea are the current champions of Europe as well as English league leaders – and they’re doing it with a core of youngsters; a daunting prospect for their rivals. 

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