Just under two weeks ago, the new FA Chairman, Greg Dyke set out his vision for the future of the England team. As part of it, he made clear that a change is needed in the philosophy of Premier League clubs for the future of young English talent. He recognised that too many English prospects are being developed in youth academies but are failing to make the grade at the top level. And there is no greater example than Chelsea’s Josh McEachran.
The midfielder made a sudden break into the first team at the age of just 17, making his debut in a substitute appearance against MSK Zilina in the group stages of the Champions League. Under Carlo Ancelotti, he would go on to make a further nine starts and 13 substitute appearances in his debut season. But the manager that showed so much faith in McEachran was sacked in the summer.
Since, loan spells at then Premier League new boys, Swansea City, and Championship side, Middlesbrough have proved unsuccessful. Now back in the Chelsea development squad after failing to secure another loan move, Josh McEachran the once dubbed ‘future of Chelsea’ has become the ‘forgotten man of Chelsea’.
There really is no greater example of the struggles of young English players to break into Premier League first teams (and stay there). All of his managers have spoken highly of him. AVB said his footballing brain is always five yards ahead of everyone else. Former England Under-21 boss, Stuart Pearce, said he has “outstanding talent” comparable with that of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. And Brendan Rodgers described him as an ‘immense talent’.
There is no doubt that McEachran has the potential to be a top footballer, but those who have kept a close eye on his loan spells have begun to question his ability to fulfil it. His ability to play defence splitting passes is there for everyone to see – a clear attribute. But it is all too inconsistent. Whilst one may split a defence, the next may give away possession so cheaply and easily. And he is often caught out on the ball, dwelling on a pass for too long.
That can be taken one of two ways. Either he isn’t going to be the player we all expected and hoped for, or he hasn’t been playing with the calibre of player he needs. After all, what’s the point of having a player who can make creative passes, if his teammates can’t see and anticipate those balls.
McEachran’s Chelsea career isn’t dead – yet. But you get the feeling he is growing increasingly frustrated with the rate at which his career is progressing. What he needs is a loan spell at a Premier League club with a manager ready to give him a full season in the first team – allow him to build consistency in the top flight and get him used to Premier League football. Only that will give Mourinho, the club, the fans and the player himself the clearest indication yet of whether or not he has a future at Chelsea.