To finish this week’s look at the key performers of the youth and reserve season so far we have a double-header, and fittingly it’s with the season’s outstanding pair to date. Jeffrey Bruma and Fabio Borini have both made their senior professional debuts for the club this season and have outlined that the club does have an academy which is producing high-calibre players, and they’ve both fully deserved their chances to boot.
For Bruma, it’s an outstanding achievement for a player who doesn’t turn 18 for another fortnight, but one which has followed his career progression to date. Playing for the Reserves as a schoolboy after an outstanding youth campaign before he was even of scholarship age, his development has long been ahead of the curve and it’s seemed a question of when and not if he would make his senior bow. Working his way into the Dutch Under-21 picture this season, and starting regularly in their qualifiers, he was called upon for the League Cup clash with QPR earlier this season and was apparently due to start, but the presence of England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce in the crowd led to Sam Hutchinson being given the nod.
Hutch’s latest injury however gave Jeffrey another chance. A semi-regular on the bench – especially in Europe where the absence of Alex and Bosingwa left holes to be filled – he finally made his bow against Blackburn Rovers last Saturday. In a 25 minute cameo alongside John Terry he looked confident and assured, and will be hoping for further opportunities of a similar ilk. His reserve performances this season have been commanding – his first game with the captain’s armband in the reserves against West Ham was emphatic as he dominated throughout, even alongside senior partner Alex. He has even been developing his all-round game, and possesses a dangerous free-kick which perhaps unusually for a central defender isn’t all about power, but finesse and skill. For Bruma, that’s no surprise – it just reflects his game.
Fabio Borini meanwhile has made a rapid ascension since the start of the 2008/09 season. His first season in England – 07/08 – wasn’t spectacular. He found the net a few times but looked out of place and on the periphery of a game, and not much of a prospect. However, since then he has flourished, and with a lot of hard work on his part and that of the coaching staff (especially Paul Clement) he is well adapted to the English game and is as good a goalscorer as Chelsea have had in the lower ranks since Carlton Cole at the turn of the decade. A goal-per-game ratio in the Under-18s last year led to a Reserve promotion where he continued to score, taking his place in that squad permanently this year. A prolific pre-season and start to this season followed, but his aim of ending up in the first team squad by the end of the season was to come to be much earlier than anyone expected.
With Didier Drogba suspended in Europe and Daniel Sturridge struggling with injury, Borini was called into the European squad, and assigned the number 45 shirt (which we’re assured he likes, since 4+5 = 9). He hasn’t featured in the Champions League yet but did get his debut in the final minutes of the league stroll against Spurs, before getting his first start against QPR. He had two or three fine chances to mark the occasion with a goal but luck conspired against him. His hard-working, tenacious and busy game is always a hassle for defenders, and his predatory instincts have never been better. His first Reserve outing following his senior bow saw two cracking finishes against West Ham, and he has also been off captaining and scoring for the Italian Under-19 team.
For both players the dream has started to become a reality this season. They will both know that this is just the start of the long road to the top, and must both work hard to continue to earn their chances. There’s little doubt they have the talent, and from what we’ve seen so far, they have the application.