Michael Mancienne’s often been touted as a future England star during his rise through the Chelsea ranks. Despite being now an established Under-21 international, pretty much nobody, including Michael himself, would have expected the debut senior call-up to arrive this Saturday night for Wednesday’s friendly in Germany.
Fortunately for Mancienne, Fabio Capello is one of the very few who perhaps did think that, and on the advice of Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce, has called up the young centre-back up due in part to injuries, but also in no small part due to merit. Mancienne has been in outstanding form on loan at Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, and has been England’s best defender in the youth teams this season.
Inevitably, this piece will now end up as a biography of Mancienne’s career, but it’s perhaps necessary for England fans scratching their heads at the news. He joined Chelsea at the age of ten and made superb progress through the junior age groups all the way up to the more key levels of Under 16 and Under 18 football. As regular captain of his youth teams his natural ability shone through brightly, a particular trait of his game being the desire and ability to bring the ball out of defence to transition into midfield. It was this part of his game, combined with his appearance, that lent early comparisons to one Rio Ferdinand.
After cementing a place as a reserve regular (for which he made his first appearance whilst still at school) and appearing briefly as an unused substitute under Jose Mourinho, the next step was to look for a loan move. Queens Park Rangers, long-time Chelsea rivals, stepped to the fore and took Michael on an initial short-term loan. He initially slotted into their defence at right-back and impressed enough for the deal to eventually become a season-long affair. He also managed to win over the majority of Rangers fans, who were initially not best pleased at an association with the Blues.
After returning to Chelsea for pre-season in 2007, signing a new long-term contract, he headed back to Loftus Road for a full season from the off, mixing time between right back and his preferred centre back roles. He also made the step up to the England Under 21 squad in August of that year and made his debut as a substitute against Romania.
A successful season in the heart of QPR’s defence gave him the opportunity to impress for the Three Lions, where he quickly established himself as a key player in their run to qualification for next summer’s Finals. He returned to Chelsea once more in 2008, featuring in Reserve pre-season, and in the process making a welcome return to playing in a Chelsea shirt. A reported loan move to Bristol City was scuppered by injuries in the Blues defence and he was recalled to once again serve as a substitute for the first team.
With the return to fitness of Alex and Ricardo Carvalho, Mancienne was allowed to join Wolves on a two-month loan, where he has slotted in alongside Richard Stearman to shore up what was a problematic defence for a team where the goals flowed at both ends. His work in old gold and black, and public kind words from Pearce, have led to the next stage of his career – a senior international call-up.
So where from here? With Rio Ferdinand out injured, there’s a starting place up for grabs for the game in Berlin. Mancienne is the rank outsider competing against Curtis Davies, Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott, but may ironically benefit from a knock to team-mate and the last Chelsea academy graduate to become an England regular, captain John Terry. John left the field prematurely in the win at West Brom and had an ice pack on his foot. If he isn’t to be risked in Germany, the chances of Michael Mancienne becoming a full international before making a senior Chelsea appearance improve.
And who’d have thought that yesterday morning. Congratulations Michael.