‘There’s too much of a no man’s land between youth level and the first team’: Prophetic Frank Lampard interview from 2010 surfaces in which Chelsea boss reveals his concerns about prospects of academy stars
- Chelsea TV interview from 2010 shows Lampard concerned about prospects for young players in the club’s academy
- Lampard, then a Chelsea player, says there is a gap between the youth ranks and the first-team and describes it as a ‘pet hate’
- He mentions Josh McEachran, an academy star who couldn’t hold down a first-team place and was sent out on five loan spells
- As Chelsea coach this season, Lampard has placed his faith in young players
- Likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have impressed
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard described the gap between the club’s academy and first team as a ‘no man’s land’ in a prophetic interview nine years ago.
Lampard, appointed in the summer, has given youth its chance amid a transfer embargo at Stamford Bridge with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori flourishing this season.
And the former midfielder, so intimately involved with the club during 13 years there as a player, spoke candidly about the issues aspiring players faced long before he became manager.
An interview Frank Lampard gave to Chelsea TV in 2010 has surfaced in which the then midfielder expresses concerns over the first-team prospects of academy players
Lampard says there is a ‘no man’s land’ between the youth levels and the first team at the club
With the club under a transfer embargo, Lampard has put his faith in youth with some success
In the interview with the club’s in-house channel Chelsea TV, Lampard said: ‘It’s one of my biggest pet hates at the minute in football.
‘I think the structure is all wrong below the first-team level for the young boys. For me, there’s too much of a no man’s land between youth level and the first team.
‘It is only the very good – Josh McEachran – who can play and train with us every day.
‘He is training at a level that I think is really beneficial because you can gauge what level you are at.
‘I think there should be a more regular level of reserve football. There are a lot of other lads between the ages of 17 and 20 years of age who are just not playing.
‘I think they can lose motivation, lose sight of what they want to be and lose that match fitness, you’re not learning, you learn through playing games.
Lampard mentions Josh McEachran in the interview, a talented academy player who cracked the first team briefly but wasn’t able to maintain his place
As coach, Lampard has given plenty of chances to academy graduates like Tammy Abraham
‘For me, the system is wrong and I don’t know the full answer but I want them playing football games.’
McEachran was one of the gems of the Chelsea academy around that time and made 22 first-team appearances for the club before being sent out on five loan spells over four seasons. He eventually joined Brentford and is now at Birmingham City.
Chelsea have been incredibly successful at youth level over the past decade, winning regular Youth Cups and the UEFA Youth League twice, but a regular criticism was that few academy hopefuls progressed to the first team.
However, Lampard has sought to change this since taking over from Maurizio Sarri before the start of the season, his hand forced in part by the transfer embargo imposed on the club.
Midfielder Mason Mount is another homegrown player nurtured by Lampard this season
Defender Fikayo Tomori has featured regularly and impressed in Chelsea’s defence
Striker Abraham, 22, has scored 11 goals and contributed four assists in all competitions this season, earning himself England recognition.
Mount, 20, has shone in Chelsea’s midfield, scoring four times, and has also put himself in firm contention for England inclusion at Euro 2020.
Tomori, 21, has proved solid in defence for Chelsea, while Callum Hudson-Odoi, 19, has been excellent since returning from injury.