McEachran’s plight highlights English football’s big problem
He was The Chosen One, The Boy Wonder. Now, at the tender age of 19, he’s in danger of being regarded as a body, human ballast in Chelsea’s 25-man first team squad. If you want to examine the weaknesses of English football, you need only consider the frustrations of Josh McEachran.
He has been at Chelsea since the age of eight, and is precisely the sort of home-grown product they need to justify the ruinous expense of an under-performing academy. Winning the Youth Cup is all very well, but Chelsea need to prove it is possible for players to move through the age groups and into the Premier League.
McEachran has been a pivotal figure as an attacking midfield player in England youth teams, but the received wisdom at Chelsea is that his best – perhaps his only – chance of progressing is as a deep-lying playmaker, in the mould of Andrea Pirlo. He has the footballing brain and range of passing to do so, but lacks maturity and defensive discipline.
He remains hugely popular with Chelsea fans, but is in danger of being a victim of yet another short-term splurge in the transfer market. The European champions have spent £70m in fees alone this summer to bring in Eden Hazard and Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay promises another two big signings in the current window. McEachran will, at best, be sent out on loan to develop in isolation.
His six-month spell at Swansea was a huge setback. McEachran failed to break into the midfield three of Leon Britton, Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, and accumulated only 215 minutes in game time over five appearances. Suggestions that he is being used as bait in a move for Wigan’s Victor Moses do not bode well. The alternative, being kept in-house to play in the new under-21 development league, is equally unpalatable.
Players like him will suffer until some form of limit on non-British players is established. Yet self-interest has effectively killed FIFA’s 6+5 initiative, which would have obliged Premier League clubs to field a minimum of six England-qualified players. The Premier League rule that at least eight players in each 25-man roster must be home-grown is well intentioned, but counterproductive.
McEachran should be a star. Instead he’s being left on the shelf. This is unfair and unjustifiable.
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