Saturday's game against West Brom saw 16 year old Izzy Brown take up a seat on the opposition bench. Why aren't such prospects at Chelsea being given similar opportunities?
Unlike the majority of you, I had heard of Izzy Brown before Saturday and I've been lucky enough to see him play quite a few times as well. I also imagine the majority of you don't have a younger brother who happens to be a team-mate of Brown's at WBA. Fortunately, I do.
I first saw Brown play live just over a year ago at the Under-15's Premiership Nike Cup, basically a big tournament where the best academies in the UK compete for the right to represent the UK at the World Nike Cup which I believe was held in Japan this year. Chelsea were present, so were other prestigious academies such as Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Fulham, Man City and Celtic, amongst a total of 24 teams. Strangely there was no team from the Manchester United academy.
There was however a team from WBA there which included Brown and my younger brother. The WBA team were real underdogs for the tournament, yet they reached the semi finals where they faced Chelsea. Chelsea had won their group comfortably and I was lucky enough to catch a few of their games and one player really stood out for them yet I only knew him as "the big lad who wears number 9".
There's no doubting that Brown had been the star for WBA so far but in the semi final he was completely outshone. Chelsea's no.9 who had caught my eye in the previous games completely dominated the game, I had never seen anything quite like it at youth football. He grabbed both goals and could have had quite a few more if it wasn't for the impressive WBA defending. I later found out that this was in fact Jeremie Boga. Boga's Chelsea went on to lose in the final on penalties to Celtic. They dominated from start to finish but just couldn't get that goal.
Boga joined Chelsea as a 12 year old from ASPTT Marseille. As Guy Hillion explained at the time, it would have been illegal for Chelsea to sign Boga on a transfer, the move was only possible because Boga's father lived and worked in London at the time. After progressing through the youth ranks at Chelsea, Boga made his Under-21's debut just over a year ago in February 2012, he had been 15 for roughly five weeks when he made his debut. He hadn't even represented the Under-18's yet was thrown straight into the Under-21 team. This all happened before he came to my attention at the Nike Cup.
Boga has gone from strength to strength, his performance in the 2-0 victory away at Barcelona in the NextGen Series a personal favourite. Despite being only 16, how long can he continue to put in these fantastic performances without getting anywhere near the first team squad? If Izzy Brown is training with the West Brom first team and occasionally getting on their bench, why can't Boga? He's just one of a number of fantastic prospects who should be being integrated into the first team squad.
Many of you reading this will of course remind me that I am talking about Chelsea FC, a place where the patience and stability needed to integrate promising young players hasn't existed for quite a while now. Which is why it is vital that whoever the next manager is, they are allowed the time to progress and build a squad.
Most of the best prospects at the club are out on loan at the moment which can be be quite annoying at times. I presume I'm not the only one who finds it almost infuriating to watch Torres struggle and to then see Lukaku grab a brace. There's no doubt that his loan move to WBA has been a fantastic move for Lukaku, just bizarre planning by the club to leave Torres as the only real striker for the first half of the season.
Which then prompts the question; why wasn't Feruz given a chance during some of Torres' darkest days? Would it really have harmed the team to bring on a lightning quick striker instead of sticking with a statue upfront for the whole ninety? You never quite know how good a young player is until you throw them into the deep end and quite often the results are surprisingly pleasant.
Whilst there is little hope that any of them will see much first team football for the remainder of the season, I just hope that whoever is in charge next season sits down and has a think about players like Lukaku. I'd rather turn Lukaku into the next Drogba than go and spend £40M on Falcao, it makes financial sense as well as common sense. Surely players like Chalobah, McEachran, Piazon, Ake, Kakuta and maybe even Boga can do a job next season for the first team instead of going out and buying average players like Benayoun.
Di Matteo clearly believed in Bertrand last year and he has gone on to become a valued member of the squad this season, it's about time the rest of the fantastic prospects at the club where shown the same level of faith.