Football News

Former Chelsea director reveals he had to fight to save club’s academy

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:06, 8 October 2019

Former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo has revealed he had to fight to save the club’s academy in a meeting with owner Roman Abramovich.

The Blues boast arguably one of the best academies in England having won the FA Youth Cup seven times in the past 10 years, including five in a row between 2014 and 2018.

Was Chelsea’s academy close to being defunded? Five things to know…

  • Chelsea have one of the best academies in England, winning seven FA Youth Cups in 10 years.
  • The Blues have previously come under criticism for under-using their academy players.
  • So far this season Chelsea have used six academy products under Frank Lampard
  • But former Chelsea director Michael Emenalo has revealed an ex-manager said the academy was not necessary.
  • Emenalo had to put a presentation to Roman Abramovich in favour of the academy, with the Chelsea owner agreeing to keep it going.

While in the past Chelsea’s academy products have had to deal with frustration with regards to first-team opportunities, this season as seen the Blues utilise its success.

Under Frank Lampard, combined with the club’s transfer ban, Chelsea have already seen six academy products make appearances with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Andreas Christensen playing significant roles so far.

Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi have also made appearances in returns from injuries, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek will play a big role upon his return from a lengthy injury spell later in the season.

But Emenalo has revealed all this success could have been missed, with a former manager aiming to get the club to stop pushing money into its academy.

“I defended the academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism,” he told the Telegraph.

“There was a time when there was a clamour to do more and a manager came in to make a presentation to say the academy was not necessary.

“The argument was it takes too long, we don’t have time, we should use it to make some money here and there, and that the owner should stop pumping money into it because it seemed like a waste.

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“But that wasn’t my idea and I had to fight against it. This is where I am very, very proud of the owner Roman Abramovich because of the trust he had in me and the willingness to listen to me and give the academy time. He would not abandon it.

“He believed in it and in me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”

Emenalo: Chelsea were looking at Barcelona-style culture

Although there have been some doubts about Chelsea’s use of younger players this season, Abraham, Mount and Tomori have scored 13 of the Blues’ 18 Premier League goals.

Abraham leads the way with eight – the joint-most in the Premier League – while Mount has contributed four and Tomori, one. Hudson-Odoi has also contributed with two assists since his return, and Emenalo believes the club are building a Barcelona-like culture.

“The policy was always to have the players grow together and to grow the culture,” he added.

“You saw it at Barcelona with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. You get a real culture of boys who understand and care about the club. Look at the celebration at Southampton.

“The first two who arrived to Tammy were Mount and Hudson-Odoi. Then when Mount scored, it was Tammy and Hudson-Odoi. Tomori couldn’t get up the pitch fast enough!

“You build a really, really wonderful football culture. A Chelsea culture and this is where identities come from and these guys will play and care for this club for years and years and years to come.

“It’s amazing what is unfolding.”