Left (Backs) To Fend For Themselves

Hot on the trail of Daniel Philliskirk earlier this week, two more Chelsea youngsters secured loan deals on Thursday.

Neither are new to heading off to temporary homes, although their experiences do differ vastly. Ben Gordon’s second career loan spell will take in a season at Kilmarnock, whilst Ryan Bertrand’s seventh will take him to Nottingham Forest.

Indeed, Bertrand’s arrived on his 21st birthday – quite a feat for one so young. Despite having played extremely well for the majority of his two previous spells in the division – at Reading and Norwich respectively – Chelsea hierarchy clearly felt that he was neither ready for them or the top flight, and instead chose to assign him once more to England’s second tier.

Now yes, the depth at left-back at Stamford Bridge is rather impressive. Not only does the club have the services of the best in the world in the position in Ashley Cole, but they also have a capable deputy in Yuriy Zhirkov.

Paulo Ferreira and Branislav Ivanovic have deputised in the role when necessary, whilst Patrick van Aanholt has developed considerably since arriving in 2007. Even looking at those in the younger years, Aziz Deen-Conteh has shown many signs of potential after just a year as a scholar.

Simply put, Chelsea are looking good in the number three shirt. Unfortunately for Ryan, that makes him the odd man out right now, and so he’s on the move again.

There’s some disappointment in the news, but it’s not necessarily at him being sent out, but rather that he hasn’t been given the chance to step up to the top flight.

An established football league player with England Under-21 experience, he didn’t look out of place during pre-season under Carlo Ancelotti, and whilst Forest are promotion contenders, there’s quite the gulf in class.

He still has work to do if he’s to be good enough for Chelsea but there’s a chance that he begins to stagnate by not testing himself against a higher quality of player.

To make something of a comparison, you need look no further than Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs. A couple of years ago, both players were teenage loanees at Norwich City.

Bertrand was generally considered the more impressive player during their relegation season, but since returning to their parent teams, the fortunes of the pair have differed somewhat.

Whilst Bertrand hasn’t been offered the chance to step up, Arsenal have been prepared to blood Gibbs, and have witnessed him develop into a capable backup for an international defender, an England Under-21 regular ahead of Bertrand, and a name touted as a likely senior call-up by Fabio Capello in the near future.

Of course, there’s a difference in quality between Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, but Gibbs was afforded his opportunity when injury struck, as it often does with the Frenchman. Chelsea’s current incumbent isn’t completely unfamiliar with the treatment table, but we’re still awaiting a competitive appearance in Blue for birthday boy Ryan.

At the other end of the scale, Ben Gordon hasn’t truly taken the steps he would have hoped to at the club since joining from Leeds four years ago, but the former England Under-17 international will hope to make up for lost time this year in Scotland.

His first foray into professional football last season taught him some harsh lessons at Tranmere Rovers, where he struggled to perform, but after a summer where a trial at Willem II in Holland proved unsuccessful, he remains a Chelsea player.

Kilmarnock had a dreadful season in 2009/10 and are looking for better fortunes this year under Mixu Paatelainen. The Finnish boss has indicated that Ben will go straight into the squad with the opportunity to make the left-back berth his own, and that’s a fine chance for the Yorkshireman.

If he can put a full season together and come back with the experience having made him a better player, the move will have been a success.

For Bertrand, success would most certainly have to be returning to Cobham in early January as planned, but, like Jack Cork last season, finding a home in the Premier League for the remainder of the campaign.

He’s capable of it, we’ll just have to be patient to see it happen.

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