Chelsea have been swift in getting the ball rolling on the loan front ahead of the 2013-14 season, with moves already secured for Thibaut Courtois, George Saville and Todd Kane announced this week.
With well over thirty different players taking in a temporary experience elsewhere last season, it’s a central part of the development process at the club and whilst many of those are likely to embark upon a now familiar journey again over the next ten months, they’ll be joined by a group of players for whom it will be an adventure into the unknown.
Here’s a look at five youngsters who are in the frame to get their first taste of professional football next season.
The giant goalkeeper will turn 20 early in the season (October) and is currently fresh off the high of playing for the first team during their post-season tour of the United States. Whilst there’s no rush with goalkeepers, who typically have a longer development curve, he’s at that stage where it will benefit him to compete amongst adults. Sam Walker went out on loan for the first time at roughly the same age and having had a full season of Under-21 football to his name, an initial short stay at a League One club could help bring along some of the less refined areas of his game much quicker.
Injuries have not been his friend, but he did manage to play fourteen times last season, good enough to make it his third best season in terms of appearances since first appearing on the scene. Somehow still only 19, he has to put together a long run of games at some point but much like Sam Hutchinson, he’s only going to make the next step if he can stay fit and test himself on a regular basis. A loan move would expose him to that sort of schedule and be a make-or-break moment for him, and having caught the eye on Ghana Under-20 duty this summer, he could easily do a job for many a football league side.
Lewis is only 18 and will be so for much if the season and is therefore a tad younger than most players heading out of Cobham on loan, but he proved himself ready last season by becoming an Under-21 standout who deserved a chance at the sort of first team minutes afforded to Nathan Aké. His midfield influence led the youth team to NextGen Series and FA Youth Cup Finals whilst his ascent to Dermot Drummy’s ranks saw him tally fourteen goals in all competitions as well as a slew of assists. He absolutely has the quality to be an effective influence for a Championship club and if the Blues are considering a move for him, it must be no lower than that level.
Ruben finds himself in a similar position to that which Nathaniel Chalobah did at this time last season. He goes into the campaign as a 17 year-old midfielder who won’t turn 18 until midway through the season but is nonetheless in need of a challenge which will take his game to new highs. True, Nathaniel had more reserve and Under-21 outings under his belt by the same stage – almost twice as many – but Ruben would conceivably have bridged that gap were it not for an injury-hit 2011-12 season. He’s arguably a more polished physical specimen and having shone so brightly against Manchester City in May, a number of Championship clubs will have sat up to take notice. If he isn’t to be given a long look by Jose Mourinho this term, expect him to explode onto the professional game in some form elsewhere. He’s ready.
The only one of this quintet with competitive Chelsea appearances to his name, Nathan’s forays into the first team last season showed that he is ready to play, but yet needs the right environment to round off some rough edges. Having very much moved back into midfield after a long spell at centre-back in the youth ranks, he possesses some excellent traits but can be found wanting defensively, particularly with regards his positioning and off the ball awareness. A spell away and 40-odd games will do wonders for him and a mooted link-up with Vitesse Arnhem strikes many as the ideal place for him to get just that.