By now you’ll likely have seen news emerge that Jose Mourinho is said to have sought out comprehensive coverage of those plying their (admittedly youthful) trade on the other side of the road from the first team building at Cobham.
The Special One is said to have taken a keener interest than expected in some of the Blues’ budding young footballers with a view to integrating some of them in his plans ahead of the new season. But what exactly can we take away from this?
For the most part, it’s nothing more than due diligence and the sort of work you’d expect of most new managers when they start at a club. True, it appears to have been beyond the majority of those who have sat in the very hot Stamford Bridge seat since Jose was last in town, but at the very least it’s what we would have expected from the man himself; meticulous and attentive to the finer details.
However, we also know that whilst the chances of any considerable involvement for those in the Under-21 and Under-18 squads are slim, there are preseason tour places up for grabs and, as is Mourinho style, the potential of a Cup outing or two early in the season.
The usual faces are said to have caught the eye – Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Baker, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Aké – whilst Milan Lalkovic and Jamal Blackman have also been touted as subjects of interest.
They’re all capable of being involved to certain degrees, with Chalobah’s experience at Watford last season putting him in the ascendancy for any involvement going forwards. Loftus-Cheek and Aké both impressed in late season action and bring useful assets to the table, and there are a cluster of other players who are easily capable of making the Portuguese sit up and take notice.
Do you not think that the eyes would widen somewhat upon putting on film of Jeremie Boga’s best moments? Would the mind not hasten to draw comparisons between Andreas Christensen and Ricardo Carvalho? The standard of youngster available to Mourinho the second time around is a world removed from what he had at his disposal between 2004 and 2007 and so whilst history may suggest otherwise, some level of integration is a very realistic possibility.
Yes, that integration may only be initially limited to regular training with the first team group (something afforded to academy players as young as 15 over the last decade or so) and the odd cup outing, but for now, that’s how it not only should be, but has to be. We’re all keen to see home-grown prospects press for playing time and ‘make the grade’, and whilst there are undoubted fruits waiting to be reaped, we have to be patient. We can’t expect a Boga to displace an Oscar, or a Christensen to suddenly come along and dismiss the experienced international heads of Cahill and Ivanovic, but we can hope to see them dip their toes in the water with opportunities from which they can develop and earn a longer look.
If nothing else, giving these lads a smattering of on-pitch time boosts the feel-good factor; fans are eager to see what they have to offer and typically afford them more patience than they might ordinarily consider for a more established player. It also gives the manager’s stock a raise, for he’s been prepared to hand out those tasty morsels of first team football and the supporters both recognise and appreciate it.
A little goes a long way and although we all really know that these reports tell us little, it hasn’t stopped the mind from wandering and the imagination from painting all sorts of glorious scenarios. Maybe it’s just an extension of the overwhelming giddiness at once again having a manager we can support.
It’s good to have you back, Jose.