Eddie Newton has a job many people would find to be unenviable, yet at the same time there are plenty who would love to do what he does.
The former Chelsea academy youngster, first team regular, Cup Final goalscorer and Champions League winning Assistant Manager has served as the club’s loanee liaison manager over the last two or three years; a role that means he oversees, directs and deals with any Blues youngster who departs the club on a temporary basis during the course of a season.
It’s a pretty heavy undertaking with upwards of 25 young professionals under his guidance from campaign to campaign, and that in itself has seen his team expand this season, most recently to include Paulo Ferreira being drafted in as his lieutenant. As the 2014-15 season comes to a close, Newton spoke to ChelseaTV’s ‘Inside the Academy’ show to offer his thoughts on how his loan army have fared over the last year.
Patrick Bamford scored nineteen goals for Middlesbrough in a promotion challenge that ultimately fell short, but Newton was very impressed with the England Under-21 international’s progression:
“He’s developed in a lot of ways; we’ve always known that he can score goals but he’s added a bit of physicality to his game and added a bit more hold-up play. He’s more of an intelligent player coming into the pocket, picking up the ball and running in behind. He wasn’t too happy when he first went into the senior ranks when dealing with centre backs coming through him but he’s slowly adjusting to that now, and he’s had a very strong season.
Where’s the next challenge for him? It could be coming back [to Chelsea], or going out to a stronger loan, whether that be a Premier League, a Bundesliga or a La Liga team, I think that would be the next question that will be asked of Patrick; whether he’s able to compete at that level. What I like about his progression is that he went to League One, started there, then he’s made the jump into the Championship, had a couple of loans there and now he’s on the verge of having a big loan deal. He’s had a steady progression, hasn’t tried to jump too quickly and look for the big clubs, and hopefully we’ll find the right club and his progression will keep going in the right direction.”
Another young forward who found the net on a regular basis was Bertrand Traore over at Vitesse, and wherever he ends up playing in 2015-16, he’ll have plenty of options:
“He moved into the nine (centre forward role) from playing out wide and things changed because he’s got the ability to stretch the opposition, to come deep, he’s difficult to pick up. He can go wide, he can drop in the pocket, he can do all sorts, and it flipped their season and his. He’s scoring goals, he’s combining well, he’s setting up other people, and he’s been a focal point. He’s had a fantastic back end of the season and the phone’s been ringing off the hook for him.”
Traore was one of three Chelsea players stationed in Arnhem along with Wallace and Josh McEachran, and it was a rather interesting campaign for the latter; an Englishman taking his career overseas:
“He’s had a good season and that would’ve also gone under the radar. He had fits and starts at the beginning and we’ve been working a lot with him behind the scenes improving his confidence and what he has to do to impress the manager, and in the back end of the season he’s getting a lot of ninety minutes and he’s assisting. We’d still like to see more goals, I think he’s got that ability to turn games, but he’s playing some great stuff in the Dutch League.
He had chances to jump at Christmas and to come back to England but he really dug in and said ‘no, I’m going to stick with this and prove to everybody that I can do it’ and he has done so I’m really pleased for Josh. I hope now that this is the springboard for him to now elevate himself back to where I believe he should be because, in my opinion, he’s one of the most talented British players I’ve seen in a long time and it’s a shame if we let him go to waste.”
McEachran got his break into the first team at Stamford Bridge under Carlo Ancelotti around the same time as the slightly older Gael Kakuta was doing the same and whilst things haven’t worked out so well for the duo, Kakuta has positioned himself well to take a positive forward step in his career this summer as he prepares to move on from Chelsea:
“He’s played 90%+ of their games – not only played but he’s been a vital part of their squad – and he’s produced some good performances. He’s added more assists and goals to his game – he still needs to add more – but he’s adding it to his game in a very difficult league. For me he’s had a very strong loan, he’s matured a lot this season, and I think it’s now for him to go on next season and really certify himself as a talent in Europe.”
He was one of two La Liga loanees this season; the other being Croatian midfielder Mario Pašalić, who jumped straight from Hajduk Split into a more testing environment at Elche. Newton liked what he saw:
“He’s a top player. He suffered a little bit at first with tactics and, shall we say the ‘dark arts’ of senior football. He had to change his style a little bit, became a bit more defensive because Elche aren’t a very strong team in the league, and he had to apply that to his game. You can really see it now, he’s fantastic at breaking up the opposition’s play, starting attacks, and his energy levels are fantastic. The future bodes well for him because he’s had a very strong season in a very difficult league.”
Finally, Newton touched upon Christian Atsu, the Ghanaian winger who endured a frustrating time at Everton but has already agreed a move to Bournemouth for next season.
“It’s been a bit unfortunate for Christian because every time he had his chance it didn’t work out for some reason. He came back from the African Nations on a real high, Everton wanted to use that but he got sick for ten days and it took everything away from him. At the end of the day he stayed strong and he learned a lot; when you go on loan the main aim is to get on the pitch and get minutes but there are life lessons too. He can take a lot away from this season and hopefully add it to next season to come back stronger.”
With so much burgeoning talent coming through the ranks at Cobham, Newton will be busier than ever this summer, and it’s always good to get his thoughts on how his young charges are getting on.