Sport Soccer

Saturday 19 August 2017

Clifford delight at Ancelotti seal of approval

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

PROMISING IRISH teenager Conor Clifford is looking to finalise a new contract with Chelsea after Carlo Ancelotti delayed a loan move so he can stay with the first team until Christmas.

The highly-rated Dubliner, who captained last year's FA Youth Cup-winning team, had expected to be sent out for first-team experience in this transfer window but Blues manager Ancelotti wants the midfielder to stick around.

"When I go back I'm looking to sign a new contract," said Clifford, who was a member of the Irish U-21 team that enjoyed a 5-0 win over Estonia on Tuesday night. "I've been involved in a few pre-season games and Ancelotti doesn't want me to go on loan yet. He wants me to stay and train with the first team and get experience -- maybe then go out at Christmas.

"My contract is up at the end of the season, so I'm looking at sorting out a contract when I go back."

Clifford admits that the idea of going elsewhere to play senior games did appeal, but he views Ancelotti's decision as a positive with a view towards his long-term prospects.

"I was expecting to do my pre-season and then go out straightaway, but the gaffer didn't want me to do that so I was delighted," said the 18-year-old. "It's good to stay around and train with the best players in the world."

Chelsea are under pressure to promote youngsters from their academy, after investing heavily in youth development in recent years.

They are struggling to find their quota of eight home-grown players for their Premier League squad of 25. Clifford now counts as home-grown, although he doesn't have to be included in the 25 as he is under the age of 21 and can, therefore, be drafted in at any stage.

New Ireland U-21 manager Noel King was thrilled with his team's performance and singled out Anthony Stokes' fine display.

"Anthony was involved in everything. It was an unbelievable performance," said King. "Anthony will be named in the squad for our next games against Switzerland and Turkey if he's not in the senior squad. It depends what happens with them."

Irish Independent

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