Cork not bitter at Chelsea
Chelsea academy graduate Jack Cork can understand his former club's reluctance to blood young talent, but believes it could cost them in the long run.
Like so many others, the midfielder, who joined the Blues aged nine, impressed in the youth and reserve teams but never got a chance in the first team. Cork was instead farmed out to six different clubs on loan, before permanently leaving Chelsea to link up with Southampton two years ago.
The 23-year-old will face his boyhood club at the end of a week in which Frank Arnesen, the Blues' former director of youth development, accused them of failing to give youngsters a chance. "We had quite a good team, especially when Frank was there and Brendan Rodgers was doing the youth and reserve teams," Saints midfielder Cork said.
"We had a good set of young players that have all gone onto play quite a high standard now so it would have been interesting to see where they would be if they had been given a chance. But at the same time, that was a time when Chelsea were doing really well in every competition they were involved in so I can understand why nobody was really given a chance."
That lack of opportunity meant a number of players slipped through the net, with the likes of Fabio Borini, Miroslav Stoch and Nemanja Matic flourishing only after leaving Stamford Bridge. It has also delayed the development of some players, with Josh McEachran this week admitting his career had stalled before his season-long loan to Middlesbrough.
"You could say Josh is in the same position I was in and is playing his games," Cork said. "It is frustrating when you're at a club like that and hope to play for them and you sort of wish you would be there.
"In reality, it is always going to be hard with the managers coming in and changing. There is always a lot of pressure on them so it is always going to be hard to blood in the youngsters. I can understand what Josh is saying, but you get some great experiences being around some of the best players in the world."
While frustrated never to have appeared for Chelsea's first team, Cork has fond memories of his time training alongside the likes of Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard. He swapped shirts with the latter earlier in the season and remains in awe of the man just two goals away from Chelsea's all-time scoring record.
"He is someone when I was coming through at Chelsea was always playing every game and scoring the goals that were winning titles," Cork said of Lampard.
"Just to be around someone like that and see him work as hard he does every day and as well as he does every game was fantastic. I could not help but get his shirt, really. It is just something I had to do. He is someone I look up to."