Dominic Solanke hoping for a bright future at Chelsea
Published 15/01/2016 | 18:06
Dominic Solanke is determined to buck the trend by breaking through at Chelsea - a realistic ambition if his progress at Vitesse Arnhem is anything to go by.
The 18-year-old, named England's Youth Player of the Year for 2014, has taken the well-trodden path from west London to the eastern edge of Holland in a bid to improve his chances of a place in the Blues' first-team.
Chelsea's strong ties with the Eredivisie club have seen Nemanja Matic, Christian Atsu and Patrick van Aanholt, amongst many others, spend time at the GelreDome in recent years, with Solanke part of a quintet currently on loan to Vitesse.
Jose Mourinho was reluctant to send the striker out on loan for fear his development could be stunted, but the former Chelsea manager's fears have been allayed by the teenager's steady progress in Arnhem.
"It has been really good - it has actually been quite nice," Solanke told Press Association Sport.
"It is a good place for me to come and develop, so I am happy at the moment. It is a really good place and the facilities are really good.
"It is all about winning - you've got to do whatever you can to win."
Solanke is one of the youngest strikers to be playing regularly in a top European league and has netted five goals in 15 appearances to date - a goal ratio he is determined to improve when the Eredivisie resumes this weekend.
The goals may not be flowing as easily as previous seasons but the striker is thoroughly enjoying his time in Holland, even if he laughed somewhat embarrassedly when admitting he has yet to pick up much Dutch.
The fact fellow England youth internationals Lewis Baker and Izzy Brown are also on loan at Vitesse has no doubt hindered his linguistic progress but helped the transition to living and played abroad.
"With me moving countries for a while at a young age, it is always going to be difficult," Solanke, part of the Under-17 side that won the 2014 European Championship, said.
"But it helps to have some of your close friends around, so it is good that we're all here together.
"We've all got our own places but we're all quite a close distance to each other, so we can always get to each other quite quickly."
That close bond extends beyond Arnhem, where Nathan and Danilo Pantic are also on loan, to the swathe of players currently away from Chelsea, with a specially set-up WhatsApp group helping them maintain contact.
"We're all quite close together and everyone supports each other at the club," Solanke said.
"The club is like a family so everyone is always finding out how everyone is getting on. It's nice to have people at the club supporting you as well."
The truth is that many of those out on loan will not cut it at Stamford Bridge, where John Terry remains the last player to break through and become a genuine first-team star.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is currently knocking on the door and Solanke also looks well-placed to eventually become a regular at the club he joined at Under-8 level.
"I'd like to do it as soon as I can," Solanke, who made his first-team debut in a Champions League tie with Maribor in October 2014, said.
"That's the dream of everyone at the academy - that's why everyone is there.
"That's what everyone is working towards so everyone is trying to do it as soon as possible, but I am keeping my head down, keeping working towards that goal."
Solanke's progress at Vitesse led to a first England Under-21s call-up in November, capping a memorable year in which he won a second successive FA Youth Cup and shot Chelsea to UEFA Youth League glory.
"Winning those competitions meant a lot," he said. "When I was young at Chelsea I watched all the older players winning competitions, so for me to do it was really good.
"The second half of the year I came out to Vitesse and got first-team football. 2015 was a good year and I am learning a lot."
So, with his progress continuing apace and several more months of first-team football ahead at Vitesse, where does Solanke see himself a year from now?
"I am not sure, really - anything can happen in football," he said.
"I'd like to just think I'd be in a better position and be a better player than I am this year.
"Any development will be a positive thing in my eyes."