Homegrown prospect McEachran the pick of Chelsea's young guns
Chelsea have spent £62m on building a new academy and filling it with top young talent since Roman Abramovich's takeover seven years ago, but it could yet prove that the pick of the crop is an English boy who was at the club all along.
Josh McEachran is likely to feature for Chelsea against Newcastle in tonight's Carling Cup tie, which Frank Lampard is going to miss.
If McEachran is not in the starting XI then he is expected to come on from the bench and play some role in the game.
The 17-year-old from Oxfordshire played 11 minutes in the 4-1 Champions League victory over MSK Zilina last week, and friends and family are keeping fingers crossed he will see a little more action tonight, with manager Carlo Ancelotti promising to play his youngsters in the Carling Cup this season.
"It is a good experience for them to play this kind of game," Ancelotti said. "They are involved this season more compared to last season and when there is an opportunity I want to give them the opportunity to play and show their quality."
McEachran is rated highly by Ancelotti, who has decided not to send the young midfielder out on loan -- as had seemed likely after Chelsea's victory in the FA Youth Cup last season.
He followed that up in the summer with a starring role for the England U-17 team that won the European Championships, and has been rewarded with a place in Chelsea's first-team squad, instead of a year at a Championship club.
McEachran was spotted, aged eight, playing for Garden City Boys Club in the Oxford junior leagues. He joined the Chelsea academy and for several years juggled his football education with his more formal schooling at Marlborough School, Woodstock.
Lesley Malloch, head of PE at Marlborough, said McEachran was a modest boy who rarely spoke about his life with Chelsea.
"He was a phenomenal player, a different class to everyone else," she said. "But Josh is quiet, I guess he is a bit shy. But he was also incredibly modest and never spoke about football unless you asked him."
That modesty was continued on the school football pitch where he largely kept his talent hidden, unless it was absolutely necessary.
Ms Malloch said: "He scored from the half-way line with semi-regularity, or could dribble round the opposition to score, but only if we were losing. He never showed off unless the team really needed him."
The teacher expressed the hope that fame will not take its toll on the teenager, who signed a three-year contract in July. "I don't see him turning into a brat but you never know. You don't know what that kind of money will do," she said. "But he has good support and I like to think it won't change him much."
McEachran has also been promoted to the England U-19 squad. Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, said: "Josh is a left-footer, really good on the ball, and sees a pass.
"You've got to decide where to play him -- he can play wide or tucked in. He also has a good attitude." (Independent News Service)