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What's the point?! Why infamous Chelsea loan system past use-by-date

COMMENT: Dermot Drummy blew the place up this week. The former Chelsea youth guru slamming the club's famed (or is that infamous?) loan system.

Drummy, now in charge of Crawley Town, spoke with the Daily Express about his concerns over Chelsea's treatment of their young players, essentially branding the pathway a dead end.

On his lively Twitter account, he's gone further: "Absolutely no point in investing in youth if you don't have the b***s to promote. Chelsea Academy have produced. Take the risk."

And we can say Drummy has taken "the risk", as this rant comes from a manager who actually has two Chelsea players on the books - Mitchell Beeney and Alex Davey. Now that's bottle.

But who can blame Crawley's manager, five years coaching inside Chelsea's youth system, when you examine the state of the club's loan arrangements today?

In the beginning, it was genius. A ground-breaking way to identify and secure some of the world's best young players, avoiding Michel Platini and UEFA's draconian Financial Fair Play laws in the process. A young player would be signed, his football education and wages the responsibility of another club. And he would eventually pull on a Chelsea shirt the finished article. In the muggy world of quotas and audits, created by Platini and his cohorts, this was the system to keep Chelsea competitive.

But with FFP now watered down and Platini a sorry memory, the scheme deserves more than just fresh scrutiny. The blueprint needs to be ripped up. It's not a case of it simply being broken, the system is actually working against the club's best interests.

We've been critical of Thibaut Courtois in this column. His constant pining for Spain, a real slap in the face for those at Chelsea who have performed somersaults to keep the Belgian happy. From dumping a club legend. To sidelining a long time coach. Chelsea have done it. All to meet the whims of their goalkeeper. And yet, that still isn't enough to prevent him from continually talking up life in Madrid and his admiration for Real and Atletico.

Infuriating, right? He deserves both barrels. After all, he's been a Chelsea player for over five years now...

Problem is, Courtois is only inside his third season with Chelsea. He's actually spent a longer period of his Blues career in Spain, with Atletico Madrid. It was with Atleti where he won titles and reached a Champions League final. His greatest memories and friendships forged inside that locker room at the Vicente Calderon.

He'd never experienced the same at Chelsea. He hadn't won an FA Youth Cup. He'd never mixed with Chelsea staff. He'd never met the canteen ladies. He knew nothing of the culture of the club until, two years ago, he was ordered back by Jose Mourinho and Michael Emenalo. Is it any wonder he has split loyalties?

And at the other end of the gamut is Andreas Christensen, now in his second-year of a two-season loan at Borussia Monchengladbach. An arrangement put together without any recall clause. Way to make a player feel wanted...

Christensen is someone who knows the Chelsea culture. Who has won titles at youth level in a Blues shirt. He knows the staff by their first name. He's a Dane, but he's Chelsea through-and-though. Well, he was...

Because now Christensen is leaning towards staying with Gladbach. And again, who can blame him? If the lack of a recall option wasn't bad enough, the Dane has had to read about Chelsea failing with offers for Niklas Sule of Hoffenheim and Andrea Romagnoli of AC Milan. Both can be regarded as Christensen's peers. And it's not as if he hasn't held up his side of the bargain. Last season, at 19, he finished the club's Player of the Year - ahead of then Gladbach captain Granit Xhaka, now of Arsenal.

You can be sure Eddie Newton, Chelsea's chief manager of all 38 players they have out on-loan, will be saying the right things to Christensen. But is that enough? Especially when he's reading about Antonio Conte's centre-half shopping spree.

Drummy touched on it this week: "What's the point?"< p> What is the end game of Chelsea's loan system? Is it now just financial? The bottom line? Buy a young player, have him develop elsewhere and sell him on for a profit? Or is there a plan in place to bring these young players through to the first team?

If it's the latter, then where's the evidence? Chelsea fans have every right to question why Christensen at Gladbach and Juan Cuadrado at Juventus are playing Champions League football, while they're watching their team scrambling to stay in the top half of the table.

And what of the players? Courtois aside, where's the evidence that any of this will work? For over five years now, from when Piet de Visser first identified and recommended a generation of Belgian whizkids to Roman Abramovich, this loan system has been in place. But there's no poster boy. No flag bearer proving that this is in the best interests of the club and player.

For the sake of Chelsea's culture. It's team spirit. The whole thing needs a shake-up. And a purpose. Because at the moment, Chelsea's loan system is failing the club, the players and the fans.


INJURY TIME

During Dermot Drummy's explosive interview, the Crawley manager revealed he recommended Lewis Baker to then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

"Lewis Baker [on loan at Vitesse Arnhem] is a very good player. I said to Jose Mourinho, 'You will need to tell him he's good'. Does the manager have time for that?"

If there's a player to prove the value of what Chelsea's youth coaches are doing, it's Baker.

Now in his second season on-loan at Vitesse, Baker has been a Chelsea player since nine years of age. Before Vitesse, he'd known nothing else but Chelsea's coaching.

And in Holland, after just a couple of months, Dutch coaches were going public with their plaudits for Baker's technique, his ability to play on both sides of his body and his tactical awareness.

Yes, Holland! The land of total football, Cruyff, Michels and all that! They were climbing over eachother to highlight the development of Baker.

As Drummy says, it isn't the youth coaching that's the problem at Cobham.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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