Everything appeared to be in place for Josh McEachran’s breakthrough season. Chelsea appointed a young, forward-thinking manager tasked with promoting youth and turning over an aging squad. With the Olympics and European Championships approaching, McEachran and fellow midfield dynamo Jack Wilshire were expected to continue their progress and in turn make their mark at international level this summer.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, another January loan recruit, has been a revelation and has inadvertently left McEachran very much in the shade. After only 215 minutes out of a possible 900, Rodgers felt the need to defend McEachran against claims that he has been a flop at Swansea. “The loan move was more than just games for Josh. It was also about experiencing a new team, city and lifestyle.” Rodgers explained to The Sun last week. “He was 18 when he came and it’s been great for his development. He admitted he was behind with his conditioning. He has fitted in quite easily and he respects how well the other players have been doing so it’s been very difficult.” Despite Rodgers claims to the contrary, McEachran’s progress has stalled.
Despite building a state of the art academy and attempting to recruit some of the world’s finest young talent, it is McEachran that has emerged as Chelsea’s brightest prospect and he was already in situ. Since joining the club as an eight-year-old, he has progressed through the ranks at domestic and international level, winning both the Under-17 European Championships and FA Youth Cup in 2010.
He made four starts last year under Carlo Ancelotti, appearing 13 times from the bench and featuring in four different competitions in a deep-lying midfield role. Under Andre Villas-Boas, he started three Carling Cup ties and was hauled off prematurely on each occasion, introduced late in two league games before heading off to Swansea. Two starts, departing just after the hour in one, plus three substitute appearances under Rodgers is not the sort of impact he would have envisaged, as he remained a spectator for the duration of Swansea’s 3-1 defeat at Spurs on Sunday.
Ancelotti refused to entertain the idea of McEachran departing on a temporary basis while Villas-Boas turned down his request to join Wigan earlier in the season. The latter has been dismissed since his move to Swansea and he will return to the club with a caretaker manager in charge, tasked with impressing whoever inherits the role permanently in the summer. Chelsea’s revolving door policy of hiring and firing managers has certainly hindered McEachran’s progress, whereas Wilshire has benefitted from stability and long term planning at Arsenal.
His potential may be undoubted, but opportunities remain scarce. Stuart Pearce is a confirmed admirer and having spurned Scottish advances, international competition may represent his best chance of demonstrating his celebrated talents in the foreseeable future.
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