You could tell from Josh McEachran’s face as he came on for his first Premier League game that the young Chelsea midfielder meant business.
The 17-year-old midfield prodigy looked so confident, so assured as he waited on the touchline to replace Ramires, a full Brazil international, in an away match against Manchester City, it was almost like he’d been playing the EPL for years.
There was that intensity in his eyes, the look of a competitor, a winner; something you don’t see all the time in 17-year-olds about to play the biggest game of their lives.
And he wasted no time in showing his quality once he got on the pitch. One of his first few touches was a silky smooth turn that took him out of a tight spot with two City midfielders closing him down. I can’t remember who the two were, but City’s midfield that day included Nigel de Jong, Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry. He has quite a bit of skill and trickery in him, this boy.
But more importantly, he looked absolutely fearless, even against established professionals such as de Jong, Toure and Barry, all of whom were first-team players at the World Cup – though in Barry’s case that doesn’t really count for much.
Anyway, McEachran, born in Oxford, showed lots of mental strength and confidence, which will stand him in good stead as he continues developing as a footballer. Chelsea were 1-0 down but he didn’t shy away from his duties one bit. He kept spraying passes upfield, moved around the pitch cleverly and kept the ball with some neat touches.
The fact that Carlo Ancelotti would send a 17-year-old on as a final substitute, with Chelsea chasing for an equaliser, shows how immensely talented this youngster is.
And if that doesn’t, then this YouTube compilation will. Everybody believes YouTube, right?
And with Frank Lampard ruled out for another two weeks, we might get to see even more of McEachran. I certainly felt he had a greater presence in midfield than Ramires, who still seems to be acclimatising to the Premier League.
Carlo Ancelotti promised he would give youngsters from Chelsea’s world-class youth academy a chance, and he seems to be sticking to his word.
On the bench against City he had McEachran, 17; Dutch left-back Patrick van Aanholt, 20; French starlet Gael Kakuta, 19; and Daniel Sturridge, 21.
Two of them got their chance to shine, McEachran and Sturridge, who replaced a rather bemused looking Didier Drogba. He’s not quite used to getting substituted when Chelsea are pushing for an equaliser.
At the moment, they also have Michael Mancienne on loan at Wolves. The classy centerback has represented England from the U-16s onwards, and he looks like one heck of a prospect.
So the future looks bright for Chelsea at the moment. Their first team is ridiculously strong, they are relatively stable financially, and they are now reaping the rewards of Roman Abramovich’s early investment in the club’s academy system.
And I thought he was just a crazy rich guy who got tired of sports cars and yatchs so he went out and bought a football club. But the way things are looking now, especially with how the other foreign owners in the league have fared, I’d have to say he’s done a pretty damn good job.
Tell us what you think!