Exploring the Chelsea Farm

Exploring the Chelsea Farm

They call it The Farm. Chelsea’s non-stop youth production line keeps on pumping out the talent.
The only problem? Very little of it actually benefits the Blues.
During the Roman Abramovich era, Chelsea might have spent more than £1billion on new signings but they’ve also invested in some seriously impressive youth facilities.
And, in age-group football, and with occasional exceptions and now only threatened by Manchester City, they became all-conquering.
Put it this way, since 2007, Chelsea’s kids have won the FA Youth Cup six times and reached two further finals. They are the current champions of the Under 18 Premier 2 development league and have won two of the four UEFA Youth League competitions staged since 2013.
Yet precious few of these precocious teenage talents have made inroads into the first team at Stamford Bridge.
In fact, when their names are mentioned, you might more quickly associate them with another club.
Hear Nathan Ake? Think Bournemouth. Tammy Abraham? Bristol City. Izzy Brown? Huddersfield Town. Andreas Christensen? Borussia Monchengladbach.
Between them, fewer Chelsea appearances than Hilario – the Portuguese third-choice goalkeeper whose role at the club never seemed to progress beyond cheerleader and all-round nice bloke.
Instead of being given a clear pathway to the senior side, Chelsea appear happy to pay the relatively low fees to train young players – often ripping talent from lower league sides on the cheap thanks to the vainglorious Elite Player Performance Plan – before selling on before their 23rd birthday.
This is not youth development. This is profit boosting.
This is farming. These kids are cattle.
In a recent interview, the club’s youth development manager Neil Bath admitted that Chelsea see it necessary for first-team players to have 100 first-team appearances elsewhere to their names before they stand a chance of becoming a fully fledged Blue.
Obviously that can’t be achieved by their own youngsters in West London so they’re shipped elsewhere and, should a better option present itself in the transfer market, they’ll drop one notch lower on the waiting list. And another notch. And another. Until they’re sold.
Still, it all works out for the Blues. Money keeps dropping in the account as more and more of their reject youngsters moves on. In the past eight months, that’s been more than £60million as Ake joined Nathaniel Chalobah, Patrick Bamford, Bertrand Traore and Christian Atsu in giving up on life at the Bridge.
Chelsea don’t see it as failure that these footballers leave. They see pounds signs and the evening up of balance sheets.
Their manager, Antonio Conte, recently claimed that players would get their chance if they showed patience and commitment.
Chalobah had been at the club for more than a decade and played less than a dozen times. Calling that out as impatience is like branding the Queen unpatriotic.
The process shows no sign of stopping. Right now there are 22 Chelsea players out on loan and there’s still a month of the transfer window remaining. The summer has been jam packed with PR missives detailing players being tied to long contracts and then sent out to pasture.
And while they’re grazing, their one-season clubs will benefit from them and their temporary fans with take to them… but all that does is increase their value. And only one club cashes in. And they do cash in – over and over again.
That is the relentless slaughterhouse that is the Chelsea Farm.

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