Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has said that the club’s transfer ban, which prevented the club bringing in any new signings this summer, is not the reason that their young players are finally been given a chance in the first team.
Homegrown forward Tammy Abraham is currently the Premier League’s leading goalscorer, while fellow youngsters Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have also made a considerable impact, with Callum Hudson-Odoi returning from injury recently.
Chelsea have dominated English and European youth football in recent years, but prior to Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s return from a loan at Crystal Palace and then Hudson-Odoi’s emergence last season, the last academy graduate to command a regular first-team place was John Terry, but Lampard has stressed that this season’s new focus wasn’t born out of necessity.
“You see my belief in [the young players],” he said, via Chelsea's official website. “Everyone says it is due to the transfer ban and it is the only option I have but that is not true. I have lots of options in the squad. The players have shown and I believe in them but we must not get carried away that this is the end of the story, because it is a nice story until now but success in the longer term is what we have to work for. It is just the beginning of the road.”
Lampard has welcomed the comparisons that have been made between his team and Tuesday night’s Champions League opponents Ajax over the way that young players have been given an opportunity and flourished at Stamford Bridge this season.
Ajax’s reputation of youth development is of course long established. The Amsterdam club famously won the Champions League in 1995 with a team of young players that had emerged from the youth ranks, while there were flavours of that in a run to the semi-finals last season.
Lampard admitted there is still a ‘long way to go’ before the Ajax comparison fully rings true, but revealed that there is ‘pride in the short-term’.
“It is great, the good feeling at the club in terms of the young players who have come through," he said. "It is long-deserved recognition for the academy and those players."