This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo has told The Telegraph that he had to fight to keep Chelsea’s academy alive when there was “doubt and pessimism”.
The Nigerian was with the Blues from 2010, first as assistant to then manager Carlo Ancelotti, before moving upstairs to become the club’s technical director.
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Part of his remit was to take care of the club’s academy, and he has said that he had to fight hard to keep the youth system alive following pressure from one manager in particular. He told The Telegraph, “I defended the academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism.
“There was a time when there was a clamour to do more and a manager came in to make a presentation to say the academy was not necessary. The argument was it takes too long, we don’t have time, we should use it to make some money here and there, and that the owner should stop pumping money into it because it seemed like a waste.
“But that wasn’t my idea and I had to fight against it. This is where I am very, very proud of the owner Roman Abramovich because of the trust he had in me and the willingness to listen to me and give the academy time. He would not abandon it. He believed in it and in me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
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However, these comments show that his work with the academy has been totally understated. At the start of his tenure at Stamford Bridge, the club’s 10-year-plan to start producing youngsters for the first team had only just been put into action. And clearly, one unnamed manager – we can speculate as to who that was at another time – was against the heavy investment in youth.
It was always going to be a long project, and it required the patience that Chelsea are ironically unassociated with, particularly in regards to their managers. With so many bosses coming and going, they rarely had the time to wait for the youngsters to progress and be ready for competitive men’s football.
Frank Lampard, though, is different. He appears willing to give the young guns a chance, albeit necessarily due to the transfer ban. But the quality of players is there, and that would not have been the case had Emenalo not overseen their development.
Many supporters will still have bad memories of him, but his legacy may be one of the most important at Stamford Bridge in recent memory. As Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and co make the headlines, Emenalo can be happy with the work he did during his time in SW6; it was crucial to the club’s recent success with youth integration.