Just why do Chelsea feel a reluctance to use reserves?

On the same day that Chelsea had reportedly finally managed to wrap up a £7 million deal for defender Gary Cahill, it had emerged that Andre Villas Boas was beginning to run out of patience for the lack of fertility from his academy and was planning to split the staff and players involved in the reserves from the first team. Villas Boas has become concerned at the lack of quality being produced from the reserve squad and has decided that making them use different facilities than the Cobham main that the full squad have licence to use, is a plan for success.

Despite investing in training facilities and a number of highly rated youngsters such as the likes of Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma, the fact remains that John Terry, back in 1997, is still the last player to emanate from the academy at Cobham and become a first-team regular at Stamford Bridge. It is a worrying trend; Josh McEachran, the England under-21 midfielder, has only managed one Premier League appearance under Villas Boas, despite the manager rejecting his summer request for a loan transfer to Wigan under the premise that he would be promoted to the first team. This has not occurred and in fear of having his progression stifled, he has made a loan switch to Swansea in the hope he will pick up much needed experience under the man who coached the batch of Stamford Bridge youngsters in the Jose Mourinho era, Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers had coached two players in his time at Chelsea that had suffered from the same reluctance to be promoted to the first team that McEachran seems to be on his way to experiencing now. Michael Mancienne, a defender that had represented England at every youth level, only managed four senior appearances at Chelsea before two loan spells to QPR and then three to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He is now in Germany playing for Hamburg and struggling to get into the side. Another victim, Scott Sinclair, who is now a winger for Rodgers at Swansea, only made five Chelsea appearances before being farmed out to, gasp* Plymouth, QPR, Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and then Wigan. He had also been through all England youth set-ups, but was never properly considered for a senior role at Chelsea.

Patrick Van Aanholt, a defender currently still with Chelsea, arrived at the back end of Rodgers’ stay having been scouted from PSV Eindhoven as a 17 year-old. He has gone onto make two appearances for Chelsea in the midst of loan deals to Coventry, Newcastle, Leicester and then Wigan, who have recently terminated his season long loan spell. So why then, are these players being drafted in at such a young age only to be filtered out into the ether when they become the latest youngster who fails to cut the billing? A damning answer to this particular question would be found with Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, the two Leeds academy starlets who were controversially plucked by Chelsea staff for a court-summoned fee of £5 million back in 2006. Justified by high potential, they graduated from the Chelsea academy only for Woods to be released in 2011, last seen on trial at Walsall, while Taiwo, having been on loan spells to Port Vale and Carlisle, made his switch to Brunton Park permanent in 2010 and now plies his trade in the barren lands of League One.

A whole series of players have failed to make the grade at Stamford Bridge having been captured by scouts in Europe. Fabio Borini only made four appearances before a successful loan to Swansea; he now is out of favour at Luis Enrique’s Roma. Jeffrey Bruma was snatched from Feyenoord, only to make four appearances before ensuing loans to Leicester City and now currently at Hamburg, Gael Kakuta came from France with a massive billing, with Chelsea even risking dramatic FIFA sanctions on acquiring his signature as a youth, but has only played six times for the blues, whilst being granted loan spells to Bolton, Fulham and now back to France with Dijon. Probably the most tragic case of all is Miroslav Stoch, a Slovakian midfielder who was plucked from his domestic Nitra by Chelsea at the head of a long-line of interested European clubs. Yet, it didn’t all go to plan; he made four Chelsea appearances in three years, before being sent to Steve McClaren’s Twente on loan. He now plays for Fenerbache in the backwaters of European football.

Of course, it is not only Chelsea who are guilty of a lack of willingness to put faith in reserve. Manchester United have decided to install their backing, rather desperately, in the ageing legs of Paul Scholes, while Darron Gibson, a recent product of their renowned talent conveyor belt at Carrington, has been shipped off to Everton. Paul Pogba, the French midfielder who is attached to a load of hype and reputation at 18, has failed to make a single league appearance for the Red Devils and with his contract up in the summer, looks to be on his way as he grows frustrated with a lack of first team opportunities. The same applies to Ravel Morrison, again a product of hype after a series of impressive youth team performances; he has also grown tentative at a lack of first team chances having only made three league cup appearances each as a substitute.

So, as Chelsea sit contented with Gary Cahill, who has apparently signed an £80,000-a-week contract, it is his England team-mate that stands next to him that serves as the unhealthy reminder of the folly that is the Chelsea production system. They will be hoping that the likes of Connor Clifford and Jacob Mellis can become the next John Terry instead of the next Michael Mancienne, but that already seems unlikely as Andre Villas Boas resigns himself to the fact that this latest batch may not be quite good enough. Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lakaku are on the fringes of the squad after being brought in from overseas, but it is the latter who sums up all what is wrong. His £13-£18 million fee to bring him from Anderlecht; who needs hard graft with the reserves when you can chuck gold at overseas ready-mades?