Just over a decade after leaving Chelsea, Gus Poyet returned to north London to watch a game at Stamford Bridge and, like everyone else present, he was surprised by the performance of a 17- academy product. year old who had just joined the first team.
“The whole stadium was talking about Josh McEachran after the game,” the former Blues midfielder told Goal. “People were saying he was Guardiola [Fernando] Round bones [Pep] Next”.
“Unfortunately, it did not work out that way – despite having a great career in the league.”
The rumors about McEachran during the first days of his career cannot be overstated. A creative midfielder with extraordinary passing skills and vision, he was praised by almost every coach he played as a youngster – from Brendan Rodgers to Ray Wilkins, Stuart Pearce to Peter Bosz.
With McEachran turning 28 on Monday, many expected him to be on track to secure legendary status at Stamford Bridge at this stage of his career, perhaps even as captain of his club and his country.
Instead, he is a free agent after two years, devastated by injuries in the second-tier meetings he played with Birmingham City.
McEachran joined Chelsea at the age of seven and quickly grew through youth teams, helping the club win the FA Youth Cup in 2009-10 – their first tournament triumph in 50 years.
In addition, he represented England at every level between the U-16 and U-21 Group.
As a youngster, McEachran idolized the brilliant creative midfielders of the early 21st century, telling reporters after a Chelsea friendly in 2011: “Zinedine Zidane was everything, his goals, his touches. He was the complete midfielder. “Now he is retired, I look up to Frank Lampard and Andres Iniesta.”
The Blues coach at the time, Carlo Ancelotti, clearly saw something of those greats at McEachran. The youngster made his first-team debut in September 2010 with a late substitute appearance in a Champions League win over MSK Zilina, making him the first youngest player since the creation of the new format, in 1992.
He made 17 appearances for the first team during the 2010-11 campaign and signed a five-year contract extension over the summer. However, he would only appear on five other occasions for Chelsea.
While Ancelotti believed in McEachran, the successor to the Italian, Andre Villas-Boas did not.
The Oxford-born star was frozen by the first team and pushed to move on loan to several teams. While Villas-Boas did not last long at Stamford Bridge, it is extremely difficult for a young player to impress as he is out of sight in the league, especially at a club like Chelsea, where the managerial market rarely stops spinning.
During McEachran’s formative years, time was running faster than ever. Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho – almost every time McEachran returned from a loan, he would find a new manager waiting for him at Stamford Bridge.
Everyone had their own plans and ideas, based primarily on achieving success as quickly as possible. Giving opportunities to young talents is rarely included in their list.
New Middlesbrough Player of the Year in the 2012-13 season and an FA Cup semi-final appearance for Wigan in 2014 were the highest levels, but a period of bench warm-up at Swansea and a serious injury with Watford hampered his development .
Eventually, McEachran emerged from the loan maze at Cobham and signed for Brentford, where he played 101 games for the first team for four years and was a regular starter when he was capable. However, injuries were always a problem.
Even after he left Brentford, joining the other Birmingham Championship team on a free transfer, he was ruled out for a year from a cruciate ligament injury while he was starting to play regularly.
He ended up parting ways with the club by mutual consent in January after being expelled from the first team squad.
What is probably most tragic about McEachran’s situation is that he could have imitated his icon Zidane if he had not turned down a move to Real Madrid as a youngster.
He told the Daily Telegraph in 2017: “I was 16 years old, at Chelsea, and my agent at the time said: ‘Real Madrid wants you’. That’s unbelievable, isn’t it? At that age.
“I had the opportunity to go to Real Madrid or Man United. Real Madrid had the contract waiting for me and they wanted my whole family to fly, but I said: ‘No, I want to stay at Chelsea’. “I was a Chelsea fan.”
“I just believed in myself that I would get there. “Under Carlon (Ancelotti), when I made my debut I was saying to myself ‘Ah, that was a good choice for me to say no to Real Madrid’, but looking back now, I should not have done it.” he said in the past. /Telegraph/