La Masia this, Carrington that – it’s all a facade when you realise Cobham has been pumping out young footballing talent around the world for years.
While they don’t always make it at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s academy is mightily impressive and has in the past felt borderline robotic, with the way they churned out young ballers and sent them on loan through Europe before either integrating them or selling them on for a handy profit.
For every Kevin De Bruyne that got away, though, there’s been a John Terry, emerging through the ranks and embodying ‘proper Chels’ in a way that very few can.
The meaning of ‘proper Chels’ appears to have been lost in the wake of Chelsea’s post-Abramovich wobbles, no matter how much their home support chants ‘Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea’ over and over again, with Mauricio Pochettino and a dressing room full of players from all over left to fix an identity crisis.
So if it’s not the chanting and it’s not championing success bred by Oligarch rule. what actually is ‘proper Chels’ and how do the Blues get back there before it’s too late and the mediocrity continues to rot the club?
Playing the academy lads is a cheap answer, especially considering the literal embarrassment of riches Chelsea must make use of after spending close to a billion pounds in the last few years, but there is one man who was seemingly born with a mission of restoring the Blues as the pride of London.
Alfie Gilchrist was born in Kingston-upon-Thames and has been with Chelsea since the age of eight, although we’re convinced it was his destiny from birth to debut for the club and rescue them from the ruins of mediocrity.
Throwing yet another new face into an already struggling dressing room bursting at the seams – where we’re convinced people are probably still learning each other’s names over awkward icebreakers – doesn’t seem like a smart idea to begin with. Still, Gilchrist was made to handle the heat.
He’s proven that time and time again at youth level, captaining the under-18s to the U18 Premier League Cup and the FA Youth Cup semi-final in 2021-22, and has already done his best to leave his mark on the first team on debut against Crystal Palace.
Gilchrist, a no-nonsense central defender who began in midfield, combines the technical excellence needed in modern football with an old-school approach reminiscent of Terry before him.
What sets him apart from the rest, though, is that he seems like an absolute nutter. Palace learned that as he made his debut as a late substitute in their defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Alfie Gilchrist went to block the ball with his head, I’m dying this guy is a madman😭😭😭😭😭
— Vᴅʏᴋ (@VdykCFC) December 27, 2023
Blimey. This lad is going to be a handful, isn’t he? We should’ve seen it coming from the no-nonsense skinhead haircut.
Seeing footballers dive head-first to block a ball like that is a rarity as is, so to see a 20-year-old throw his head in there on debut is enough to leave your jaw on the floor. What an absolute psycho.
Crucially, Gilchrist appears to combine this unhinged, no-holds-barred approach with a potential fuelled by crisp passing, tough tackling and strong leadership abilities.
He also has the backing of Terry, which is a huge seal of approval.
“He’s a really really good player,” The former Chelsea captain stated when asked by a fan in a recent interview: “He’s got an unbelievable attitude.
“He performs so well on a daily basis, does everything right. I think he’s got a good chance.”
Gilchrist has made the perfect start and can be the embodiment of an imminent Chelsea revival.
By Mitch Wilks