Where are they now? Chelsea’s 11 youngest Premier League debutants

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Frank Lampard’s Chelsea squad is known for its youth, with seven players aged 22 or under turning out for the Blues in the Premier League this season.

However, the sight of the London clubs giving youth a chance is not as unusual as some might assume, with the Premier League era seeing more than 30 players turn out for the club before their 19th birthday.

We’ve taken a look at the 11 who did so before turning 18 – starting with the oldest at the time and working our way down. And yes, there are even a handful of youngsters who were first given their bow by José Mourinho.

Jeffrey Bruma

Dutch centre-back Bruma looked set for a long and fruitful spell in London after breaking through just a few weeks before his 18th birthday.

Three substitute appearances in the 2009-10 season under Carlo Ancelotti were followed by a couple of starts the following year, including 90-minute runouts against Žilina in the Champions League and Aston Villa in the Premier League.

However, after ending the 2010-11 season on loan at Leicester, a run of managerial changes saw him sacrificed to the loan army and he eventually moved to PSV Eindhoven in 2013 as a full international. He’s now at Wolfsburg in Germany, returning to the fold this season after spending time away on loan.

Anthony Grant

Grant made his bow at Old Trafford, replacing Joe Cole in the final minute of a victory over Manchester United at the end of the 2004-05 season, but that would be his only top-flight game.

The England youth midfielder outlasted Mourinho, who handed him that debut, but he didn’t add to the appearance in any competition and ultimately moved to Southend United in 2008.

After more than 100 games for the Shrimpers, including a run to the League Two play-offs in 2012, he has moved from club to club in the lower leagues, moving on loan to Swindon from Shrewsbury at the start of this season.

Mikael Forssell

One of two 90s debutants on this list, Forssell was 17 years and 321 days old when he replaced Gianfranco Zola during a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal in January 1999.

A full Finland international later that year, he scored five goals in 33 top-flight games for Chelsea, but his most productive Premier League season came with another team in blue – 17 goals on loan at Birmingham in 2003-04.

The striker retired from football in 2018, with more than 100 league goals to his name, as well as a healthy 29 in 87 internationals.

Nathan Aké

When a 17-year-old Aké was handed a first-team debut by Rafa Benitez on Boxing Day 2012, the only question was whether he’d thrive at Chelsea as a defender or midfielder.

However, after a successful loan stint at Watford in 2015-16, followed by a productive half-season on loan at Bournemouth, the young Dutchman was unable to break back into the Blues team immediately.

When Bournemouth came in with a big-money offer, Chelsea said yes and he hasn’t looked back. Aké’s runout against Newcastle over the weekend was his 98th for the Cherries in the league, including that loan spell.

Sam Hutchinson

A curious case, full-back Hutchinson was handed his debut by Mourinho as a late substitute for Wayne Bridge against Everton in 2007 and produced a fine assist three years later in a 7-0 win over Stoke.

However, following persistent knee problems, the defender retired at 21… only to recover and return to football, first returning to Chelsea and then forging a career in the Championship.

He joined Sheffield Wednesday in 2014, playing for the Owls in the 2016 Championship play-off final, and is still there today.

 

Robert Huth

It was Claudio Ranieri who gave Huth his Chelsea bow, introducing the German centre-back as part of a triple substitution with the Blues 2-0 down at home to Aston Villa in May 2002.

Nearly half of his 62 games for the club came under the Italian, but he broke into his country’s international set-up while playing under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

After spending his entire club career in England, including spells at Middlesbrough and Stoke, Huth was reunited with Ranieri at Leicester and played 35 league games as the Foxes won the Premier League title in 2016. He retired two years later and confirmed his retirement from football in 2019.

Josh McEachran

We still can’t work out why things never clicked for McEachran. the immensely talented midfielder who first played for Chelsea in the 2010-11 Champions League and made his first league appearance at the Etihad aged 17 years and 207 days.

The English midfielder played 17 times in that first season under Carlo Ancelotti, and another five under André Villas-Boas before what seemed like a perfect fit with a loan move to Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea.

However, his time away on loan was not as productive as hoped and McEachran eventually left in 2015, more than three years after his final appearance. After four years at Brentford, he recently joined Birmingham City on a free transfer and made his debut for the club against Blackburn in October.

Ben Sahar

The third man to earn his debut in Mourinho’s first spell in charge, the Israeli striker came on for Arjen Robben in a 2007 win over Wigan Athletic, having already played briefly in domestic cup competitions.

Sahar scored his first Israel goals that same year, in a Euro 2008 qualifier, but never managed a Premier League start for the Blues before leaving for Espanyol in 2009.

After spells in Germany and The Netherlands, he returned to Israel in 2015 with Hapoel Be’er Sheva, scoring a career-best 15 league goals last season.

Ethan Ampadu

Ampadu, the first of two current players on this list, joined from Exeter ahead of the 2017-18 season and played his first Chelsea game a couple of months later in the League Cup.

The Welshman made his Premier League debut against Huddersfield in December 2017, replacing Andreas Christensen from the bench, and at the time of writing has 12 appearances for the Blues in all competitions.

He’s taken a while to get his chance at RB Leipzig after joining on loan for the 2019-20 season, but he made his Bundesliga debut in an 8-0 win over Mainz earlier this month.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Hudson-Odoi also made his league debut in the 2017-18 season, during a January defeat to Bournemouth, but unlike Ampadu he has remained at Stamford Bridge rather than being loaned out.

The winger scored his first Chelsea goals last season, including four during the run to the Europa League title, and returned from injury to add one against Grimsby in this season’s League Cup.

An England recall has also followed for the man who starred in his country’s Under-17 World Cup triumph in 2017 and became the Three Lions’ youngest ever competitive debutant in 2019.

Jody Morris

Chelsea’s youngest Premier League debutant is also their only 17-year-old to play in the competition. Morris was 17 years and 43 days old when he came on for John Spencer in a 1995-96 win over Middlesbrough, and unlike some others on this list that was the start of something.

The midfielder played more than 100 times in the Premier League, the bulk of them for Chelsea and a handful for Leeds United, and won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup while at Stamford Bridge.

After retiring in 2013, he enjoyed a successful coaching spell in charge of the Blues’ all-conquering youth team, working with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount among others. He followed Frank Lampard to Derby County in 2018, before rejoining Chelsea when Lampard was appointed as manager.


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