Under-fire Chelsea Sporting Director lashes out at critics

Emenalo under fire for his record as Chelsea recruitment chief
Emenalo under fire for his record as Chelsea recruitment chief

Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo has defended the Blues' youth record by saying even Tottenham have struggled to nurture talent from the academy to the first team.

Chelsea play in a sixth FA Youth Cup final in seven years - the first leg against Manchester City takes place on Friday night - and have won four since 2010.

The Blues' under-19s won the UEFA Youth League for a second successive season on Monday, but the Premier League holders remain frustrated that no academy player has had a sustained first-team impact since John Terry, who made his debut in October 1998.

Chelsea's past record is held against them in negotiations with players, but Emenalo urges patience from the talented youngsters and their families.

Tottenham, who sit five points behind leaders Leicester with four games to play, have been lauded for challenging for the title with a core of young English players, but Emenalo says only striker Harry Kane was raised by Spurs.

"We try to remind them it's not just a Chelsea problem," Emenalo said. "That's what they hear. (But) with all the hoopla (around Tottenham), it's the one player.

"The one key player is Kane, Delle Ali they bought from MK Dons, (Tom) Carroll is a peripheral player and (Eric) Dier they bought (from Sporting Lisbon).

"What we want them to do is to be patient because they (the parents) want it quicker than the boys want it or the boys are ready to take it."

Emenalo believes the co-ordinated effort at Chelsea - from owner Roman Abramovich to the academy staff - will bear fruit in the near future.

So, although Terry's future is uncertain given his contract ends at the end of the season, there is a desire to have a core of players devoted to Chelsea.

"We love the idea of having players who love Chelsea Football Club," he added.

"Everybody is talking about JT (Terry), and people need to understand the level of respect we have for JT and for (Frank) Lampard.

"Those guys showed what the club is all about and they showed the others who came and made the (Didier) Drogbas, the (Claude) Makeleles and (Michael) Ballacks fall in love with the club."

Blues fans have been calling for Emenalo to be sacked from his role, but he claims it is imperative Chelsea's youth policy succeeds due to the availability and cost of homegrown talent.

"With the investment we are making and where we think the game is going and the competition that we have, you can't just buy your way out of trouble all the time," he added.

"We can see what we have and we can compare them to what we see in other countries in Europe and other clubs in England and we think we have very, very good young players who should be able to come through.

"It's a massive job to try to keep them patient and to keep them going until they get here, but I think from next season there will be signs."

Bertrand Traore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy have made an impact on the first team this season, while Todd Kane should compete for a squad place next term.

Andreas Christensen, halfway through a two-year loan at Borussia Monchengladbach, and others, like Jake Clarke-Salter and Fikayo Tomori, are also expected to make the grade in future.

Emenalo added: "They are young and I don't know if they decide to get fat in the next couple of years there's nothing I can do about that.

"(But) if they continue the way that they are, they will make it because they have requisite talent, there's no doubt about that."