Josh McEachran was supposed to be the big star that came out of the Chelsea academy in the 2010s. So what exactly went wrong and where is he now?
Josh McEachran joined Chelsea in 2001 at the age of 7. He spent 14 years at the club, coming through the ranks with great expectations. Touted to be the next Frank Lampard, his tale eventually became cautionary as the Chelsea's loan system was called into question.
McEachran was spotted by Chelsea scouts when he was playing in the Oxford Mail Boys League and signed to the academy. Over the initial years of his youth career, he gained a reputation as a midfield controller, someone that could hold and move the ball with great quality.
In the 2009/10 season, he was a crucial part of the youth side that won the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 50 years. He earned Chelsea's Young Player of the Year Award at the age of 17 and broke into the Reserves side, making 9 appearances that season.
First team call-up
McEachran was named on the substitutes bench for Chelsea's first team in a Champions League group stage game in September, 2010. He made his Chelsea debut against Manchester City later in the same month, coming on for Ramires.
Carlo Ancelotti gave McEachran 10 more Premier League starts that season primarily playing him in a deep-lying holding midfield role. He was hailed as an example of Chelsea's policy shifting from buying to youth development and signed a new 5-year deal with the club.
Problems with AVB
That summer, Chelsea hired highly-rated Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas as manager. Villas-Boas was unimpressed by McEachran and chose to freeze him out of the side.
The youngster made just 5 appearances that season and fell out of contention for a regular starting role as Chelsea won their first and only Champions League trophy.
Loans and injuries
McEachran spent the next 5 seasons on loan with various clubs, starting with Middlesbrough, where he impressed before picking up an ankle knock. From there he went to Watford, where his season was cut short thanks to back spasms.
At Wigan the following season, he made only 11 appearances with then manager Uwe Rosler saying the youngster's confidence needed to be built up. This was followed by a loan to Vitesse Arnhem where he made 21 appearances but failed to make any significant impact.
The various loans had taken their toll on McEachran and the lack of stability ensured that he never managed to make it back into consideration for the Blues.
Career after Chelsea
Josh McEachran left Chelsea permanently in 2015, hoping to revive his career at Brentford. He picked up a fractured foot that kept him out for three months in pre-season and only managed to make his debut in December.
Despite breaking into the first team and showing his best form, McEachran picked up major injuries in every season from 2016 to 2019. He got his opportunity in the 18/19 season again but failed to make a big impact despite playing 28 games and was eventually dropped from the squad.
He joined Birmingham City on a 2-year deal in 2019 but managed to make only 8 appearances before leaving the club by mutual consent in January 2021.
The midfielder is now without a club and his once promising career appears to have reached a bitter end. While everything that happened later wasn't ideal, McEachran will be a name all Blues fans will remember for everything the youngster could have become.