Josh McEachran's loan journey sums up the Greg Dyke dilemma

Once hailed as a future star, midfielder is just one victim of foreign policy

One window closes and another one opens. Starting on Tuesday, eight days after transfer activity apparently shut down for four months, agents will be hitting the phones again as Football League clubs are allowed to make further loan signings right up until the end of November. The more ambitious of those clubs will have scanned the official squad lists released by the Premier League last week and will again be targeting just the sort of players the new FA chairman, Greg Dyke, was referring to in lamenting that so few Englishmen are appearing at the highest level of club football.

Take Josh McEachran. His experience sums up everything Dyke and the England manager Roy Hodgson are worried about. Groomed by Chelsea from the age of seven, he played in the Champions' League aged 17 and was being hailed as one of England's brightest young talents; England's, despite having two Scottish parents, because he appeared destined for the very top. At the end of that season, with 17 first-team appearances to his name, McEachran was named the club's Young Player of the Year and signed a long-term contract along with full-back Ryan Bertrand, about whom a similar story could be written.

To cut that story short, McEachran is now 20, has won caps for England in four different age groups but has played a mere six more Premier League games, gone on loan to Swansea and Middlesbrough and has not been given a Chelsea squad number this season. The midfielder therefore seems certain to be sent back to the Championship once fully fit and remains far away from a place in the England senior team that once seemed to be his destiny.

Being sent elsewhere by Chelsea on a temporary basis hardly makes him unique. As our panels shows, the club have an extraordinary total of 23 players farmed out to other clubs even before the new loan period starts. Eyebrows were raised that Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses, signed at a joint cost of £20million, should be among them, but Jose Mourinho made it clear that he would not work with a bloated squad, having unhappy players banging on his door and spreading disaffection. "I don't like to work with big squads, I think 22 is the perfect number to answer our needs," he said.

Mourinho was not short of choice. Including under-21 squads and scholars, Chelsea have 75 contracted footballers over the age of 16 on their books; Manchester United and Tottenham have 74 each and Manchester City no fewer than 82. Many observers and smaller clubs believe there is a dog-in-the-manger attitude about this, with the big clubs intent on grabbing whatever young talent they can so it does not fall into the hands of rivals.

Steve Coppell, the vastly experienced director of football at Crawley Town, used a different animal metaphor to describe the loan system as it relates to Premier League clubs lending young talent to the Football League. "Fattening lambs for slaughter," he called it when manager of Bristol City. "Talented youngsters who can't get a game in the Premier League club's first team or reserves are coming here, getting some real value added, then being sold on at benefit to [the parent] clubs. These youngsters would have come anyway, for free."

Gareth Southgate, recently installed as the manager of England's Under-21s with extra responsibility for the lower age groups, takes a more benevolent view, arguing that if the country's best young players cannot always force their way into the first team of a Premier League club, the next best thing is to get playing time on the pitch lower down.

"Manchester United and Tottenham are probably as good as any at the process of giving their young players experience," Southgate said after naming eight from those clubs for his inaugural match in charge, the 1-0 win over Moldova on Thursday. "They're meticulous in how they do the development of young players. So people like Steven Caulker, who had loan spells, came back and has now gone to Cardiff. Tom Carroll's had loan periods, Danny Welbeck went through the same process at Man United. They don't necessarily want their players to just sit and wait, they look at how they can get them experience. [Nat] Chalobah had it at Watford last year and I'm sure Chelsea won't keep him just to sit and not play. They want him to become an asset that's ready for their first team. And I'd certainly trust people like Neil Bath and the guys that run their junior set-up to plot the pathways of their players."

If those pathways lead to a dead end, however, the question is whether that could have been avoided by a greater show of faith in the first place instead of buying in foreign talent. Caulker, permanently, and Carroll, on loan to Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, will both miss out on Tottenham's Europa League campaign because of the number of players brought in from abroad, and the striker Harry Kane could move on loan this week. So could others of the five United players Southgate picked, Nick Powell having already done so (to Wigan).

By March last season, half of the England Under-21 squad chosen to play Romania and Austria had left their parent clubs, mostly for Championship teams. Among them was one Josh McEachran, hoping like the others that the new season would bring greater opportunity at Chelsea.

In the next couple of weeks his hopes are likely to be dashed again and English football, it could be argued, will be the poorer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links