Away from the spotlight of Stamford Bridge, Saturday proved a potentially defining day for another of Chelsea’s academy graduates.
Jake Clarke-Salter, who signed a contract extension until 2022 in the summer, had initially struggled to disrupt Birmingham’s established centre-back pairing of Harlee Dean and Marc Roberts after joining the club on loan in July. But against Millwall, keeping club captain Dean out of the side, Clarke-Salter scored a decisive late equaliser on his fourth successive start.
The Independent understands Clarke-Salter’s recent form has attracted interest from other Championship clubs ahead of the transfer window, with Chelsea having a clause to recall the defender in January as part of his loan agreement.
After captaining England at the Under-21 European Championships, Chelsea had prioritised first-team minutes when signing off Clarke-Salter’s loan, with Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori’s return leaving no space in Frank Lampard’s first team plans.
However, Clarke-Salter made just two appearances in his first two months at St Andrews and was only given his eventual run in the starting eleven due to Dean’s three-game suspension.
Roberts suffered an injury which saw him carried off on a stretcher during the 1-1 draw with Millwall, but with several fellow Championship clubs monitoring the left-sided centre-back, a change is being considered to guarantee game time for the remainder of the season.
A highly touted youth prospect at Chelsea, who made his first-team debut in April 2016, Clarke-Salter has endured mixed spells on loan, suffering an arm fracture that sidelined him for four months at Bristol City, before joining Sunderland and then impressing in the Eredivisie last season with Vitesse.
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