Hiddink calls on his successor to stick with youth
Guus Hiddink will urge his successor as Chelsea manager to see youth as the future and ensure that the talented players emerging from the club’s academy have a clear pathway to the first team.
Jose Mourinho, whose sacking made way for Hiddink’s return as interim manager in December, was notorious for his distrust of Chelsea’s academy graduates, despite owner Roman Abramovich investing an estimated £100 million in creating a production line for home-grown stars.
Part of Hiddink’s brief was to change this attitude. The side he put out at Villa Park on Saturday included an 18-year-old making his senior debut off the bench, three 20-year-olds and a 21-year-old.
“When you have an academy as Chelsea have had for a long time, then as a consequence you must give these guys the chance to step up,” Hiddink said.
“It is not easy to bring in three or four who have not had experience but because we cannot any more win anything this season it is a little easier and we will bring in these guys a little more frequently.
“The next manager will see that things are set up for the young players to have a chance of progression.”
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek completed 90 minutes in the Premier League for the first time, scoring his first goal, winger Kenedy made his fourth Premier League start, and 18-year-old defender Jake Clarke-Salter appeared after 74 minutes.
There was a debut, too, for 20-year-old former New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga, signed for £3.5 million in January, who played the whole match alongside Branislav Ivanovic in the centre after both John Terry and Gary Cahill were ruled out by injury, while 21-year-old Baba Rahman, the Ghanaian bought for an eye-watering £21.7 million last summer, Dream debut: Alexandre Pato scored and set up two had his sixth start at leftback. Another 20-yearold, Bertrand Traoré, who has scored four senior goals under Hiddink, was an unused substitute.
Miazga perhaps made the biggest impression. He and Ivanovic competently dealt with the threat of Villa’s Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew and Chelsea supporters are already talking about the 6ft 4in New Jersey native succeeding Terry and forming a longterm partnership with sidelined 21-year-old Kurt Zouma.
“It is not easy to play against Gestede, but Miazga did well in the duels and showed that he has the potential,” Hiddink said. “To be honest, this was not the toughest of games and you will have to consider how he does in the real battles, but it is a good first step up for him.”
For all Chelsea’s youth, the match overall still resembled men against boys, with Villa cast in the latter identity. Alexandre Pato, at last given a debut 64 days after arriving on loan from Corinthians, converted a first-half stoppage-time penalty after Loftus-Cheek had opened the scoring and twice combined with Oscar on the left in setting up Pedro to score two more after the break.
Villa fans turned on some of their own players, harshly in the case of blameless goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Yet with effectively only one defeat now between them and the end of a 28-year run in the top division, their displeasure is easy to comprehend.