IN 2004, after 12 years with the club, Chelsea appointed Neil Bath as director of the academy.
No one knew at the time that if you fast forward 17 years, the fruits of his labor would dominate the football landscape in England and abroad.
When the die-hard Blues fan, now 55, was settled into his new post, he set out to completely restructure the West London youth program – with more emphasis on recruiting and recruiting. developing top talent in London and the South East.
Over the past year, Porto Mason Mount killer Tammy Abraham, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi have testified to his work – heralding a new dawn in Chelsea’s first team of talented youngsters.
While another Bath protégé Andreas Christensen made his 100th appearance in Chelsea jersey in the FA Cup fifth round match against Barnsley – the first academy graduate since John Terry to achieve the feat.
And just as impressive are those the club let go of including Declan Rice, Nathan Ake, Ryan Bertrand, Tariq Lamptey and more.
German site Transfermarkt, which offers conservative transfer values of players, calculated the numbers.
However, considering that Hudson-Odoi was the subject of a £ 70million bid from Bayern Munich in 2020, the transfer fee could be at least double the figures suggested.
Overall, over the years, SunSport believes Bath has remarkably overseen the development – on and off the pitch – of around £ 500million in football talent.
In 2020, Bath, now responsible for youth development, received the Eamonn Dolan Award in recognition of his excellent work in youth development for Chelsea.
His alumni lined up to pay tribute to the man who turned them into the players they are today for a clip on Chelsea TV.
Mason Mount was one of the many graduates who shared his gratitude for his former coach. “I have nothing but praise for Neil,” he said.
“He’s an inspiration to all of us – all academy players who pass.
“I started at the academy at the age of six and he helped me a lot.
“The way the academy is organized, the way we work, when we’re younger, that puts us in the right mold to push ourselves and keep improving.
“The winning mentality that it brings, it shows in every game we try to play and win, and it shows in the youth academy with the number of trophies we’ve won.”
While Tammy Abraham revealed her days working with Bath were the “best years of her life.”
“He trusted the young boys and me so much, and that’s what attracted me to Chelsea,” he disclosed.
“What they do at the academy is amazing work, there is nothing like it.
“The years I spent in academy were probably the best years of my life.”
15 YEARS OF CREATION
From the start Bath, who started working for Chelsea in 1992 as a part-time school coach, focused on developing Premier League talent, once a significant investment was made. done in the academy.
In the exciting overhaul, the club moved their youth and first team training facilities from Harlington to Cobham.
As he said on Chelsea’s website in 2019, it was a plan that had been in the works for 15 years.
“This is what we have been working on for 15 years since we restructured the Academy in 2004,” he said.
“We’ve always been very clear that our job isn’t really to win youth trophies year after year, but to develop and produce Chelsea and Premier League players.”
Bath added: “We have to set our ambitions high because we want to be the best football academy in the world and the number one choice for players and parents.”
THE PROOF IS WINNING
Turning rough diamonds into winners is perhaps the hardest thing to do in youth football.
But since 2010, Chelsea have proven that their academy is, if not the best, one of the most successful in world football.
They have won the FA Youth Cup seven times during that span, including five in a row from 2014, tying Manchester United’s infamous Busby Babes record that spanned 50 years.
Their U18s have been national champions twice and southern champions four times.
On the European stage, children have won the UEFA Youth League twice.
But it’s not just about making top-class footballers. Making the boy a respectful and educated man is also part of the process.
Bath has explained in the past how he and his assistant Jim Fraser understood the importance of this.
“We are currently the defending Under-13 to Under-16 Premier League champions, which is a very positive sign,” he said in 2019, “and we just got our best all-time GCSE results.
“We have to make sure these boys have all the characteristics and attributes, as footballers and young men, to keep up with Ruben, Mason, Fikayo and Tammy.
“When the first team coaching staff talk so well about themselves as people, how humble and respectful they are, how hard they work every day and set the standards for training, it’s also incredibly nice to hear and reinforces the culture we have built. “
THOSE WHO GET AWAY
Of course, not all young players will make it – that’s the harsh reality of football.
For every Mount, Loftus-Cheek, Abraham, or Christensen, there is a Declan Rice, Eddie Nketiah, Tariq Lamptey, and Nathan Ake who had to prove their worth elsewhere, and would now command massive transfer fees.
But perhaps the biggest star who slipped through the net was Kylian Mbappe.
In 2012, the then 13-year-old French superstar was invited for a tryout at Cobham. However, when asked to return for another trial, his mother refused the black dot.
Daniel Boga, who worked as an international recruiter at Chelsea until 2014, told Goal: “He gave it a try and didn’t win us over because he wasn’t offering enough defensively.
“So they asked his mother if he could come back for a second trial and she said no.”
Mbappe was playing at a small club in the Paris suburbs called Bondy at the time, and his mother Fayza believed he was destined for the top.
“My son is not coming back, either they sign him now or in five years they will have to offer 50 million euros to tie him up,” she said according to Boga.
The reason for Chelsea’s reluctance to sign Mbappe on the spot was that they didn’t see enough quality in him when he wasn’t with the ball.
“Defensively he wasn’t quite there,” Boga said.
“When he received the ball he was amazing, but without the ball he didn’t do much.”
It shows, you need to do more to impress Bath and his team for the chance to learn at this famous academy.