New Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas says he is looking to the club's teenagers to make the leap to the first team this season as he looks to rejuvenate his ageing squad. The former Porto manager singled out 18-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran, 16-year-old centre back Nathaniel Chalobah and 17-year-old goalkeeper Jamal Blackman as candidates to move up from Chelsea's youth development scheme.
"For all these young boys, the biggest step they have to do as they finish their reserve-team time is to make the step to the first team," Villas-Boas said. "We can look into the future with a couple of them making the step straight into the first team without having to go out on loan."
The 33-year-old Portuguese manager is faced with the task of bringing fresh blood into one of the oldest squads in the English top flight, after his own transfer last month. "The squad is one of the oldest in the premiership," Villas-Boas said. "We respect them and are happy enough with the quality that we have to challenge for the title. But we are also looking in the future."
McEachran in particular seems to have a solid future ahead of him, having featured in all three of Chelsea's pre-season matches in Asia so far. Villas-Boas said he will play again tomorrow, when Chelsea take on Aston Villa in the final of the Asia Trophy.
McEachran prefers the attacking midfield role that Frank Lampard has made his own, but he has vowed to fight for a place in the squad, wherever that may be. "I prefer playing higher up but if Andre sees me as deeper I'll be happy to be there - I just want to play," McEachran said. "I just want to get more minutes this year, whether it's out on loan - but obviously I want to stay at Chelsea."
The Oxford-born player, who made his Chelsea debut at the start of last season, says he felt intimidated when he first broke into the team but now feels comfortable in the side. Chelsea have said they will add two more players before the season starts. Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric and Palermo midfielder Javier Pastore have both been linked with moves to Stamford Bridge.
"The players we have shown interest in are also of a young age," Villas-Boas said. "So they are also looking into the future of this club. You might see similar moves in the future from us."
With two weeks to go until the start of the Premier League season, Villas-Boas is still working out what his strongest line-up will be. He says he will only make the final call on his first team for the match at Stoke after the final two matches of the pre-season.