Former Nigeria international Michael Emenalo has revealed how he fought against forces within and without Chelsea Football Club to keep the club’s youth academy from getting shut down, the benefit of which Frank Lampard is reaping at the moment.
Emenalo was Chelsea’s technical director for six years, ending his tenure in 2017 and moving to Monaco having worked with managers André Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafael Benítez, Guus Hiddink and Antonio Conte.
Emenalo, who was a member of the Super Eagles squad to the 1994 World Cup, has now revealed that one of those managers actually wanted the Blues youth program canceled, a move he fought vehemently against.
Chelsea owner Abramovich agreed with Emenalo not to scrap the academy and the club, currently hit with a two-window transfer ban by FIFA, are grateful for that decision with manager Frank Lampard able to bring academy products such as Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James into the senior team.
”I defended the academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism,” Emenalo told The Telegraph.
”There was a time when there was a clamour to do more and a manager came in to make a presentation to say the academy was not necessary.
”The argument was it takes too long, we don’t have time, we should use it to make some money here and there, and that the owner should stop pumping money into it because it seemed like a waste.’
”But that wasn’t my idea and I had to fight against it.
”This is where I am very, very proud of the owner Roman Abramovich because of the trust he had in me and the willingness to listen to me and give the academy time.
”He would not abandon it. He believed in it and in me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”