In an in-depth interview with the Telegraph, former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo has spoken about his battle to keep the Academy operating and the pride he takes in the success of its graduates.
Emenalo, who spent a decade at the club from 2007 to 2017, revealed the challenges he faced to keep the Academy running with one unnamed manager even recommending the owner should scale back his investment in it.
“I defended the Academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism,’ said Emenalo.
“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.’
Emenalo, who is taking a break from football after leaving Monaco in August, is delighted to see the hard work of the Academy paying off with the successful integration of Academy graduates like Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Fikayo Tomori into the senior team.
“When you implement a policy, you expect it to work,’ he said. ‘But sometimes the timing or how it is going to work is not so sure.
“What’s happened with these boys, you can only feel pride. Not just for the boys, but I’m thankful for the effort of a lot of people – coaches and staff, people at the academy, the first-team scouting and loan departments, secretaries, all these people who have had a lot of input into all of these boys succeeding.
“The policy was always to have the players grow together and to grow the culture. You get a real culture of boys who understand and care about the club. Look at the celebration at Southampton.
“The first two who arrived to Tammy were Mount and Hudson-Odoi. Then when Mount scored, it was Tammy and Hudson-Odoi.
“You build a really, really wonderful football culture. A Chelsea culture and this is where identities come from and these guys will play and care for this club for years and years and years to come. It’s amazing what is unfolding.”