6 Players Who Can Help Restore Chelsea's English Backbone

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

6 Players Who Can Help Restore Chelsea's English Backbone

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    Jose Mourinho is proud of his many achievements in management, notably his ability to build success around indigenous talent.

    It was one of the traits we saw in his first spell as Chelsea manager, something he reflected on in November 2007 when criticizing Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.

    "Unlike Arsenal, [Chelsea] sought success and tried to build it through a concept of the game using English players," Mourinho said at the time, per Daily Mail.

    How times change.

    Seven years on and outside of Gary Cahill and John Terry, Chelsea have no other English players in their first team.

    Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have departed this summer, with the likes of Spaniard Cesc Fabregas replacing them.

    With such few Englishmen at an elite club such as Chelsea, it must be a major concern for England manager Roy Hodgson. For Chelsea fans wanting to pin their hopes on some local talent, it will be disappointing, too.

    The transfer window doesn't close for another two months, though, meaning there is plenty of time for Mourinho to recruit some Englishmen ahead of 2014-15.

    Whether he will or not remains to be seen, but here are six English players who can help bolster the homegrown ranks at Stamford Bridge.

Dominic Solanke

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    Before we get onto big-money transfers, we should remind ourselves Chelsea won the FA Youth Cup last season with a team made up predominantly of English players.

    At 16 years old, Dominic Solanke has a long way to go before he can be regarded a first-team regular at Stamford Bridge, yet after a prolific season last term, why not begin to introduce him to elite football?

    That's not to suggest Solanke should be starting matches, or even appearing as a substitute, but by featuring the youngster in first-team training and other activities, it will help speed up the process of transforming him from a young pretender to the real deal.

    Solanke is very much the future of Chelsea and while Blues fans may not see him featuring regularly for the next few years, the pathway should be in place now to ensure he is one of the many academy stars being integrated at the club.

Ross Barkley

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    According to James Nursey of The Mirror, Manchester City are keen on signing Everton midfielder Ross Barkley.

    On the back of an encouraging 2013-14 Premier League campaign and World Cup, the reported £25 million fee could well prove a bargain.

    Regardless of whether he's English or not, Barkley's talents are such that Chelsea need to be in the market for him.

    Still only 20 years old, he has a fine career ahead of him and his attributes will strengthen Chelsea considerably in midfield, allowing Jose Mourinho to continue his evolution of the squad by moving other players on.

    Barkley is going to be a star of the game and the Blues should make sure Stamford Bridge is his long-term home if a transfer from the Toffees is forthcoming.

Lewis Baker

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    Lewis Baker made his debut for Chelsea in the Capital One Cup against Swindon Town last season, also featuring against Derby County in the FA Cup.

    By that measure, it's clear Jose Mourinho values him and believes Baker can make a contribution in the long term. Now aged 19, though, the Englishman should be given a chance to hold down a place in the Blues' first-team squad.

    With so many stars featuring at the World Cup this summer, Chelsea's pre-season squad will have a youthful feel to it in the coming weeks as the more high-profile players enjoy a well-earned break.

    It could well prove a significant period for Baker, with Mourinho in a position to watch him more closely.

    If his performances hold up, Mourinho should consider giving him more opportunities in the Premier League, potentially making good on the club's intentions to promote more players from within.

    Chelsea have high hopes for Baker, but until he's given an opportunity, we'll never know if he can fulfill that potential.

Leighton Baines

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    It wasn't the World Cup Leighton Baines would have been hoping for, with the Everton and England left-back under performing while on international duty in Brazil this summer.

    That doesn't mean he isn't a talented defender and given the Blues are in the hunt for a left-back after Ashley Cole's departure on a free transfer, it makes sense to consider Baines as his replacement.

    Baines would suit Chelsea's style, supporting his attacker and working the left flank tirelessly.

    Indeed, he is very much a Mourinho player—tactically sound, with little ego to question his manager and his motives.

    Not only that, Baines would add something Chelsea are missing right now: A dead-ball specialist.

    He is an expert at free-kicks and corners, which would transform the Blues' attacking options in and around the box.

Patrick Bamford

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    Since signing from Nottingham Forest in 2012, Patrick Bamford has been a stranger at Chelsea's training ground.

    In that time the 20-year-old has been busy scoring goals in the lower leagues while on loan at MK Dons and Derby County.

    His record with the Dons was 21 in 44 games, while his six-month loan spell at Derby saw him find the back of the net eight times.

    Bamford isn't a first-choice striker yet, but he is certainly capable of playing a supporting role to the more experienced players around him at Stamford Bridge.

    Rather than allowing well-paid and uninspiring front men to block the route to the first team, Chelsea need to be giving hungry players like Bamford an opportunity to make their mark.

    Hopefully that will start this season, bolstering the English ranks at Chelsea.

James Ward-Prowse

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    It's been a fire sale at Southampton this summer, with the club seemingly powerless to prevent their biggest stars leaving St. Mary's.

    We've already seen Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana depart, with more players potentially joining them out of the door if reports from James Dickenson of The Express are to be believed.

    Chelsea should get in on the act by attempting to lure James Ward-Prowse to Stamford Bridge.

    The midfielder is an exciting talent, becoming a regular last season and also forcing his way into Gareth Southgate's England under-21 squad.

    Again, like others on this list, Ward-Prowse has some way to go if he is to be a Chelsea regular, but he has already shown with Southampton that he is capable of performing in the Premier League.

    Like his former teammate Shaw, he needs to take a step up in his career.

    With his ability to play a deeper role in midfield, he could prove the perfect foil for the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.

     

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes