Michael Emenalo has expressed his gratitude to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for backing his wisdom not to “abandon” the academy.
The former Chelsea technical director has revealed one of the club’s managers suggested ditching it during his tenure because it “seemed like a waste” of funds.
Partly due to a transfer ban, Chelsea’s hierarchy installed Frank Lampard as manager this season with an ethos of promoting the club’s wealth of youth talent.
It is so far paying off with Chelsea pushing for a top-four place and the likes of Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount breaking into the England senior set-up.
Emenalo, who left Chelsea to join Monaco in 2017, told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s amazing what is unfolding.
“What’s happened with these boys, you can only feel pride. Not just for the boys, but thankful for the effort a lot of people who have had a lot of input into all of these boys succeeding.
“I defended the academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism. A manager came in to make a presentation to say the academy was not necessary. The argument was it takes too long, and that the owner should stop pumping money into it because it seemed like a waste.
“I had to fight against it. This is where I am very, very proud of the owner, because of the trust he had 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.
“Of course, you always need some luck and that luck has come with the transfer ban and with the appointment of Frank and his assistants, Jody Morris and Joe Edwards. It doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing from here, it just shows that it is possible.
“The policy was always to have the players grow together and to grow the culture. You saw it at Barcelona with Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Sergio] Busquets. 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 you to come.”