Why McEachran needs to follow the Sturridge blueprint if he is to fulfill his potential

If Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea want to know what they need to do with Josh McEachran now, there are just two words: Daniel Sturridge.

A year ago, the striker looked as if he was going to disappear down the ghetto of under-achievement.

Promise is one thing, but it has to be allied to hard work and performance and while Sturridge was on the periphery of Carlo Ancelotti's squad, it seemed nobody really had faith in him.

Perhaps the greater part of that was down to Sturridge himself.

Not exactly a shrinking violet - when he arrived at Chelsea he announced his intention to become one of the players who would become part of the history of the game - Sturridge was talking the talk without walking the walk, in a manner that did not sit too well with either Ancelotti or a few members of his first team squad.

So when Ancelotti let Sturridge go to Bolton in January, there were quite a few - and not only in SW6 or at the Reebok - who thought he might only come back to clear his locker for good in the summer.

Sturridge was among a number of junior members of Ancelotti's squad who were sent out. Jeffrey Bruma and Patrick Van Aanholt went to Leicester, Gael Kakuta popped along the Thames to Fulham.

But there was no question who made the biggest impact. Eight goals in 12 appearance for the Trotters saw Sturridge, at last, announcing the talent that was long latent within him, even if the final homecoming present to the Blues was the three-match ban he picked up on the final day of his Bolton stay.

It was that suspension, and that alone, that meant Sturridge was a bystander for the opening weeks of the campaign, his displays on the training field and the pitch during Chelsea's Far East tour meaning Villas-Boas had already decided he was the man to play on the right of his attacking troika.

Just like Jack Wilshere a year earlier, three months playing for Owen Coyle, learning how to operate in a team that doesn't monopolise possession, where every attack needs to mean something, flicked the switch in Sturridge's head.

He came back to the Bridge ready to show he was a Chelsea player.

"I was physically better in myself because I played regularly," conceded Sturridge. "I went to the Under-21 Euros also, which was consistent football.

"I think I came back more confident because I'd been playing and scoring goals. I enjoyed my time at Bolton and I'd enjoyed my time playing for the U21s, although we were unfortunate.

"But I think I came back and maybe I've matured since I was at Bolton because playing regular first-team football does mature you and you become a much more well-rounded person. I think when I was here I was always upset and I was always down because I wasn't playing. I didn't love football as I do now."

It is a refreshing perspective and Sturridge is set for his first England senior call-up for next month's friendlies with Spain and Sweden.

Yet while Sturridge, Van Aanholt and Co were getting that exposure to first team football, McEachran, arguably the most talented player Chelsea have produced for two decades, was stuck back at the Bridge.

Between Januarry 10 and the end of the season he played just two hours of first team football, four brief appearances off the bench and a single start, instead being reserved to play in the FA Youth Cup - which saw Chelsea lose in the semi-final to Manchester United.

This season, too, McEachran has been an outsider, superseded by new boys Raul Meireles and Oriol Romeu, making one start, against Fulham in the Carling Cup, and then playing a whole seven minutes against Swansea.

Even before the season started, Capello was concerned the midfielder would not get enough game-time, a fear that appears to have been well-founded and the repercussions of that were graphically demonstrated when McEachran did not even get off the bench for the Under-21 side in Iceland last week.

McEachran has a rare talent but one that needs to be polished before it can shine. That polishing only comes from playing games.

In January, for the good of himself, Chelsea and England, McEachran needs to go out on loan.

We know that Villas-Boas and Coyle are close pals. It's time for them to do each other a massive favour.

*********

Andre Villas-Boas is not stupid and knows the reality of life in the Chelsea hotseat.

Chairman Bruce Buck's suggestion that he could see the manager in the Blues hotseat for a decade or more came with the attendant demand that only trophy-winning was acceptable.

But instead of railing against the seemingly unfair expectations, the Portuguese, who turned 34 on October 17, happily embraced the challenge.

Quizzed over whether he felt he would get a prolonged period in the job, Villas-Boas said: "Time is related to success.

"There has to be a minimum period of time to establish your own ideas and create the environment for the players to succeed.

"But it has to be associated with success. We're expected to be successful, not unsuccessful.

"I do not feel I'm under pressure to achieve success this season. I can only demand from myself being successful in the first season.

"If I cannot demand that of myself, then I'm in the wrong job. Success is to win titles. Important titles."

The Portuguese may be, in relative terms after just two years as a boss, a managerial novice. But nobody can say he doesn't get Chelsea.

The battle for Stamford Bridge already appears to be on a knife-edge  

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williamhill.com

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