Guus Hiddink has revealed Carshalton-born defender Jake Clarke-Salter has been promoted to the Chelsea first-team squad.
The 18-year-old has been drafted in as cover ahead of the Newcastle United game following a season-ending injury to Kurt Zouma at the weekend.
Zouma is to undergo knee surgery after being stretchered off in the 1-1 draw with Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
“It gives other people the chance to step up,” boss Hiddink explained. “We have no fear of bringing the youngsters in.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has already made the breakthrough into the starting XI at times this season, particularly in the FA Cup, and now another teenager is pushing for a spot.
But who is Clarke-Salter and why is Hiddink giving him a chance to mix it with the big boys in the Premier League? Let’s find out…
Date of birth: 22 September 1997
Place of birth: Carshalton, England
Position: Central defender
Joined Chelsea: 2006 at U9s-level
International levels played at: England Under-19s, Under-18s
Chelsea honours: FA Youth Cup 2013/14, 2014/15; UEFA Youth League 2014/15
Rise to the first-team
Clarke-Salter signed for the Blues at U9s-level and has been a part of the club’s academy ever since.
His early years were threatened by a serious knee problem which threatened to de-rail his career, however he fought back from the injury to continue his progress in the U15s.
In 2013-14, he made 14 appearances and scored twice to help Adi Viveash’s U18s lift the FA Youth Cup after beating Fulham in the final.
That run to the trophy saw him appointed U18s captain the following season, although such was his rapid progress that he was soon elevated into the U21s squad.
He helped Joe Edwards’ boys do an FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League double.
His powerful performances at the back during the 2014-15 campaign earned him a spot on Chelsea’s post-season tour of Thailand and Australia and pre-season tour of the US.
Committed to Chelsea
Part of the England U19s squad and having earned a spot on those tours as part of the first-team, Clarke-Salter is a defender with a growing reputation.
Chelsea are a club known for producing quality talent - if not always giving them a chance in the senior setup at Stamford Bridge.
Part of that process involves tying players down to long contracts and given his progress with the Blues, it was no surprise to see negotiations open over a new deal before Christmas.
In November, Chelsea announced Clarke-Salter had extended his deal with the club. The new contract will keep him in west London until the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
Will he get his chance?
Zouma’s injury will keep him out for the rest of the season - but it will still be difficult for Clarke-Salter to get a game.
John Terry and Gary Cahill will be Hiddink’s first-choice partnership in the heart of the defence.
Cahill had been playing second fiddle to the injured Frenchman but now has the chance to get much needed games under his belt ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
Chelsea dipped into the MLS to recruit Matt Miazga from New York Red Bulls in the January transfer window, another obstacle to the teenager, but the American is not yet fit.
Hiddink hinted ahead of the Newcastle game that it will be weeks before both Miaza and Alexandre Pato are available for selection.
Branislav Ivanovic could also be shifted into the centre of defensive if needed, with Cesar Azpilicueta reverting back to his original right-back spot and Baba Rahman slotting in at left-back.