Game Details
 By Mark Worrall

Charly Musonda the latest Chelsea youth product aiming to buck a trend

Another season, another domestic cup tie, another opportunity for Chelsea's academy starlets to make a name for themselves at Stamford Bridge.

Blues boss Antonio Conte was always going to ring in the changes for the visit of Championship side Nottingham Forest. The early rounds of the League Cup are a perfect platform for younger players to impress and against Forest it was Charly Musonda who seized the chance afforded him by Conte.

Making his full debut at the Bridge, 20-year-old Musonda repaid the Italian's faith in his ability with a sparkling performance and a goal that drew ample and well-justified praise from Chelsea supporters. Conte was also applauded for fielding three home-grown teenage substitutes from the junior ranks: Ethan Ampadu, Jake Clarke-Salter and Dujon Sterling all entered the fray during the course of the 5-1 rout.

But does it actually mean anything?

Year-in-year-out, since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 and subsequently invested heavily in the Blues' state-of-the-art Cobham training and youth development facility, supporters have harangued a procession of managers with pleas of "play the kids".

The hope back then, as it remains now, is that a youngster will emerge and become the first academy product since John Terry to secure a regular first team berth with Chelsea rather than fall through the loan net and eventually be sold on. Terry, who made his debut for the club in 1998, became a lynchpin during the managerial reign of Claudio Ranieri (2000-2004) and went on to attain "captain, leader, legend" status during the course of a 717-game career that spanned almost 20 years.

During the Abramovich era, only a handful of now ex-Chelsea players who progressed from the club's junior ranks to a first team debut have gone on to establish themselves as top-flight players in any country.

Scott Sinclair, now at Celtic, featured for the Blues 10 years ago in a League Cup tie against Hull City. Sinclair, then 18, opened the scoring in a 4-0 victory at the KC Stadium in what was new manager Avram Grant's first win after succeeding Jose Mourinho.

Charly Musonda impressed in Chelsea's win over Nottingham Forest.

Big things were expected of the youngster but with the Chelsea managerial door constantly revolving and each new boss demanding big-name players be brought in, Sinclair found himself the subject of six loan moves before being sold to Swansea City. Further transfers to Manchester City and Aston Villa followed before former Chelsea reserve manager and now Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers -- who'd overseen Sinclair's development at the Bridge and bought him when Swansea boss -- signed him once again, this time for the champions of Scotland.

Since Sinclair made his Chelsea bow -- and left -- only Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace via Sunderland), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) and much more recently Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford) and Bertrand Traore (Lyon) have made the grade at the highest level, but that has been away from Stamford Bridge.

The summer sales of Ake (£20 million), Traore (£8.8m) and Chalobah (£5.5m), irrespective of buy-back clauses, disappointed many fans, with the cynics among them suggesting the Chelsea academy was a cash machine for the club. The signings of Antonio Rudiger (24 years old), Tiemoue Bakayoko (then 22) and Alvaro Morata (also 24) underlined the widely held belief the club will always be tempted by players with that little bit more experience than their own academy players.

So how will Musonda fare? Belgian by birth, the attacking midfielder joined Chelsea from Anderlecht in 2012 and won the FA Youth Cup in 2014 and 2015 before being loaned out to La Liga outfit Real Betis in 2016, where he impressed enough to be recalled by Conte in January this year.

A solid preseason was rewarded with cameo roles off the bench in the Community Shield against Arsenal and the opening day Premier League loss to Burnley before Conte named him in his starting XI for the Forest game.

After the match, the Italian expressed his delight at Musonda's performance and indicated he would receive further opportunities while the club worked on improving his physicality and getting him ready.

Right now, the prospects look good for Musonda, but then they looked good for Sinclair, Van Aanholt, Bertrand, Ake, Chalobah and Traore.

At some point it can be supposed that a player will follow in Terry's hallowed footsteps. Whether or not that will be Musonda is anyone's guess -- but given Chelsea's pedigree in this area, it would take a brave person to bet their house on it.

Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco


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