Chelsea have given an indication of Neil Bath’s growing influence by putting their director of football development and operations in charge of the redevelopment of their training ground.
Bath, widely credited with building one of the best youth set-ups in English football, has been handed greater power under the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership. Having been academy director since 2004, he earned a promotion last year and is focused on overseeing improvements to Chelsea’s Cobham training site.
Chelsea, who have bought land opposite the entrance to their training ground, are still at the planning stage and are yet to make a decision on how to renovate and expand the complex. Boehly and Clearlake committed to improving the infrastructure when they completed the takeover last year and are also intent on building a bigger stadium. The owners have not decided whether to stay at Stamford Bridge or move to a new ground.
There has been plenty of change at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich’s exit as owner and many familiar faces have left. In that context Bath’s growing prominence is likely to be welcomed by supporters. Bath, who created the youth system that produced Levi Colwill, Reece James and Mason Mount, has developed a close relationship with Mauricio Pochettino and the Chelsea manager’s assistants.
It is understood that Chelsea, who have been at Cobham since 2005, have been holding internal discussions over how to revamp their training ground. Players have been consulted over the plans, which could lead to the construction of one big building that would serve as a central hub for everyone working at Cobham.
Nothing is set in stone and they are yet to ask for planning permission from the local authority. It is unclear whether the land opposite the training ground will come into the equation or whether that was an opportunistic purchase. Cobham houses the men’s, women’s and youth teams.
Boehly and Clearlake have not allowed a difficult start to their ownership to stop them from planning for the future. Chelsea have made a slow start to the season and have struggled with injuries.
Although Pochettino has insisted the fitness issues are not related to any systemic problems in the club’s medical department, there was frustration when Ben Chilwell limped off with a hamstring injury at the end of Chelsea’s win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. The England left-back, who missed last year’s World Cup with a torn hamstring, will undergo a scan on Thursday.