'So good': Chelsea academy coach says his midfielder has been great this season, Tuchel still hasn't picked him
Chelsea youth coach John Harley praised Lewis Baker’s performances for the development sides this season.
Speaking to The Athletic, Harley highlighted the midfielder’s admirable contribution to the academy set without earning much notice from Thomas Tuchel.
Baker is in serious career limbo right now.
Despite joining Chelsea as a fresh-faced nine-year-old, he has only played seven competitive minutes for his boyhood club.
That rare run-out was way back in 2014.
Since then, he’s been through a cycle of eight separate loan spells, spanning four different countries.
After a decent campaign at Trabzonspor, Baker returned to Cobham for pre-season.
He started in the friendly fixture against Bournemouth, which sparked a small flurry of optimism from the player’s personal fan base.
That brief moment of buoyancy was instantly extinguished.
Despite being named in Chelsea’s Premier League and Champions League squads, the 26-year-old is yet to even make the bench for any game in either competition.
Instead, he’s been resigned to Under-23 matches and a few outings for the Under-21s in the EFL trophy.
Baking up a treat
In fairness to the former England Under-21 international, those minutes with the juniors have not been wasted.
Baker has scored three times and assisted twice this term, including a delightful free-kick against Crystal Palace last month.
This individual piece of quality alone would usually make a first-team coach sit up and notice.
Yet, Baker is still stationed below the men’s squad.
When asked why the player hasn’t moved away from academy football, Harley said: “I don’t think anyone could give an outright answer on that.
“He’s had different loan spells and, for whatever reason, some of them haven’t gone as he would have planned.
“But the one thing I would say is that he’s come in and his mentality within this group… he’s like the coach on the pitch.
“He’s been so good for us, working alongside us. You can see he stands out. Every game he has stood out. He has run games.”
So close, yet so far
Baker was on the verge ending his long exile from the senior set-up when Chelsea took on Brentford in the Carabao Cup mid-week.
However, a positive covid result a day before the encounter ensured he did not travel across the capital.
Fortunately, there is another opportunity just over the horizon.
The Blues host National League leaders Chesterfield in the FA Cup after the New Year, a chance for many evolving talents to take the spotlight.
Or, in Baker’s case, for forgotten men to reclaim their name.