‘They had dragged it out’: Former Chelsea player said he ‘wasn’t heartbroken’ when the club released him

Jon Russell revealed he wasn’t actually that upset after being let go by Chelsea in 2021.

Speaking to The Athletic, the Huddersfield Town midfielder confessed to being only slightly dented by the Blues’ decision to release him from their academy.

Russell began in blue

Russell started his footballing journey at Cobham, having been raised just half an hour away from the training ground.

He was part of the same group as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Billy Gilmour, two talents who have gone through frustrating professional careers for different reasons.

But whilst Hudson-Odoi and Gilmour were kept on by Chelsea, their former co-worker never made it to the first team.

During the time some of his colleagues were earning senior contracts, Russell signed for Accrington Stanley on loan for the 2020/21 season.  

The 21-year-old made 26 appearances across all competitions for the League One side, gaining valuable experience in the lower divisions.

“Going on loan was the best thing I ever did really,” he said.

“Accrington was completely different from Chelsea but I learned so much I wouldn’t have otherwise. The nasty side.”

Jon Russell chopped by Chelsea

His journey with Stanley ended around the same time as the one with the Premier League giants.

Chelsea cut Russell’s deal last summer, leaving him to find refuge with Huddersfield.  

Photo by John Early/Getty Images

“For a few years before my contract was up, Chelsea kept extending it for a year, then two years, and at the end Neil (Bath, Chelsea’s head of youth development) said that was it,” continued the Terrier.

“I went back to Cobham and said my thank yous and goodbyes and they just said it was another stepping stone for me.

“I wasn’t heartbroken. I didn’t lose sleep. Because they had dragged it out for a while, I saw it coming. There were no hard feelings.”

Happier at Huddersfeld

Many have faced the same fate as Russell and have not been able to tell a happy tale afterward.

This looked like it would be the case for him as well, as he failed to play a single minute for Huddersfield in the Championship until November.

His 60-second cameo against West Bromwich Albion was followed by another nine games without a league appearance.

He didn’t start a match at all for Carlos Corberan’s side before the 2-1 FA Cup victory over Burnley at the beginning of the year.

Russell has since started all of the 17 subsequent fixtures, with his fortunes very much flipped.

A 96th minute winner against Cardiff City in February pushed Huddersfield into the top five for the first time all season, a position they’ve only let slip once since.

Photo by John Early/Getty Images

Corberan’s group are now gearing up for the second-leg of their play-off semi-final with Luton Town, having drawn the opening encounter 1-1.

Defeat the Hatters and then either Nottingham Forest or Sheffield United, the John Smith’s Stadium will be a Premier League ground once again.

Then Russell can potentially remind Chelsea what they are missing.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.