Izzy Brown striving to avoid becoming another forgotten man at Chelsea
Izzy Brown was the star turn in Luton’s best win of the season at the weekend – and it leaves you wondering whether the midfielder might yet have a future at Stamford Bridge.
The 22-year-old Chelsea player is on loan for the season at Kenilworth Road and is just one of many players who have gone out to Championship clubs to develop their talents as an asset which, more often than not, they eventually sell on to interested parties.
It has been all part of the business plan for the Premier League club in recent years – to farm players out, watch them develop and then cash in. Very few have looked like ultimately making the grade with their parent club.
As a result, it has been all too easy to write off most of the legion of Chelsea players out on loan in recent seasons – at least in terms of their likelihood of every cutting it in the first team at the Bridge, where deep pockets have ensured a steady stream of expensive ‘finished articles’ being imported.
Patrick Bamford, for instance, seldom suggested he was about to return as a prodigal son, ready to take up the coveted centre forward role at the Bridge.
Maybe now, there is a glimmer of a pathway back towards Stamford Bridge for those plying their trade elsewhere.
The success of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori – a consequence of a forced hand, maybe, in the light of a transfer ban on the Blues – shows that spells in the Championship do not necessarily mean it has to be a mere prelude to a sell-off.
But whether Brown ever gets to grace the blue and white of Frank Lampard’s team remains to be seen, and the odds must be on him following a path taken by three players now in the Bristol City ranks: left-back Jay Dasilva, defender Tomas Kalas and midfielder Kasey Palmer. They all went away, improved, but eventually had to sever their ties with the Blues.
But the way Brown outshone Palmer in the 3-0 win last weekend, suggested he might yet make the quantum leap.
He was a focal point in all the Hatters’ best moments, with clever flicks to work balls past players into space. He was the playmaker par excellence, taking all the free-kicks and corners and making things happen in attack with clever passing and link-up play.
In the first half, he thumped a glorious drive against a post. In the second, his slide-rule pass paved the way for the decisive second goal which clinched the points. And he laid another goal on a plate for a team-mate, which was spurned.
When he went off after 75 minutes to protect a slight knee injury, he was given a rousing reception by home fans, who appreciated his contribution.
Throughout, he was strong on the ball and hard to shrug off. He is deceptive for a man with a lithe rather than robust frame. And his team-mates were always looking to pick out the tousled-haired ‘No 10’ who was running the show and creating the rhythm which ultimately carried the day for the increasingly confident home side.
Based on the evidence of that one performance, it was a mystery why he has not started every game, but clearly there is an element of consistency missing from his game at the moment.
“He isn’t always this good. In fact, he was terrible a few games ago and had to be dropped,” one of the match day backroom staff told me at half-time.
But if Luton manager Graeme Jones has misgivings, he also knows that a player on song like this can shape a season and ensure that the team beds down in a division that will be tough to survive in after so many seasons away from the top two divisions. Luton had to claw their way back after five years of non-league football.
Brown at the moment seems to be following the Bamford route and could end up as a fine key player away from west London. The loan spells he has had since joining Chelsea from West Brom in 2013 have been with Vitesse in Holland, Rotherham, Huddersfield, Brighton and Leeds.
But his only appearance for the Blues was as a sub in a 3-0 defeat at his old club West Brom in May 2015. Many Chelsea fans may not be aware of him, but if he can have more days like he had on Saturday, he will feel anything is possible.