Ex-Chelsea duo Ritchie Hanlon and Paul Hughes (right) with Hayes and Yeading
When Mason Mount scored on his home debut for Chelsea against Leicester in August, the midfielder became the first Englishman to find the net in his first game for the club at Stamford Bridge since Paul Hughes some 22 years earlier. Mount will hope it is the first of many but for Hughes memories of that Chelsea goal remain vivid all these years on.
“I didn’t know the stat about Mason until someone tweeted it out but I remember the goal against Derby very clearly,” Hughes tells Sky Sports. “It was probably the best goal I scored. Mason is a far better player than I ever was but it is still nice to have achieved something like that because it is easy to forget how difficult it is to get those young players through.”
Indeed, it is only now, a generation on from Hughes’ time at Chelsea, that the club is providing meaningful minutes to young players again. The man who featured in their 1997 FA Cup-winning campaign and the run to glory in the 1998 European Cup Winners’ Cup believes that these opportunities for youth-team graduates are long overdue.
“That was 1997. This is 22 years later. That’s a long time. Obviously, the club has moved on hugely in those two decades. They have money and they can bring in the best of the best. Whether that has led to them overlooking the local talent, I don’t know. Maybe the local talent just has not been good enough. Mason is exceptional so he has earned the right.”