Yesterday, myself and @terrysazio had the opportunity to interview former Chelsea academy star, Billy Clifford, where we talked about his 11 years at the club. The good, the bad, the ugly, no stone was left unturned. Below is a transcript of the best bits from our 90 minute interview with Billy. Enjoy!
Moment 1 – “Billy, tell us how the dream started for you at Chelsea…”
Billy started the interview strong by going into thorough detail of his journey to joining Chelsea as an 8 year old. He was playing for his local team in the area of Slough in the UK, where renowned Chelsea scout Bob Osborn watched the game, went on to speak to Billy’s dad, where Billy was invited to Harlington training complex for a 6 week trial. Boyhood Chelsea fan Billy was signed within one week.
- Billy went onto give an in-depth analysis of his career to date, displaying his honesty on full display so early in the interview…
Moment 2 – On playing for one of his boyhood hero’s, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink in Holland…
“Very eye-opening. To go play for him was strange, it was a good experience on and off the pitch.”
- Billy also mentioned his old coach, the late Dermot Drummy shortly after. You could feel the pain in his voice when talking about Dermot…
Moment 3 – On making his debut against Ajax in Chelsea’s pre-season plans in 2010, under Carlo Ancelotti…
“Carlo told me, make sure your first pass is forward. I’ve received the ball off Jeffrey Bruma, and passed it straight back to him ha. Carlo’s rushed off the bench and started shouting me, I was thinking relax Carlo I’m only young. But I think Carlo saw a player in me that I didn’t see in myself…
- Billy goes on to add that the Amsterdam Arena is the best stadium he has ever played in.
Moment 4 – On leaving on loan, and when he realized it was over at Chelsea…
“Going out on loan was a natural process. I had to go out and get first-team experience. It was when I came back from my last loan at Antwerp, that I realized I wasn’t going to play for Chelsea’s first team.”
” I sit here now as a fully paid professional footballer, even after all these years away from Chelsea. I don’t think I would be in this position if it wasn’t for Chelsea.”
- Billy went onto add he is glad he waited as long as he did, he doesn’t regret not leaving earlier. Being part of Chelsea helps you get offers from other clubs that you wouldn’t get if you were a free-agent or established in a less-known club. He mentions Neil Bath as someone who thoroughly helped him, he also mentions that Chelsea treated him well at this point.
Moment 5 – On Chelsea not giving the youngsters enough opportunities…
“So many players have come and gone through Chelsea that deserved better. Zappacosta is a good player, but is he better than Ola Aina? We’ll never know. Alonso is decent, but is he better than Ryan Bertrand? A few others, Jeffrey Bruma, Nathan Ake, Josh McEachran, Michael Mancienne, all could have gone on to make 60+ appearances for Chelsea Football Club.”
Moment 6 – “What word you feel looking back on your time at Chelsea…”
Moment 7 – That tweet from Billy’s twitter account: “Not one to talk on social media, but going to have to start talking some facts before other players get trapped in this mess.”
“If I’m brutally honest, it wasn’t about my experience in the loan army. I do have an opinion on that, but that tweet was more about clubs in general. Club’s don’t treat you right, they treat you like an object rather than a human. Being pushed around the world, players can’t settle, living out of suitcases, family is unsettled, you can’t really throw everything into it. You have the Chelsea title hanging over you, people look at you and treat you differently. People think you’re going to be big time. You are judged before you’ve put your boots on and kicked a ball.”
“When you are on loan, you have to think about yourself.”
- Billy goes onto mention Chelsea player and friend Lewis Baker. He believes Lewis has been unfairly treated due to being a “young mixed raced lad with tattoos, who looks like he’d be a bit of trouble.”
Moment 8 – “What is your honest opinion on the Loan Army at Chelsea…”
You just feel thrown out. You don’t feel part of it. You’re just waiting for the next club. “I think if you’re a young player now, like if I had a son now, and with what I know, I probably wouldn’t send my son to Chelsea.”
“If Dele Ali was at Chelsea, he wouldn’t be Dele Ali. If Jesse Lingard was at Chelsea, he wouldn’t of made it through. I’ve met enough people at Chelsea who are very talented, but went onto become superstars elsewhere in football.”
“I remember a pre-season game once, we went into the reserve team changing room, and our kit wasn’t there. Our kit had been moved into the kit mans changing room, because we had gone down the pecking order so quickly. No warning… Ruthless.”
“When you’re in a WhatsApp group with 30+ people, how are you meant to feel?”
“The loan system is flawed, the volume of players is far too much. That’s because Chelsea can get who they like, sign these players on huge deals, spent a huge amount of money on these players, and they come to the end of their deal not knowing how good they are, and just move them on.”
Moment 9 – On the academy itself…
“The academy is great. The facilities are amazing, the people working there are fantastic people. I cannot say a bad word about any of them. I still go down to the academy now to watch games, and say hi to a few people. However, them people can only take you so far. It was hard seeing people like Michael Mancienne, and Scott Sinclair being moved on, as they were probably better than me. The academy itself however is great. In terms of what they have won, I can’t recall how many trophies they’ve won, the question is not the academy, the question is are we going to give these players a chance. They do a fantastic job there.”
Moment 10 – “After your personal experience at Chelsea, after hearing the frustration in your voice and seeing it on camera, if a youngster was offered the chance to sign for Chelsea now, and they came to you for advice, what would you say?”
“Good question. Like I said earlier, if I had son, I would probably say no. Why? I think until things change, you have a better chance of starting off at a Charlton, or a Fulham. It made not be glitz and glam of Chelsea, but the percentage of getting into a first-team is obviously a lot higher. You have to be a good player at the end of the day, but like I said, you need to play football regularly at an early-age. So, in terms of what I know, in terms of possibly being a footballer in years to come, then no, not Chelsea. In terms of experiences, and life, I’d sign tomorrow. It was the best time of my life, the best childhood I could have imagined. In terms of being a footballer for the long-term than no, don’t sign.”
Bonus Moment – The Quick-fire answers (Minimal-worded answers on your time at Chelsea)
Q1 – Who was the player you looked up to most? – John Terry
Q2 – Most talented player? – Gael Kakuta
Q3 – Do you think Chelsea can have a good season next season? (Extended answer) – We just lost Eden Hazard, so will be hard no matter what. If we get the right man in (Manager), then yeah I think we can. Can finish at least top 4. (Believes Sarri has been treated very unfairly. Wants Lampard in next.)
Q4 – Favorite coach at Chelsea? – The late Dermot Drummy. RIP.
Q5 – Will the youth get a chance in a Chelsea shirt next season? – Yes, you’re taking at least two, three youngsters in the squad next year. Mason Mount, and Tammy deserve a chance no doubt.
Bonus Q – Most famous person in your phone book? – John Terry
And that’s a wrap. A big thank you again to Billy for taking the time to come on The Chelsea Echo Podcast and for sharing his experiences in such depth and with eye-opening honesty. Also a thank you to everyone who listened to the pod, and those reading this article transcript. Until next time…
Written by Dan McCarthy – @maccasport