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Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown reflects on injury nightmare: I was a ghost

7:00 AM EST 11/21/19
Izzy Brown Chelsea 2019-20
The 22-year-old, who is now on loan at Luton, is proud of his fellow academy graduates who have broken into the first-team picture at Stamford Bridge

Frank Lampard's decision to promote young players like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori from the Chelsea academy to the first team has been vindicated by the club’s early successes in this Premier League season.

Lampard's confidence in youth comes partly from his coaching staff, with Jody Morris, Joe Edwards and Eddie Newton working alongside him. All three have played their roles in getting the youngsters ready for this campaign.

Izzy Brown might not have been with the Chelsea academy since the very beginning of his career, but he has been with the club since the age of 16, winning a host of youth trophies under then-manager Edwards.

A serious knee injury has since slowed his development at senior level, meaning his has not yet made the step up like his fellow class of 1997-born team-mates, but the Chelsea coaching staff remain aware of Brown's talents and Lampard used him during the 2019 pre-season tour in Ireland.

However, Brown accepts his own journey is going to be different to his peers, following his latest loan move to Luton Town, which is aimed at regaining confidence and fitness.

"I think everyone has a different path,” he said to Goal at Luton’s new training facility. “You can have your moment when you are 18 or 24, 25.

"There's no age limit to when you are going to make it as a Premier League player. So I don't think what they are doing inspires me too much because I know when my time comes, I am going to be ready to take it.

"Me, Tammy and Fikayo are close friends and we basically grew up together; we are all '97s. We played at England together.

“It’s great to see as everyone used to think Chelsea don’t bring through young players but now Lampard is in charge you are starting to see those players coming through, playing well and Chelsea are winning games.

“You can’t question that those players are not good enough because they are going out every day and performing.

"Tammy is the Premier League second top goalscorer. I am happy for him because for the future of Chelsea and the young players there it’s going to be a good thing that they are doing so well.

“I am proud of my close friends [at Chelsea] and I am happy to see them playing in the Premier League but, for me, I am just solely focused on myself.”

Having signed for Chelsea in 2013 following his emergence as the Premier League’s second youngest-ever player, Brown's grew into senior football with loans to Vitesse Arnhem, Rotherham United, Huddersfield Town and Brighton.

The loan pathway mirrors the journeys of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Abraham and Mount, all now established in the Chelsea first team, and Brown sees the merit in getting game time away from the parent club.

"You step out in the real world is you go out on loan,” he says. “Then you really understand what football is like. I think at Chelsea they sugar coat it when you are young. That's why loans are so important because you can man up. When you come in the dressing room, there's no one there for you.

"These are grown men and they will tell you when you are not doing good enough. It was a good decision at the time to do it young."

Chelsea currently sit third in the Premier League ahead of a game against fourth-placed Manchester City this weekend but, for Brown, Luton's home match against Leeds United will be much bigger.

Brown spent last season on loan at Leeds but played barely 15 minutes as, like Abraham, he dropped down to the Championship after a Premier League loan move to Brighton the season before.

Brighton were utilising Brown regularly, but he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament early in his spell on the south coast, ultimately hampering his ability to make an impact at Elland Road last term.

Brown seems to have mostly overcome those injury concerns having registered an impressive five assists in the Championship so far this campaign, despite manager Graeme Jones easing him back into action.

Jones, who worked with Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry in the Belgian setup, has described Brown as a "Premier League player" and those comments have been words of comfort for Brown following a difficult period in his career.

"It is good to hear because sometimes you doubt yourself," he says. "It does give you so much confidence when the manager says the things he says. At the same time, I need to prove it. Some people may not agree with him. I am just going to go out there and give it 100 per cent.

"My first three games here were tough for me. I didn't feel pressure from the outside, but you put pressure on yourself to be able to do what you used to do. To not be able to do what I used to be able to do straight away was difficult.

"I was trying things that weren't coming off and I was thinking, 'what's going on?'. I feel like now the confidence is coming back and the sharpness is coming back. I am just trying things and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I keep trying them and I am not afraid to make mistakes.

“In my head, I think I can play in the Premier League. I don't think that's big-headed because I played in the Premier League [in 2013 with West Brom] and I don't think I was outside my limits. I feel, with my injury, I took two steps back when I was on my way up.

"Now there is a different focus in my mind, which is just football and playing games. So I am not focused on the Premier League at the moment. I just want to try to get myself back to where I was and then once I am there, I will look forward again.

"For me to come here, the manager sees me every day in training and he has been around in Belgium, West Brom and they are top class players. It gives me confidence that in the future I can look and say I should be playing in the Premier League but I can't let that get into my head now.

"I feel like we have the team, players and staff to keep us in the division. Now we just need to get the results that we deserve. I think we have never been outclassed."


Operation day🤞🏽

A post shared by IJB (@izzyjaybrown) on Jan 15, 2018 at 11:40pm PST

At Luton, Brown is also only an hour away from where he grew up in Peterborough while it is also the hometown of his girlfriend, Destiny, who helped him through those difficult days post-knee surgery.

"I was always coming to Luton because my girlfriend and her family are here,” he says. “I don't know how my girlfriend put up with me - the mood swings from the heavy tablets I was having after the operation... I was a ghost.”

"I didn't know what I was saying but she made sure I had my ice on in every minute. She would refill it. She would get me drinks when I couldn't move, help me upstairs even washed me when I couldn't shower. She did so much. She was watching over me.

"I owe a lot to her because without her, I don't know where I would be. I could still be injured or have the pain in my knee. She made sure we did the exercises together that the doctor gave me. She was pregnant and doing the exercises with me while I was injured. She did a lot.

"I have a little daughter and she is amazing. She has made me grow up so much. She is my best achievement. My daughter has been coming to the home games. I look in the crowd and she is smiling and can wave.

"It is things like that which gives you so much confidence that part of you is here watching. You just want to make them proud on the pitch."