EX-CHELSEA chief Michael Emenalo claims a former manager tried to CLOSE the club's academy.
The Blues have been forced to turn to their youngsters this season after being hit by a transfer ban.
And despite some inconsistency, Frank Lampard's young side currently occupy the Premier League's fourth and final Champions League spot..
Chelsea waved goodbye to Eden Hazard in the summer, while also losing experienced heads such as David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Gonzalo Higuain.
However at the start of this season, the Blues quickly emerged as one of the Premier League’s most exciting sides, spearheaded by dynamic duo Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
Fikayo Tomori has been a revelation at centre-back, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James are now pressing for first-team chances.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen are another two who came through Chelsea’s youth system.
But things could have turned out differently had a former boss succeed in persuading Roman Abrahamovich to pull the plug on his youth funding.
Emenalo, who served as Chelsea’s technical director between 2011 and 2017 after spending the previous four years as chief scout and assistant first team coach, worked above the likes of Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Roberto Di Matteo.
He claims Abramovich was urged to ditch his academy and focus instead on pouring money into the first team.
But the Russian did not listen to his manager, and Emenalo reckons the decision is proving to be one of his best ever.
The former Monaco chief told the Telegraph: “I defended the academy when there was pressure and doubt and pessimism.
“There was a time when there was a clamour to do more and a manager came in to make a presentation to say the academy was not necessary.
“The argument was it takes too long, we don’t have time, we should use it to make some money here and there, and that the owner should stop pumping money into it because it seemed like a waste.
“But that wasn’t my idea and I had to fight against it.
“This is where I am very, very proud of the owner Roman Abramovich because of the trust he had in me and the willingness to listen to me and give the academy time.
“He would not abandon it. He believed in it and in me, and I can’t thank him enough for that.”