Nathaniel Chalobah’s England call-up vindicates brave decisions
The taste he was getting of top-flight football with Chelsea was ‘just not enough’
England’s Nathaniel Chalobah during a press conference at St Georges’ Park, Burton. Photograph: PA
The 22-year-old midfielder left the Blues, who he had been with from the age of 10, this summer having made only one Premier League start for them.
After turning down the offer of a new Chelsea contract to sign for Watford, he has made an impressive start this season in the Hornets team and last week received his first call-up to the senior England squad.
When asked at St George’s Park on Tuesday if he felt there is a lack of opportunities for young English talent to play at the very top level, Chalobah said: “I think there’s a lot of good young English players.
“I think clubs have to be brave to play young players at the end of the day. It’s the only way to gain experience, I think.”
He made 15 appearances in total in all competitions under the Italian over the course of 2016-17, five of which were starts.
Asked if he thought he was not being given the chances he deserved at Chelsea, Chalobah said: “It’s a difficult place to get into the team.
“There’s a lot of pressure on winning games and I feel sometimes to chuck a youngster in is not an easy decision for the manager.
“But I felt as if I gave everything while I was there. I tried to do my best every time, when I could, when I was put on.
“Now I’ve moved to Watford I’ve got the opportunity to really try to showcase myself.”
Chalobah says the taste he was getting of top-flight football with Chelsea was “just not enough”.
But he has also stressed he has “a lot of respect” for Conte, and admitted rejecting the offer of a new deal at Stamford Bridge was the toughest decision he has made in his career.
He said: “Last year was a good year for me, in that I made my debut for Chelsea and we did good things together, winning the league.
“For me, it was just that I was getting a taste of it, but (it was) just not enough and I wanted a bit more. I wanted to go out there and experience the Premier League.
“I have a lot of respect for the manager. I had a few discussions with him and he was always honest with me, which was what I needed.
“He gave me the opportunity a lot of other managers had not at Chelsea, and I’m forever grateful for that. I have no bad things to say about him really.
“It was very hard (turning down the contract offer) because I have been at Chelsea for 12 years, it was all I knew and it was a club that I loved and supported as well.
“But I had to make a decision for myself, to make sure that I put myself in the best position I possibly could, and that was for me to try and go out there and give myself an opportunity to play games.”
The evidence so far would certainly suggest Chalobah, who emphasised “Chelsea is in the past now”, has made the right call as he prepares for a potential England bow in the forthcoming World Cup qualifying double-header.
The Group F leaders face Malta away on Friday before hosting Slovakia three days later.
On the prospect of featuring at next summer’s World Cup, Chalobah said: “It would be an amazing achievement being part of it, if I am involved.
“Things are going well for me at the minute. I’m just trying to keep my head down, stay focused and hopefully get many more call-ups.”