Highlights from an Athletic story on Mason Burstow.
“It all happened really late,” Johnnie Jackson tells The Athletic. “I had to go to his room [in the hotel before the match against Portsmouth], knock on his door and tell him, ‘The call’s come through, you’ve got to go to Chelsea’. He was dressed ready to go to the game and he just looked shell-shocked. At that moment, it dawned on me that he’s just a kid, a young lad with all this chaos happening in his life. He was saying, ‘But I want to help the team’. It was quite innocent, really.”
Burstow left the south coast in a taxi bound for Cobham to undergo a medical, meet Chelsea’s academy staff and fill out the paperwork on a deal believed to be worth in the region of £1.6 million. Charlton, amid a striker injury crisis that had created the initial first-team opening for the 18-year-old, insisted on having him back on loan until the summer and got their wish.
Chelsea acquiesced so they could acquire Burstow but would have preferred to bring him into their system immediately.
It wasn’t immediately obvious that Charlton had struck gold when he first joined the Addicks. “I would describe it as a slow burn,” says Anthony Hayes, who was designated Burstow’s coaching mentor. “He found the initial step up from a part-time football programme — training twice a week and doing his own bits in the gym around that — to going full-time a physical adaptation. There are then the demands of Charlton and how we train, what we expect the scholars to do with their time in the building.
Burstow made the jump to the under-23s before the end of the 2020-21 season, where he had the good fortune to receive more targeted guidance from former Premier League forward Jason Euell, whose subsequent swift ascent from under-23s coach to first-team coach and then Jackson’s assistant mirrored the rise of his protege.
Don’t expect Burstow to leave Chelsea on loan next season — at least not initially. As a relatively older and less refined prospect, the consensus in the academy building at Cobham currently is that working with the club’s elite staff and playing in the development squad will be more beneficial to him than heading straight back out on loan to the lower divisions, where the focus will inevitably be on immediate results.
He opted not to go on holiday after the end of Charlton’s season and instead got to work at Cobham, even being thrown into the development squad’s PL2 relegation decider against Tottenham on Friday.
Chelsea academy staff are excited to work with him. The tantalising physical attributes — a strong, fast 6ft 1in physique with a great leap — are burnished by significant technical and tactical development over the past year, as well as what everyone who has encountered him describes as a polite, humble and enthusiastic temperament.