In teenage midfielder Lewis Baker, Sheffield Wednesday have borrowed a player who has been tipped for stardom by one of the best football bosses on the planet.
Speaking ahead of the current campaign, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said he would be to blame should Baker fail to play for England’s national team in the future.
The 19-year-old, who joined Wednesday on a youth loan from the Blues yesterday, said: “There are a lot of young players that are good in Chelsea’s academy but to hear him [Mourinho] say that to me is a good feeling. It’s a good lift for any young player. All I can do is carry on working hard and keep on developing.
“I have a winning mentality, that is what the manager likes at Chelsea. He has spoken to me a lot about what I can do better, how I can improve, and I want to implement those things here at Sheffield Wednesday.”
Baker moved to Stamford Bridge at the age of nine, describing the switch as a “dream come true”. He is highly regarded by Chelsea’s coaching staff, so much so that he has trained regularly with the Blues’ first-team squad for the last six months. Chelsea have been so impressed with Baker’s progress that they tied him down to a new five-year contract last August.
“Since pre-season, I have been with the first-team squad every day,” he said. “It has definitely helped me with the speed of play, my physical attributes and mental toughness.”
Named Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year in the 2013/14 season, Baker is acutely aware he will have to bide his time to force his way into Mourinho’s plans.
“There are a lot of great players in front of me,” he admitted. “It’s not easy when you are up against world class players. They are world class for a reason and you can see that in training and on the pitch.
“I’m trying to force my way through into the first-team set-up. All I’ve got to do is be patient, keep learning and work hard.”
England Under-20 international Baker is confident his spell with Wednesday will enhance his football education.
He conceded: “It takes me out of my comfort zone. If you are around one club for too long, you can maybe start seeing things in tunnel vision.
“It’s definitely going to benefit me a lot going from Under-21s football to men’s football. It will open my eyes to different things.
“Going from Under-21s football to the Championship is a big step but hopefully I can take it in my stride and I can learn a lot from the players and working with the manager here.”
Baker said he learned of Wednesday’s interest in his services as soon as the transfer window opened earlier this month. He snubbed the advances of several clubs, including Nottingham Forest, who the Owls face at the City Ground tomorrow.
“I wanted to come here because this is a great club with great tradition,” who trained with his new teammates for the first time yesterday. “Everybody has made me feel welcome from the players to the manager. There is a great bunch of lads here.”
Asked what qualities he will bring to Hillsborough, he said: “I like to get on the ball and try and dictate the play. I got 18 goals in the Under-21 league last season so hopefully I can carry that on here.”
Owls head coach Stuart Gray is optimistic Baker will remain with the Championship side until the end of the season, having finally captured the player after a six-month pursuit.
Baker, whose father is an Owls fan, said: “It is great to hear he [Gray] has been chasing me for a while. I wasn’t allowed to go out on loan last year. Chelsea felt it would be more beneficial for me to play games at Under-21 level. I had a good season last year, scoring goals for my club and country.
“But I’m delighted to have joined Wednesday and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”