It’s now four months since Josh McEachran swapped London for the north-east, and while the Blues midfielder may have stepped down a division in a bid to aid his development, he is simply delighted to be playing regular football once again.
Following a disappointing loan spell at Swansea during the second half of last season, in which the 19-year-old made only five appearances, McEachran, in need of game time, made the choice back in August, in conjunction with Chelsea, to move on loan to Middlesbrough in the Championship, a decision which, thus far, has proved mutually beneficial.
Tony Mowbray’s side are currently in fourth place, having topped the table only a few weeks ago, and stand a good chance of securing automatic promotion, but more importantly for McEachran, since moving to the Riverside, he has become an integral part of the team.
‘It’s been really good, I’ve made 19 starts, so I’m getting minutes under my belt,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘The team have been winning games, so everything, up to now, has been going really well.
‘The Championship is a lot quicker, every game is played at 100 miles per hour and there are plenty of fierce tackles flying in all the time.
‘At first, I was shocked at just how fast-paced it is, but obviously the more games you play, it becomes easier to deal with.’
Comfortable in possession, and with the ability to pick a killer pass, McEachran has all the qualities required to make a difference when it matters, and he feels his current role in the Middlesbrough side can only serve to enhance his progress long-term.
‘I’m playing as one of the two central midfielders in a 4-4-2, which means I have to work on both aspects of my game,’ explains, Josh, who this week came to watch Chelsea’s Under-21 side beat Middlesbrough’s equivalent at the Riverside.
‘I have to get into the opposing penalty area and create chances for the team, but equally I have to carry out defensive duties as well, but hopefully that will help improve me as a player.
‘The senior players have been great with me, people like Grant Leadbitter and Jonathan Woodgate have so much experience, so having them here has been a big help.’
In the long term of course McEachran’s main priority is to return to Stamford Bridge and hold down a place in the first team, and he is in regular contact with coaches and players at the club.
A return in January isn’t impossible, particularly with John Mikel Obi heading off to represent Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, but until he is told otherwise, his sole focus is on his current side.
‘I speak to [Chelsea assistant first team coach] Steve Holland every couple of weeks and a few of the boys as well, so I’m still in touch with what’s going on at the club,’ he says.
‘If I stay here, because obviously there is a chance I could go back to Chelsea in January, my main aim is just to keep on improving as a player and help Middlesbrough gain promotion back to the Premier League, and we don’t expect anything less than that because there is so much quality in the squad.’
Middlesbrough play Peterborough away this Saturday.