A young and technically gifted midfielder with huge potential, Jody Morris debuted for Chelsea at just 17 years and 43 days old, claiming the club’s Young Player of the Year award for the 1996-97 season. He remains the youngest player to play for the club in the Premier League, even with this season’s youth revolution.
In April 2000, Morris completely outplayed fellow rising star Xavi in a Champions League game at the Bridge, coming out 3-1 victors. It was a remarkable performance that led many fans to believe that Jody Morris was the academy’s next big thing. In an interview while Morris was at Millwall, Xavi, who was one of the world’s best at the time, named Jody as one of his toughest opponents, with Chelsea’s young star clearly ingrained in the mind of the Spaniard. Maybe Xavi became the player he was because of that night. It only makes sense.
124 appearances, four trophies, and a brief spell as captain later, Morris would turn down a new five year deal and move to Leeds. Unfortunately for him, his rise through the ranks had been shattered by the investment of Roman Abramovich and the infamous summer of 2003, where 13 players arrived. His career, in comparison to what it could have been, wasn’t much to write home about, while he had his fair share of legal issues, which are now well in the past.
In 2013, he found his calling, after realising he had something to offer as a coach during his spell at St Johnstone. Returning to Chelsea was the start of an exciting journey, and one that would lead him to the Stamford Bridge dugout by 2019.
Initially coming in as a coach for the U21s, Jody quickly became assistant coach of the U18s, and was then handed the reigns for the 2016-17 season. His team won every single competition they entered in his time in charge, a treble in 2016-17 and a quadruple in 2017-18, while winning the FA Youth Cup for a fifth consecutive year in 2018.
Morris played a crucial role in the development of players like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Mason Mount, and got the chance to develop them even further when he became assistant manager of the first team in 2019. He’s a coach that they all look up to, as he attempts to lead them towards success and away from making the same mistakes that he did as a young player. In that sense he’s the ideal person to nurture the academy boys.
Jody can speak from experience and help to improve players, not only ability wise, but in terms of their mentality as well. All of the young players who’ve played under him at youth level have a very impressive head on their shoulders. His work with the academy over that five year period cannot be undervalued. Morris is a crucial cog in the Chelsea system.
Just as Jody was given his chance back in 1996, together with Frank Lampard, he’s worked to give deserving youth players an opportunity, none more so than the faith showed in Tariq Lamptey, who has since moved to Brighton. An injury crisis meant Lampard turned to Jody and in turn to the academy. They showed complete faith in Lamptey, who came on for his debut and changed the game against Arsenal. It’s that type of situation that we’ve not seen for years and it will be a regular occurrence with the current setup. Billy Gilmour especially comes to mind as well as Ian Maatsen and Tino Anjorin who have have also made debuts this season and impressed.
Through Morris’ experience as a player and as a coach, Chelsea have in place the perfect man to assist Frank Lampard. Deserving youth will and have been given opportunities and that will continue to happen as long as they’re on the touchline.
Jody Morris is Chelsea through and through, and someone that will work tirelessly for success. There’s simply no one better to have around Lampard and the squad.
Edited by: Dan