In the latest instalment of a feature where we speak to one of our players out on loan, we hear from Jake Clarke-Salter, our centre-back who has enjoyed a solid first half of the season at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands.
The 21-year-old, who made his first-team debut for the Blues in 2016, has been an important member of Vitesse’s defensive unit and performed consistently over the course of his time at the club so far.
Here, he tells us about playing abroad and adapting to pressure, as well as the improvements in his all-round game.
How have you found playing in the Dutch top flight for Vitesse?
I’m enjoying every minute of it at the moment, I’m playing week in, week out, getting good experience and playing well, which is the most important thing. The team are doing well too, so it’s been really good so far.
It’s football-based and a possession-style game which is good. Obviously it’s real football as well with a strong physical element so that’s important for me too because I’m a centre-back, so I’m enjoying all aspects of the Eredivisie and playing for Vitesse.
How does the style of football compare to what you’ve experienced previously in the Championship and lower leagues, as well as academy level?
I think the lower leagues in England are more physical but when you go to a team like Vitesse, who are in the top flight and one of the top sides, then you control the game much more and are expected to win every game, which brings a different kind of pressure. It’s a good environment for me to be in right now because the team is doing well and hopefully I can keep progressing.
I like to play with the ball and the manager wants us to play out from the back and be comfortable in possession, which is ideal for me.
You’ve also been named in the Eredivisie Team of the Week on more than one occasion, which is a big honour in the Netherlands – how pleasing was that?
Yes, I’ve been named in it quite a few times so that’s been a nice little confidence booster. They release the team after every round of fixtures.
Tell us about the goal you scored on your league debut for Vitesse…
It came against Groningen and it was a good feeling. To be honest I think I could have scored a few more but I keep missing when I’ve been in good positions. That goal was a header and myself and the other centre-back are encouraged to go up and get forward for corners and set-pieces.
There is a big demand on Vitesse to win matches every week – how have you found adapting to that pressure?
I’m enjoying it. That’s what you want as a young player, to play week in, week out, in front of big crowds and against good opposition, so I’m enjoying every minute of it and hopefully I can continue to do well.
In which ways has playing in the Netherlands – and for Vitesse – improved your all-round game?
I’d say my organisational skills have improved. Because we have a lot of the ball we need to be in a position to defend well even when we’re on the attack, so that’s been a big factor. I’d also say I’m a lot more comfortable on the ball from the back because we’ve been building up a lot of play and working on possession-based attacks in training, which has come off in matches.
I’m happy with how I’ve played and I’m happy with how the team have been performing all season. There is still another level for me to get to within my performances so hopefully I can continue to progress with each game.
You’ve also captained England Under-21s…
Yes, Lewis Cook is the official captain but when he’s not playing I’ve been wearing the armband so that’s been great for me. [Cook has now been ruled out for six to nine months with an ACL injury]
You’re not the only Chelsea loanee at Vitesse. Eduardo is also there, how have you found playing in front of him?
He’s played every game and he’s doing really well. It’s nice to have an experienced head behind me in goal. He’s helped me a lot.
Away from the football, are you enjoying living in the Netherlands?
Yes, it’s really nice to just concentrate on football. My family have been over quite a bit but on the whole I’m just focusing on football and hopefully we can do well this season.
What are your hopes and aims for the remainder of the campaign?
Just to finish as high as possible in the table. We’re seventh at the moment but between fourth and seventh there is only three points. On a personal level, to continue to do well which will set me up nicely for next season.