Academy star Alfie Gilchrist was thrilled to make his full debut at Stamford Bridge as he helped the Blues progress to the next round of the FA Cup with a 4-0 victory over Preston North End.

During an impressive first start for the 20-year-old, Gilchrist helped the Blues control the right-hand side of the pitch with the defender employed at full-back by manager Mauricio Pochettino, as goals from Armando Broja, Thiago Silva, Raheem Sterling and Enzo Fernandez ensured safe passage to the fourth round.

Having worked his way up through the ranks at Cobham, Alfie acknowledged how special it was to hear the supporters in attendance chanting his name, especially as a Chelsea fan himself.

‘It means so much and just hearing them – wow,’ said Gilchrist post-match.

‘It’s crazy just being out there. Last season I would’ve been up there in the West Stand watching it, wanting to get on the pitch. Now it’s the first game of the year and the [fans] are singing my name.

‘It’s crazy being out there as a Chelsea fan. Obviously, I’ve been here so long so it means so much to have my friends and family in the crowd as well. It’s a big moment and I want to keep going.

‘Days like this are great for the academy because it shows how much work we put in every day over there, and it’s working.

‘Players are coming through and as soon as I got in the changing room, I had like 20 texts from people at Cobham. It’s really good.’

Focusing on the step-up to men’s football, Chelsea’s no. 42 has noticed a change in intensity during matches, but he is enjoying getting to grips with the tempo and the tasks set to him by the manager and the coaching staff.

‘I’ve really enjoyed that challenge,’ Gilchrist continued.

‘When I was playing with the Under-21s we had the EFL Trophy where we would play against the men’s teams, and they’re always my favourite games because they are a challenge – that has helped me.

‘I’m a bit tired because I haven’t played too much recently as I have been training with the first team. It’s about keeping as fit as possible because you can’t get your match fitness, but you can try your best. When you get that opportunity you need to be ready.’

A wise head on young shoulders, Gilchrist – who is predominately a centre-half – believes that versatility is hugely important in building upon his understanding of the game, having featured from right-back against the Lilywhites.

He added: ‘I’m always ready and available for wherever the manager wants me to play, whether that’s centre-back or right-back.

‘I’m covering that position in training every day and I try to learn everyone’s roles so I can help them on the pitch. I think that has really helped me. When I talk to the right-back, I know what he should be doing, so I think if I was the centre-back, what would I be saying to me.

‘It's a big part of my game because it makes your game easier if you’re talking, communicating and helping your teammates out. It can save you running half the time as well, so it’s good.’