NOT too many young players get name-checked by the ‘Special One’.
But new Rotherham United loan signing Izzy Brown can count himself among that very select bracket.
Back in the summer of 2014, then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s comments that he should be blamed if Blues prospect Brown did not become a senior England international under his management were typically startling and headline-grabbing – in the best traditions of the Portuguese.
On the face of it, the comments were somewhat bold and even slightly outlandish considering Brown was just 17 at the time – while also factoring in that Mourinho’s propensity to plump for youth above experience is not exactly one of his acclaimed managerial traits.
But as with everything with Mourinho, his utterances were deliberate and made for a reason.
It referenced Brown’s obvious football talent, but also spoke volumes about the character that the Chelsea manager clearly felt that the teenager possessed.
Leaving home to move to the Midlands to first club West Brom at 14 is not easy. Neither is forsaking friends and family to spend a season in Holland at Vitesse Arnhem – less than six months after your 18th birthday.
That suggests that Brown is made of the right stuff and he is not too bad a player either.
On those striking words of Mourinho, Brown, who has joined the Millers on a season-long loan and could make his debut this afternoon, said: “It was a bit strange, I saw the article when I first signed.
“But you cannot let it get to your head. Even when one of the best managers in the world says something nice about you, you still have to focus because I have not made it yet.
“To be fair, Jose was good with the things he used to say to me.
“He used to help me in training and talk to me and I cannot say anything bad, he was a great manager as you can see from all the trophies he has won.
“I was a bit upset to see him leave as I knew he had high hopes for me, but that is part of football.”
Oon his footballing journey so far, Brown added: “I left home at 14 to move to Birmingham. Then after joining Chelsea, I went to Holland.
“It was difficult with another language and culture. It is hard at times with your friends not being around.
“But it made me a bigger and stronger man. To come into a new dressing room with grown men is difficult for a young boy. But it is nice to be here now and the players have made me feel welcome.
“I will probably have an initiation song on the first away game, which I know is going to come. I can’t sing, but I will give it a go!”
Being out of his comfort zone is clearly something that does not faze Brown and perhaps it is just as well.
The start of the season has not been seamless for the Millers, with Alan Stubbs faced with the conundrum of assimilating a plethora of new signings into his side and cultivating his own playing style, but not, hopefully, at the expense of results.
Three league games in and the Millers are awaiting for their first win, but Brown is ready to play his part with his enthusiasm for the task being positively boyish.
Brown, who netted a brace for England Under-19s in the 3-0 win over Italy at Rotherham in November, 2014, added: “I feel fitter than I probably have ever been. I played five games in the Under-19s European Championships with England and that was basically my pre-season.
“I am fully match fit and have been training every day with Chelsea.
“I cannot wait. My debut might come Saturday, I don’t know. But I am looking forward to playing at Rotherham’s stadium. I have played there before (for England), so have good memories.”
Brown is one of a handful of highly-rated Chelsea players continuing their footballing education in the Championship, with team-mates Kasey Palmer and Tammy Abraham at Huddersfield Town and Bristol City, respectively.
The Millers recruit expects the internal competition, in the nicest possible way, to drive the trio on. No bad thing that.
He added: “There’s a bit of competition going on. Me and Tammy are always saying: ‘Who is going to score most goals?’.
“Me and Tammy play for England together and are good friends off the pitch and I think Kasey and I are going to go out for food one night as we are not too far away. It is good to have people around here who you can spend time with off the pitch.”