Frank Lampard says it disrespectful to Chelsea’s senior players to suggest the young talent were guaranteed to be given the chance to shine this season.
The club’s transfer ban meant the Blues boss was unable to strengthen in the summer.
But academy stars Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Andreas Christensen, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James have all impressed.
Lampard, whose side face Newcastle at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, said: “I hear a lot that it [playing the youngsters] was the only way this year and it’s a perfect storm and the young players had to play. But that’s not true.
“To look at it that way would be a disservice to the competition I have in the squad, a disservice to Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuyai, to Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley and to the centre-backs we have got.
“These young boys are contesting and they need to prove when they train that they can play in the team and then it’s my choice.
“They have proved it on merit to give me the chance to choose them and then they need to prove it week, week out. It’s a good story and great for us that they are competing in the squad to get their place.”
Billy Gilmour, 18, has also made his full debut, with several other youngsters also involved in the first-team squad.
Lampard said the emergence of so many promising youngsters is “great”.
“Having been at Chelsea a long time and not seen enough youngs boys come through, now we are, so let’s see it continue with that,” Lampard added.
“It pleases me obviously because they are competing and playing at a high level in the first team, and pleases me for the academy because they are getting recognition for their work.”