The wait might go on at Stamford Bridge, but in the meantime Tammy Abraham has become the first Chelsea player to endorse the appointment of Frank Lampard as successor to Maurizio Sarri, and declared that this is the season the club’s young generation must break through.
The 21-year-old, who scored 26 goals on loan at Aston Villa last season, said that the club’s two-window Fifa transfer ban gave him and other fellow academy graduates the perfect opportunity to break into the first team. He said he was cutting short his holidays after the Under-21s European Championship to join Chelsea’s pre-season in Japan and try to establish himself under the new manager.
A Chelsea academy boy since the age of seven, the south Londoner was part of the Chelsea Under-18s team who won back-to-back FA Youth Cups and Uefa Youth Leagues, when Lampard’s assistant Jody Morris was assistant coach to that young side. The striker had been on loan at Bristol City for the 2016-2017 season and then, in the following campaign, in the Premier League at Swansea City, before he dropped back down to re-establish himself at Aston Villa last season.
Asked about the prospect of Lampard taking over the job and developing the younger players who have been successful on loan, Abraham said that would suit his own career. “Yes, if it was him to take over the job, I believe in myself. There is no better guy [than Lampard] to play under. Someone you have grown up watching, been at Chelsea forever. He knows about me as well. I played against his team in the play-off final.”
Abraham was in the Villa side who beat Lampard’s Derby County team in the Championship play-off final at Wembley last month. There were three potential Chelsea first-team players on the pitch that day, with Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori both in the Derby side. All three are expected to come back into the Chelsea squad next season, with the club unlikely to appeal against the Fifa ban and having sold Eden Hazard to Real Madrid.
On the prospect of going into a Chelsea side short on goals and managed by Lampard, a developer of talent, Abraham said: “This year is the most important year for us [young players]. It is now or never. There will never be a better time to play the youngsters. Of course the transfer ban is probably not what the club wanted, but I am excited and I am sure the rest of the players are.”
He added: “That’s how all the young players are looking at it. There is a great chance for us so we must get our heads down at training and go for it at Chelsea. I have already been talking to the club about pre-season. I’m going to have a couple of weeks and then come back hitting the ground running.”
Asked whether this might be a crossroads, where the club could embrace home-grown talent including the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, currently injured, Abraham said: “Hopefully. Chelsea always had a great academy. They have lacked playing them and taking them to the next level. We have excellent players still there and coming through who are still Chelsea players so, fingers crossed, if it all goes well it changes the mindset.”
Abraham grew up in Camberwell, south London, in the same community as contemporaries Reiss Nelson and Jadon Sancho. Nelson is also expected to start for the England Under-21s against Croatia in San Marino tonight, both teams having lost their two opening games. Abraham scored in the 4-2 defeat by Romania that sealed England’s fate on Friday and the squad will return to London tomorrow.
Abraham said that he was ready for the Premier League, having fallen short of expectations when he was signed on a one-year loan by Paul Clement at the start of the 2017-2018 season. He managed just five goals in 31 appearances for Swansea, who were relegated that season. He has resurrected his development at Villa, where he was the Championship’s second-highest goalscorer behind Teemu Pukki, of Norwich City, scoring four of those 26 in one game against Nottingham Forest in November.
“I feel I needed that little push, some people might call more experience,” he said. “I played [last season] under the pressure of people asking if I could come back and score goals again and help them get back into the Premier League. Well I have been there, done that and now I have full confidence in my ability to score for Chelsea in the Premier League.”
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