“I use the pressure to drive me and inspire me. Going into the games I think it drives me even more: I want to do well for myself, my team-mates, my family and all the fans.”Tammy Abraham
The words of Chelsea’s top goalscorer and number one striker, posted by the club on the morning of the Blues trip to Wolverhampton to face Nuno Espírito Santo’s side in a tricky looking test for Frank Lampard’s men.
55 minutes in and Chelsea are 3-0 up and cruising. Jorginho receives the ball in the centre, turns elegantly and looks up to find his striker sprinting into space. The Italian’s ball finds its target, the forward holds off his man and once getting it out of his feet, executes a dazzling piece of skill to leave the opposing defender in the dust. The striker barely having to look up places a low shot into the corner. 4-0! And the goalscorer runs off with a confident smirk as his fans go wild.
You’d be mistaken for thinking this was the work of Diego Costa or Didier Drogba – or a forward brought in for a high-fee from foreign shores to solve the club’s lack of goalscoring potency. But no, this is Tammy Abraham – a 21-year-old from Camberwell, who is now finding the net for the club he joined at the age of 8.
Abraham got his senior debut in the final days of the 2015/16 season under Guus Hiddink. Firstly at Anfield replacing Bertrand Traore and then against the newly-crowned Premier League Champions Leicester City for his home debut. Both games ended 1-1 and quickly escaped the memory of most as Chelsea were happy to see the back of a mostly dismal nine months.
Although these were landmark days for the then 18-year-old, the prospect of a homegrown player getting close to being a regular in the first team was deemed a fantasy. During that summer, Abraham was sent out on loan to Bristol City to gain valuable first-team experience and get his first proper taste of senior football.
For Abraham, the loan exceeded all expectations. Becoming the Robins top goalscorer, finding the net 26 times and being awarded the club’s Player and Young Player of the Year rounded off a superb nine months. Lee Johnson, manager of Bristol City, has since spoken about Abraham’s time at the club and the close relationship him and Tammy both had during that loan spell.
When speaking to Bristol Live, Johnson touched on an incident which occurred off the pitch as Abraham was reported to have crashed a car after leaving the club’s training ground in 2017 and was found in tears at the side of the road.
“In any season, you go through various emotions with any individual. As a coach you have to be parent, best mate, uncle, teacher, philosopher…
You have to hit them with the stick occasionally but be able to use all the tools in your bag. And that was something that he was so upset about but we got him through it and he was alright in the end.Bristol City manager Lee Johnson on Tammy Abrham
He did the honourable thing, like he should do, and yeah it was something that, of course, made our bond stronger.”
Johnson and Abraham still exchanged texts post his time in Bristol and that bond clearly helped the striker to learn and grow from his mistakes, not only as a player – but also as a man.
Abraham returned to west London and the spirit was completely different.
Chelsea had just been crowned Champions under the guidance of Antonio Conte. The club looked set the banish the anomaly of the 2015/16 debacle and continue to challenge at the top of the English game.
The biggest story of that summer was the very public fallout and shunning of striker Diego Costa, who had been the club’s top scorer the previous season, once again being a terror for opposition defenders as the Blues stormed to glory.
His departure and return to Atletico Madrid took until early September to be confirmed once the player went AWOL. In response to losing 22 goals from one Spaniard, Chelsea responded by replacing him with another in Alvaro Morata to the tune of a £60m transfer fee.
The signing was the marquee, big fee and “ready now” profile the club had been used to and the Blues had their new striker.
Weeks earlier, Chelsea’s younger striker, Abraham had been once again sent out on loan. This time securing a move to a Premier League club in Swansea City. This was the next natural progression for Abraham who would test himself in the top tier with the hope of returning to play for his boyhood club at the end of his spell in South Wales.
However, the campaign would prove a reality check for the youngster who would only find the net 5 times in 31 appearances as the Swans endured a miserable campaign that would end in relegation to the Championship.
Speaking about the loan, Abraham expressed how it was extremely beneficial to his development despite being a painful experience.
“It was a good learning curve going to a team like Swansea. We didn’t create a lot of chances and we weren’t on the ball as much. With Chelsea growing up in the Academy I was used to winning things, scoring a load of goals, but at Swansea I learned the other side to football in the Premier League. It made me into a man even quicker.”Tammy Abraham on his loan spell at Swansea City
Abraham, unlike Bristol City and the close connection he made with Lee Johnson, had to work under two managers as Carlos Carvalhal came in to replace Paul Clement who was dismissed in December of 2017.
At the end of 2017/18 Abraham returned, once again to a different Chelsea.
The club had endured a pretty miserable campaign as the consistent conflict between Antonio Conte and the club’s hierarchy appeared to seep onto the pitch. Despite being 2nd on New Year’s Day, form plummeted in the second half of the season causing Chelsea to eventually miss out on Champions League qualification.
Another key issue that made matters worse was that Alvaro Morata hadn’t hit the heights his early season form had promised. Enduring a horrid winter period where his confidence evaporated coupled with some injury setbacks, Morata was showing all the signs of a busted flush and the comparisons to Fernando Torres were already being made.
Conte left and the Maurizio Sarri reign began. Unlike the previous year, Abraham joined the first team squad for pre-season and started the last warm-up game at home to Lyon.
However once again, Chelsea’s Head Coach would opt for experience and name status over raw talent.
Although Tammy was told he was wanted by the club, it was once again deemed best for both parties the striker gained more first team minutes elsewhere. Joining Aston Villa, where John Terry would arrive with Dean Smith as a coach not long after.
The second tier would once again prove fruitful for the forward who quickly settled and found the net frequently in a promotion chasing Villa outfit.
Terry, when speaking to the club’s in-house channel in January earlier this year, gave high praise when sharing his thoughts about Abraham’s development and confidence.
“He’s been incredible. Obviously I know him very well when I used to play against him at Chelsea. He’s one of those players that when I used to see an academy player come over and train with the first team, me and Gaz Cahill used to look at each other and go “oh no, here we go”, because you knew he was gonna put himself about.
He was gonna run the channels, score goals, be hungry, be passionate. The older players in the group wanted a nice easy day against the kind of middle-aged striker but Tammy always posed a big threat coming up against us and I knew he’d go on to do really well”.John Terry on Tammy Abraham
Tammy has always had that natural confidence and self-belief to find the net wherever he has been and played from an early age. Though Terry was eager to note his dedication to keep the same discipline and mindset away from the public eye.
“You see him on the Saturday scoring goals but he’s like that during the week. You do a five-a-side game, he scores a goal, runs away and punches the air. You can’t teach that in people, that’s got the come from within.”John Terry on Tammy Abraham
Terry’s glowing appraisal from a player of his stature would have impacted people in and around Chelsea monitoring Abraham’s form closely. Another individual who would’ve likely been effected by Terry’s comments was close friend and peer – Frank Lampard, who was managing Derby at the time.
Lampard would have first hand experience of Abraham’s clinical nature as he would prove a menace to the Rams – finding the net home and away as the Villans put Derby to the sword.
The prolific forward would end the season with 26 goals in 40 appearances as Aston Villa would reclaim their Premier League status defeating, in poetic fashion, Derby in the Play-Off final.
Despite some rumours circling of Maurizio Sarri’s departure ahead of Chelsea’s Europa League Final in Baku as the Italian proved a divisive figure at Stamford Bridge, not many could’ve predicted that three months down the line Tammy Abraham would be leading the Chelsea line at Old Trafford with Frank Lampard overseeing a youth revolution.
Though a transfer ban and a bold appointment later, Abraham would return to SW6 for a third time to a different club, but for the first time – one that would finally give him a realistic chance to stake his claim as the main man.
During pre-season, it appeared a straight shootout between Abraham, a returning Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud to claim the number one spot. All three of Lampard’s strikers found the net early on but as the season edged closer, Abraham soon found his name in the starting eleven more frequently than his competition.
Lampard has already fielded some of the youngest sides in over two decades as the 41-year-old looks to put his imprint on a new Chelsea – one that’s infused with burgeoning home-grown talent and emboldened with a sense of unpredictability which has lifted the mood within Stamford Bridge.
Abraham would quickly find himself in the limelight and under scrutiny as Lampard put faith in the 21-year-old to replicate the goalscoring form he had shown at Bristol City and Aston Villa.
Sadly this exciting opportunity was tarred by a tirade of racist abuse which Abraham was subjected to over social media when the striker had his penalty saved against Liverpool in the Super Cup shootout five days into the new campaign.
Already comparisons were being made to another young striker who missed a decisive penalty in the Super Cup – Romelu Lukaku. Jose Mourinho would subsequently send Lukaku out on loan to Everton and the Belgian would never play for Chelsea again.
However Lampard, the club and Abraham himself responded in the perfect manner.
“I am particularly disgusted by the (one) so-called Chelsea fan. To see the different ends of the spectrum of the evening: Tammy Abraham asked me to take the fifth penalty because he wanted to take it, wanted to stand up and be brave on a big night when the world is watching.
He is a confident boy on the pitch, he wants to do well for this football club and he has an opportunity to do that this year.
He is a great, great young lad and his football career is ahead of him, he has experienced something that is not right on all levels, it will be a test of his character that he doesn’t need but he has got great character.
I think Tammy is always desperate to score, that is one of the things I love about him.”Chelsea Head Coach Frank Lampard on Tammy Abraham
The same strength of character and willingness to find the back of the net has been the ever-present factor in him getting back to west London, having to take detours all the way up to Wales and back just to prove he can be good enough for Chelsea
Tammy’s infectious personality is present during behind-the-scenes footage posted on the club’s social media where he clearly has a strong bond with other young players such as Fikayo Tomori, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount as they celebrate a win in the ever-popular “Tech-ball” that you will see many players competing in at Cobham.
That setback for Tammy now seems an irrelevancy as the striker went on to vindicate his manager’s faith by scoring braces against Norwich, Sheffield United and then a hat-trick at Wolves – in a game where he ran England hopeful Conor Coady ragged.
The variety of goals is what has impressed many. From first time half-volley finishes to outside the box strikes to clean headers and one-on-ones from deep – Abraham looks far from a one-trick pony and a forward that has many paths to goal.
His all round play and intelligence of movement might not catch the less observant eye but will certainly please his manager watching on from the touchline. Abraham operates as a modern day striker that can drop deep, run the channels, hold off physical defences and link well with his fellow attackers. These are all the hallmarks of a striker worthy to lead the line at one of England’s top clubs.
Abraham, with 7 goals in 4 has silenced early doubters but knows he can’t rest on his laurels. His manager was right to point out after his outstanding display at Molinuex that the gauntlet has been thrown down for him to work harder and be hungrier for more when the chances come.
“I’ve got confidence in him and I’m prepared to give him chances, but even more now I’ll be tougher on him because he’s shown what he can do. So the moment he wants to come off that and think that goals will just drop at his feet will be a moment when maybe he will be rested, so it’s important he makes sure he stays on his game.Chelsea Head Coach Frank Lampard on Tammy Abraham
I’m happy because I see him every day with a feeling like he wants to play every day, to score goals every day and that’s something a bit special. You don’t see that in all young players and it’s a great gift in him.”
Everything about Tammy Abraham’s resilience has shown his coaches, fellow professionals and now adoring fans who chant his name that he has the perfect attitude to take on that burden and drive his club forward.
The striker faces his sternest test up against Virgil van Dijk on Sunday and many will be questioning if he can better the Dutch defender on the day. But as Tammy has already shown, proving people wrong is what drives him on to reach greater heights.
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