Cape Town - Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi may not be considered
the club's top academy product considering the wealth of talent coming through
The 19-year-old was carried into the first team on the back
of huge fan support, sick of seeing overpriced imports keeping those who had
come through the youth system on the sidelines.
Having been given a glimpse of his talent in the cup
competitions, the pressure was firmly placed on then head coach Maurizio Sarri
to make him a first-team regular.
Eventually, the Italian relented, with Hudson-Odoi going on
to make 24 appearances in all competitions last season before a ruptured
Achilles cut short his campaign.
Since going down with that injury, the landscape in west
London has shifted dramatically, with a transfer ban forcing new boss Frank
Lampard to fast-track the academy graduates.
In his final Premier League appearance before his injury in
a 2-2 draw against Burnley in April, Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were
the only members of the starting line-up to have come through the academy.
Now, Lampard is fielding a team with the second-youngest
average age of any top-flight side at 24.5, featuring three academy graduates
The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori
have relished the opportunities handed to them by the ex-Blues midfielder,
making Hudson-Odoi’s rise up the youth system seem ordinary.
With Reece James also starting to make a name for himself,
netting a dramatic equaliser in Tuesday's 4-4 Champions League draw with Ajax,
the list of contenders for top starlet at the Bridge is growing by the day.
Hudson-Odoi is struggling to get back in the first team but
unlike last time, he can't count on the supporters to push his case for him,
with some even questioning whether he was worth the big-money contract that he
penned earlier in the season.
Since Christian Pulisic came into Lampard's XI at the
expense of the England international, the American has netted a hat-trick
against Burnley and scored the winner at Watford. He looks unlikely to lose his
place any time soon but an injury to Mount in midweek presents Hudson-Odoi with
a chance to showcase his talent.
Mount's injury isn't thought to be serious but will likely
keep him out of the game against Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Hudson-Odoi
set to take his spot.
Mount has proven a vital link between midfield and attack
for the Blues this season, netting four goals and two assists, so his absence
could be keenly felt if Hudson-Odoi doesn't perform to the standards which
attracted the interest of Bayern Munich earlier in the year.
In his 10 appearances so far this season, the forward has
provided one goal and four assists and will need to do more if he wants to
remain part of the Chelsea XI going forward.
Lampard is willing to give his youngsters a chance if they
have earned it but, having missed the start of the season through no fault of
his own, Hudson-Odoi is playing catch-up.
Mount's injury gives him the chance to show Lampard why he's
far from over-rated, as some supporters have claimed recently, and is a talent
that can carry Chelsea to great achievements.
- TeamTalk Media