It was written in the stars, some might say, co-opting that famous phrase from Gary Neville as Didier Drogba strode towards the penalty spot on May 19, 2012. That story, the Drogba redemption story, began in 2008 with his sending off in Moscow. Sometime that year, another story began. The Callum Hudson-Odoi story.
Born in the year 2000, and playing for Chelsea since the age of 8, the teenager got his first senior start and his first senior goal (and his first senior assist!) against the Champions of Greece in the Europa League on Thursday night. If this was a Hollywood movie script, we’d accuse it of being cliched and predictable. But this was real life, and the script was written in the stars.
We’ve been waiting for this for four months, since CHO was assigned the No.20 shirt in the summer and then confirmed his place in the first-team squad with a stellar preseason. He’s been waiting for this — dreaming about this! — for a decade, since those first days at the club back in 2008. He was obviously quite ecstatic after the match.
“I couldn’t believe it. I got the opportunity to start today and I thought to myself, ‘Do you know what? Today could be the day’.
“Every time I got the ball I just wanted to do what I do normally, keep it simple at times but do my stuff, and as soon as I got the goal I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a dream. As soon as I saw the crowd jumping I realised it was actually a goal and I’d actually scored the first goal for my club.
“For the assist, that just tops off the night for all of us. We worked hard and we deserved all of the goals that we got.”
Thanks to doing all the things he normally does, Callum finished with five shots to lead the team and hit the crossbar once, too. His drive was infectious and just his sheer presence electrified the crowd on a night when the result was rarely in doubt and the home support let the boisterous visitors make all the noise in their corner of The Shed.
I'm so emotional right now. Callum Hudson-Odoi. pic.twitter.com/YuPtfFWhDb— Mod (@CFCMod_) November 29, 2018
Hudson-Odoi had made six substitute appearances over the past twelve months for Chelsea, as well as a start in the pseudo-friendly that is the Community Shield (which only truly counts if you win, and Chelsea did not). This start was certainly long overdue after Maurizio Sarri had passed up multiple opportunities to give the kid a chance in previous League Cup and Europa League matches. And while Sarri was quick to pour a dose harsh reality onto the situation in his post-match comments — “I don’t know if he is able for the Premier League at 18, especially in a big team” — Callum’s joy and everyone else’s joy for him was palpable. Cesc Fabregas, who officially got the assist on CHO’s first ever goal for the club led the way.
One start does not a career make, but all careers must start somewhere. With a contract issue looming — current deal expires in 18 months and a signature isn’t forthcoming easily — with the possibility of a loan move or something even more disappointingly permanent in the air, any and all positivity is welcome news. Sarri wasn’t going to give Callum the start when speaking to the media on Wednesday; 24 hours later he had changed his mind. That’s a good first step.
For now, the kid’s off to celebrate and we’re off to look forward to a nice long career for him in a Blue shirt.
“Every opportunity I get I’ll keep striving and keep working hard, especially in training because that proves everything.
“I’m always eager to play but it’s always the coach’s decision as well so I’ve just got to keep working hard in training and keep proving myself and working hard and hopefully I keep getting the opportunities to play.
“I think I’ll celebrate it with all of my family really. They’ve always been there from the start and helped me all the way so I’ll definitely celebrate with them and have a good time and get back at it tomorrow.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: BT Sport via Goal