At just 17 years old, Callum Hudson-Odoi has already been at Chelsea Football Club for longer than almost any other player who’s made a first-team appearance this season. Joining as at the Under-8 level, he’s not only become a Chelsea fan over the past decade, but one of the brightest talents of the Academy — and considering the amount of talent that has come before him, that is saying something.
After playing a key role in Chelsea’s latest FA Youth Cup triumph last season, Hudson-Odoi has stepped up into regular training with the first-team while also making light work of any PL2, Checkatrade Trophy or UEFA Youth League commitments (he has 13 goals and 5 assists in 18 appearances across youth and reserves competitions). He’s also become the second youngest player to ever play for Chelsea in the Premier League (edging out Ethan Ampadu by 4 days), and while his debut two weeks ago is unfortunately remembered most for the drubbing that Chelsea received from AFC Bournemouth, for Callum himself, it was a tremendous occasion. After all, for 25 minutes, he got to play alongside his very idol, for his favorite team. It’s something that surely every kid with aspirations of playing football dreams about.
“I came here at Under-8s and I’ve become a big Chelsea fan. When you play for the club you support it’s a massive feeling. You just can’t believe it.
“All these years I’ve been sitting in the stands and looking at players like Didier Drogba and, as I’ve got older, Eden Hazard and Willian, because they are in the sort of positions I play and I’d like to try to emulate them. When I was on the pitch with Hazard for the first team, it was such a great feeling. He’s my role model and, after all this time I’ve been talking about him and watching him, I couldn’t believe I was playing with him.”
Of course, at Chelsea, just like any other top club, the path from the Academy to the first-team is not exactly easy or straightforward, but Hudson-Odoi has a good chance to make his third appearance of the season on Friday against Hull City in the FA Cup, and that will be yet another step forward in the right direction.
“Obviously I have had to be patient because I’m still young, but when I got my debut, that’s when I knew it was my time to come on the pitch, do what I do, make an impact and show I’m ready.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Chelsea matchday programme via Mail
While Chelsea still have plenty to fight for this season, including a top-four finish, an FA Cup, as well as possible Champions League run, giving chances to players like Hudson-Odoi remains an important task as well. Antonio Conte often talks about building something for the future; Hudson-Odoi might just factor greatly into that eventually.