Adam’s latest “The Championship Corner” column.
Of the 13 players Chelsea have dotted around the Football League on loan, three of them scored at the weekend.
Tomas Kalas and Lucas Piazon both netted in Fulham’s 5-0 rout of early league leaders Huddersfield while Tammy Abraham got one in Bristol City’s 2-2 draw with Barnsley.
Meanwhile down in League Two, to illustrate how deep Chelsea’s talent drain runs, Alex Kiwomya was instrumental in Crewe’s 0-2 win at Leyton Orient, claiming two assists.
Chelsea’s recent league revival has coincided with fresh optimism that youth players can break into the first-time under Antonio Conte, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah and Ola Aina all being given game time, and it may send a message to the 38 players Chelsea have out on loan in total that they have something to work towards.
If anybody can have his eyes on a regular spot for Chelsea it will be Abraham, who got his 12th goal of the season in the draw at Oakwell.
“He’s the future for Chelsea, for sure” said Conte, who saw the attacker first-hand in the pre-season tour of America. “Abraham has great potential. I think the academy is working very well.”
His goal at Barnsley, a sweeping close-range finish after being fed by Lee Tomlin, as well as showing his intelligent movement across the shoulder of the last defender was Abraham’s first in 5 games, ending a relative barren spell following the four goals he plundered in September to win the EFL’s Young Player of the Month.
His goals have fired Bristol City, who finished clear of the relegation zone by only 3 points last season, into the top six and on a run of just 3 defeats in 11 and under a young, ambitious manager in Lee Johnson who can draw the extensive knowledge of his Cheltenham-manager father Gary, the Robins are looking upwards.
The recent redevelopment of their Ashton Gate home has been expensive but City have been resourceful, signing the likes of Aden Flint, Luke Freeman, Callum O’Dowda and Marlon Pack on cheap deals from the lower leagues and building a side around a solid spine.
Hordor Magnusson was signed in the summer from Juventus for just over £2 million and has immediately struck up an immovable partnership with the monstrous Flint at the back, while the vast experience of Gary O’Neil was acquired shrewdly on a free from Norwich.
Jonathon Kodjia was signed from French side SCO Angers for £2.5 million and sold to Aston Villa a year later for a fee that could rise to £15 million, but not before he’d scored 20 goals to keep the Robins in the Championship.
Abraham’s emergence, alongside the established class of Tomlin and Aaron Wilbraham in a multi-faceted attack that offers creativity, skill, pace, strength and power, has ensured the loss of Kodjia has been seamless.
Johnson has forged a squad with the majority of its players under the age of 30, with a few elder statesmen complimenting a tight group that appears littered with the ambition and hunger epitomised by Abraham, a “footballer that likes playing football more than he loves being a footballer” according to Johnson.
Johnson, himself youthful at 35, has been demanding on the standards he has set for his young players.
“You have to get everybody to buy into it. They have to know the standards, as far as behaviour, that we expect,” he said and it appears to be paying off for the club and its owner, local billionaire Steve Lansdown, who has said he will not rest until he has guided the Robins into the Premier League for the first time.
With Abraham tied down for the rest of the season they have a chance of reaching that target and for the striker blessed with searing pace and composure in-front of goal, bright times lie ahead.
He scored twice for the England under-21s on his full-debut in the 5-0 thrashing of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is expected to play a starring role in next summer’s European Championship in Poland.
He will then aim to rise above the parapet that has cut countless teenagers and emerging stars off at Chelsea.
Until then, the striker who has a passion for acting since performing drama in school, is playing a starring role in Bristol City’s rise.
Written by Adam Gray
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