After making his League Cup debut for Chelsea in September, Tino Anjorin became the latest of our homegrown youngsters to play in the Premier League in our last outing against Everton and the 18-year-old has been discussing the work behind his impressive breakthrough.
Captain of our FA Youth Cup side and top scorer for our unbeaten development squad, Anjorin’s season would currently be viewed in a pretty positive light even if only through the prism of academy football.
The fact he has also made two appearances for Frank Lampard’s senior side has added an extra layer of gloss to a productive campaign for someone who doesn’t turn 19 until November.
The latest graduate from our incessantly successful youth system, Anjorin has been earmarked as a special talent since the day he signed for Chelsea at eight years old. His unique blend of athleticism, technical proficiency and ability to impact games in the final third have helped him stand out throughout his rise through the age groups, even if there have been the inevitable bumps in the road along the way.
‘I used to get a lot of growing issues,’ admits the teenager. ‘I played with the Under-15s a lot [while in the age group below] and they were very strong, people like Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jonathan Panzo.
‘It was a massive jump at the time – the intensity is a lot higher, you have to be sharper and it’s a lot more demanding on your body. They’d win tournament after tournament and I was overwhelmed because they’re the players I looked up to.’
Fast forward a few years and Anjorin continues to train with team-mates - and play against opponents - a number of years his senior. He is young even for the Under-23s league, of which Andy Myers’s side currently lead by three points with four games remaining, let alone when he crosses the road to train with Lampard’s squad.
However, he sees those challenges as character-building and the opportunity to work alongside seasoned professionals and multiple trophy-winners is clearly one that excites him.
‘The speed, the tempo, everyone’s quicker, stronger, physically bigger,’ he says. ‘They’re elite players. People like Willian, Olivier Giroud, Pedro – he’s won literally everything!
‘Learning from them, getting that experience and advice from them, having a manager like Frank Lampard who’s done it all, it can only make you a better player.’
Training with the men’s first team also reunites Anjorin with coaches who have helped to shape his fledgling career. Joe Edwards has worked with the Poole-born youngster from his pre-teen years, while Jody Morris oversaw his integration into the full-time youth team programme back in 2017/18.
‘They demand so much more of you,' recalls Anjorin of working with the pair. ‘You couldn’t have days when you stroll around. If you didn’t train hard, you didn’t play.
‘They prepared you for the mentality of first team football. It can be brutal but it helps massively. With Jody and Joe being there now, it makes it still have that academy feeling. It doesn’t feel like a first team and an academy, it feels like one club.
‘I’m always pushing to do more, to be better and try to expand my game. I want to feel ready and be the best I can be. I just need to keep working. I want to try and make a statement to Frank, Jody and Joe, and show I belong there.’