Ahead of taking on Sevilla in the Champions League tomorrow, the boss talks about the young winger’s absence from the squad against Tottenham, the conversation they had and whether he is working well enough to win his place…
It is the time-honoured difficult part of a football manager’s job – having to leave a player out of his selection despite good form and attitude. For Frank Lampard, that was the scenario in the past week when Callum Hudson-Odoi, fresh from scoring a good goal in Rennes and performing well overall in that Champions League group game, was not involved at all at the weekend when Tottenham visited.
The 20-year-old also won man of the match award for England Under-21s during the international break and having also pleased his club boss day to day at Cobham, Lampard made a point of speaking to Hudson-Odoi personally about not being in the squad to face Spurs.
‘It was difficult,’ admits Lampard, ‘and I have been really pleased with his training lately. I have spoken about Callum at different times since I have been in the job and his work-ethic in training and attitude at the minute is bang on. That is reflected in his scoring against Rennes and playing well. He came on against Newcastle and he was bright, he went away with England Under-21s and did well.
‘When we have a fully fit squad, as we pretty much do now, I have tough decisions when to leave out players who work hard through the week and are desperate to play for the club, but I have to make that decision. So I did speak to Callum personally as I wanted him to understand where he is at the moment which is on a progression which is getting better for me.
‘I want to see more of the same and keep that progression going. If there are times he is not starting or out of the squad, the main thing is I want him to stay positive, and that is part of my job to have that communication level.
‘There are times when other players will have to sit out, and that conversation will have to be with other players.’
Lampard reports Hudson-Odoi reacted well to being told and has trained diligently since.
‘It is not an easy conversation, all players want to play, I expect that,’ Lampard adds, ‘and he will get his opportunity, he will get minutes tomorrow. It is up to him then to keep showing when he plays that he deserves to start, because there is competition in that area, that is the reality of playing for Chelsea.
‘I am not worried about the noise around it or what the permutations of not being in the squad might mean down the line, I am just worried about picking the right squads, and at the same time, if I feel I am taking someone out the squad when they deserve to be in it, I just have to be straight and honest with them on that point and try to work with them to keep them positive and working in the right direction.’
The noise and the permutations are references to other clubs being interested in Hudson-Odoi in the past. Lampard also points out that he often has to leave four or five fit players out of the squad each game, and in Callum’s case he is still a very young developing player, something that is forgotten at times with the high profile he has had from a very early age.
‘We all have steps on the ladder and Callum’s early career has been strange as he got into the team, there was a lot of talk around him before I came, and then he got a really bad injury,’ Lampard lists. ‘For the back end of last season and even this season, I think Callum made the point himself when he was on international duty that he was feeling the injury a little.
‘It is not nice to tell someone they are not in the squad but I have to see the bigger picture and I know that Callum has hundreds of games open in front of him and progression to make, and he will make a big impact because of the talent as long as he has the hard work which he is showing at the minute.’