Following his return to the side in the most recent game, the timing could not be better to talk with the versatile youngster on how he has seen his season pan out…

‘When you put players in, it is not a gift. Players must earn that. If they do and show it, like Lewis Hall who has done well, he gets his place.’

Those were the words of Frank Lampard after the weekend game against Nottingham Forest, a match in which Hall was handed his first action for the men’s side since January. The 18-year-old completed 90 minutes at left-back and will not argue that plenty of hard work has gone into earning another opportunity to showcase his potential. 

It was last season that Hall announced himself to the Stamford Bridge crowd with a hugely impressive showing in an FA Cup win over Chesterfield. 

That promising debut has been built upon this campaign, with Hall making eight further appearances, six of which have come in the Premier League. When he is used, he tends to be a starter; the teenager has only come on as a substitute once. 

‘It definitely feels like a season of progress, especially between the start of the season and January,’ Hall outlines while speaking to us exclusively at Cobham.

‘I feel I took a big step. Everything was going well and I put in performances I was really pleased with. Obviously, I was working hard in training and with the Under-23s I was doing well; I was managing to score goals, get assists.

‘Then when you get opportunities to train with the first team and you continue to do well, it is a nice feeling. I was waiting to get my opportunity and when I got it, I took it. Then it is about keeping that momentum. But against Liverpool, it probably wasn't one of my best games.’

That outing proved Hall’s last involvement until he returned to bench at Bournemouth. However, Ben Chilwell’s injury on the South Coast, plus Marc Cucurella being out, opened the way for his place in the starting side for the Forest game. He was selected ahead of other options. 

There is some regret the game in which Hall was fielded in his favoured central midfield role – away at Anfield – ­ is the one he remains dissatisfied with his own performance. His long-term ambition is to make a position his own but he remains ready to step in at left-back, left wing-back or on the left of a back three when needed.

‘It is good to have that versatility so when the manager needs an option, it gives you an advantage in being selected,’ he says.

Being self-critical

What has become clear from Hall’s senior appearances so far is that it does not matter where on the pitch he is asked to play, he manages to find ways to threaten the opposition goal. 

His outstanding moment against Forest on Saturday at the Bridge was a storming run and a cross that led to a Joao Felix header which was saved, but he still managed a shot himself, one of eight this season. In the Carabao Cup game at Manchester City he came closest to scoring of any Chelsea player. 

‘I feel like my positioning and awareness of getting into the box and timing of runs is pretty decent,’ he explains. 

‘It's just that final touch really. In training over the last couple of months I've been practising my finishing pretty much every day. Even with the simple finishes it is about doing it consistently over weeks and weeks, just trying to improve on that bit. Hopefully, one day, I can get my first goal.

‘I definitely feel I should have scored by now, more than one if I am honest. I like to be critical of myself for something I don’t feel is right. If know I'm better than that, I like to tell myself.

‘In the City game for example, the two chances I had, I feel like in the Under-23s I score those. Maybe it's a little bit of nerves or something like that, but just because it's a big step I don't think anything should change. It naturally does but that's how I am, self-critical.’

As is evident, Hall is a thoughtful young player and he considers other reasons why he is finding it harder to score at senior level than in the Academy sides. 

‘I think the keepers are better. With the Under-23s, they're all really good keepers but they're still learning. Anything in the corners, if you get it right, it's usually a goal. In the first team when you get the top-level keepers, you also must hit it with some power because their reflexes, the way they are able to stretch and dive around, and their anticipation, it’s elite level. You’ve got to hit it hard as well with accuracy.’

Different ideas

Among the five goals Hall scored for the Development Squad and Under-19s this season were a run from deep and a low finish across the goalie in the UEFA Youth League against Salzburg, and a powerfully struck winner away against Oxford’s first team in the EFL Trophy.

‘I preferred the Oxford goal because we won,’ he decides. ‘Salzburg was a weird game; I feel like we should have been winning by a lot more but we drew. It was 0-0 when I scored so it was a good goal to get, but the Oxford one, especially on my right foot off the crossbar was nice as it was late on in the game as well.

‘For me, the Development Squad season was really good. Robbo [Mark Robinson], the manager has helped me a lot. He’s a little different to other managers with some of his ideas and phrases he uses. At first everyone was a bit surprised and then he drilled it into us and after seven or eight games we just clicked. Then we didn't lose a game for several months. 

‘As a team we did well but there were some games we didn't manage to hold on to a lead, which in my opinion cost us the league.’

Away days

While playing 21 games for the Dev Squad and helping them to their third-place finish in the Premier League 2 table, Hall was largely training with the senior players, leading to those Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup appearances this season. 

Those served up experiences in some of the largest away stadiums, with St James’ Park added to Anfield and the Etihad.

‘It's just a bit of a blur,’ Hall admits. ‘We go out onto the pitch, you know what you need to do, you know what the game plan is. I think if you think too much it can affect your game. I tried to just keep calm and relax and then when I get on the pitch, just try to keep focused and think right, it is 11 v 11, try to win the game. 

‘Obviously, you can hear the people in the crowd and you just try to block it out as much as possible when you're playing away from home. When you're playing at home, it's easy to feel it helps. You do listen to the crowd, and it gives you that extra bit of momentum and belief in your team. 

‘Away from home is tricky. When we played City at the Etihad, the Chelsea fans were making a lot of noise but because they're so high up it's difficult to hear them, especially when there’s a full stadium of City fans cheering.

‘That was my second game and I remember going to take a corner and I have never had so much stick in my life, so many people shouting at me, and it just shows you what the top players deal with. It's a good experience to get.

‘When we played the first City game and the Newcastle game – I know we lost both – I was quite pleased with how I played. I felt that I deserve to be there in a way. So the World Cup came at an unfortunate time but I guess that is football really, somethings go for you, somethings don’t.

‘You’ve just got to work hard and keep your mind on it. While the World Cup was on we had the trip to Abu Dhabi and we got the game against Villa in there. I didn't really play the first few games after the World Cup but then managed to get myself a game in the FA Cup and then after that, had a run of games so that was nice.’

Hall understandably sees his next aim as gaining the experience of playing regularly in a senior side, but before longer-term objectives there remain three games of the current season to play. As one of the 11 selected last time out, perhaps another little run of games, including visits to the Etihad and Old Trafford, beckons to cap the teenager’s season of genuine progress.