While 2019/20 may be viewed as the season in which Tammy Abraham took centre stage at Stamford Bridge, with 42 appearances and 16 goals to date, it was in fact over four years ago when the young striker first made his Blues bow.
Back then, just as now, Chelsea made the trip to Anfield for the penultimate league game of the campaign. Abraham was just 18 years old, brimming with confidence following a season in which he had netted 26 goals for our various Academy teams.
A few weeks prior to his senior debut, he had scored in Switzerland and in the FA Youth Cup final to help our youngsters to a double dose of their then-customary share of the end-of-season silverware.
The teenager’s thoughts were probably turning towards the summer break and the next step of his development journey, perhaps following in the footsteps of his Cobham colleagues with a season on loan in the Championship or abroad.
Even when he received the call from Guus Hiddink to feature in first team training in the days leading up to the Liverpool game, a meeting between the sides eighth and ninth in the Premier League at the time, Abraham did not think too much of it.
‘My coach Adi Viveash told me I was training with the first team but I was just thinking they probably needed some extra bodies as it was a day or two before the game,’ he recalls as we catch up ahead of our latest trip to Merseyside tonight.
‘It was myself, Kasey Palmer and Fikayo Tomori and we took part in the session before walking back off towards the Academy building. I remember Steve Holland [Hiddink’s assistant] came after us to tell us we were travelling with the squad to Anfield and we were all on the bench.
‘At the time, we tried to play it cool. “Okay Steve, thanks very much.” We just tried to act normal but when we got back to the changing room, we went crazy! We were jumping about, taking our tops off and all sorts.
‘When I got into my car, I called my mum straight away and told her. It was just a crazy moment for me, at 18 years old. It was incredible for me and my family - one of the proudest things I’ve achieved in football so far.’
Fast forward a couple of days and Abraham was walking alongside Tomori out on to the Anfield pitch, two childhood pals enjoying a special moment together, taking in every sight.
‘I remember going out before the game, looking around the stadium and thinking “we’re actually here, this is actually real,”’ he reveals. ‘Fikayo said it felt like the movie Goal because it just didn’t feel real for us.’
Tomori had to wait four more days for his Chelsea debut, which came against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season. Meanwhile, it was 16 minutes from time when Abraham got the shout from Hiddink that he was about to realise a lifelong ambition by featuring for his boyhood club for the very first time on the senior stage.
The 22-year-old remembers every detail of those special moments, including the instructions Hiddink issued to him as he prepared to enter the fray with the team leading 1-0 courtesy of Eden Hazard’s first-half strike.
‘I was warming up with Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] and then I looked over to see Guus Hiddink was calling me to come back,’ continues Abraham. ‘I didn’t know if he was pointing at me or Ruben but I jogged over and he told me to get ready because I was coming on.
‘As I was about to come on, he said to me “you know why you’re here, you’ve been doing so well with the Academy. Now just go out there and have fun, don’t be scared, just enjoy yourself.” It was hard not to be scared but it was probably the best moment of my life.’
Subsequent meetings with Liverpool have garnered differing fortunes for Abraham. He lost 5-0 at Anfield while on loan at Swansea in 2017/18, his only previous visit to the scene of his senior debut.
In Istanbul back in August, the striker missed the decisive penalty kick in the Super Cup final shootout, before leading the line once again up against Virgil van Dijk and Co. as we were narrowly beaten in a closely-contested league meeting at the Bridge in September.
It will take something special to top the magical memories of his Chelsea debut on Merseyside, though if Abraham can help the Blues end Liverpool’s 58-game unbeaten home record in the Premier League and secure Champions League qualification tonight, he might just do it.