The Blues manager and his backroom team are pushing the 18-year-old winger hard but only because they realize just how great a player he can become
Callum Hudson-Odoi didn’t have much time to enjoy signing a new contract with Chelsea. Frank Lampard made sure of that.
Less than 24 hours after the winger expressed his delight at having finally put pen to paper on an extension that will guarantee him an initial £150,000 ($184,000) per week, his manager issued a stern warning.
“Now that a five-year contract is signed, this is where the hard work really starts for him,” Lampard told reporters on September 20th.
It was an unsurprising stance on the part of the Blues legend.
Ever since returning to the club during the summer, Lampard has made no secret of his admiration of Hudson-Odoi’s ability and he pushed the club to give the gifted but raw 18-year-old the kind of salary usually reserved for established stars, in order to fend off interest from Bayern Munich.
“I made it clear I wanted him at the club because I believe in his talent,” the former England midfielder stated.
However, Lampard was equally unequivocal when it came to his talks with Hudson-Odoi, telling the teenager in no uncertain terms that he still has much work to do if he is to realize his full potential.
“I think there is a lot more to come,” the Blues boss has publicly admitted. “And it’s only pure hard work that will get him there.”
That is a view shared by Lampard’s assistant Jody Morris, who coached Hudson-Odoi during his time with Chelsea’s under-age teams.
“He has still got a lot to do [to become a complete player],” Morris said after Hudson-Odoi’s all-star performance in the 2018 FA Youth Cup final against Arsenal. “He will get a lot of plaudits because he has shown in glimpses that he has got real, real quality.
“But he also showed that he needs to mature and that he needs to follow instructions. He has got a lot to learn but he has certainly got a chance of making it to the top if he keeps his feet on the ground and matures properly.
“There’s a young kid there that has got a fantastic amount of talent. Nobody wants to see him succeed more than me. Some of the things he does with a football are fantastic, but you also want to shake him at times!”
It is for that very reason that Lampard and his backroom team are taking a ‘tough love’ approach with Hudson-Odoi; they know exactly what kind of character he is; that he needs to be pushed hard in order to get the best out of him.
Last week’s League Cup clash with Grimsby was a perfect case in point. Hudson-Odoi was making his first appearance for the senior squad since suffering an Achilles injury in April and he marked the occasion with a goal in a 7-1 win.
Lampard, though, wasn’t entirely happy with his young charge.
“Firstly he has signed up, so that is good, as that puts to bed everything else,” Lampard acknowledged. “But, in terms of his performance, I thought, ‘First half, not so sure.’
“The message to him and Christian (Pullisic) was to attack the defensive line, run in behind and get into the box to take people on.
“It wasn’t happening; that message didn’t get across. It was reinforced pretty strongly at half-time and, in the second half, Callum managed to get into better positions.
“Callum’s talent means that he absolutely has to work hard, to run behind people, to get at people, to be inside, be outside and work off the ball – all those things.
“That’s where he needs to learn because if he wants to play every week, that is what he is going to have to do.”
Lampard played under some tough coaches during his career, while he was also part of some demanding dressing rooms, but he has a very modern take on man-management.
He can be either firm or gentle with his players, tailoring his approach so as not to inhibit different types of characters and Lampard’s dealings with Hudson-Odoi are bespoke to the attacker.
That is hardly surprising, of course, as it has been a long time since a youngster has made such an impact at Chelsea.
Indeed, Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas were all blown away by the teenager’s ability.
“He is a good boy who is full of confidence. I remember this first training session that he did with Antonio Conte,” Fabregas told Goal. “His finishing was superb.”
Thanks partly to Lampard, Hudson-Odoi now has the kind of lucrative contract that both he and his manager felt he warranted.
Now, though, the onus is on Hudson-Odoi to start repaying Chelsea’s faith in him.
His Champions League debut against Lille on Wednesday night would be the perfect place to start.