The golden boy of the Blues’ academy is going through a rough patch in his career but their assistant coach believes it is to be expected
Jody Morris has admitted that Callum Hudson-Odoi is not at his best right now and that the 19-year-old is learning what it is like to face real hardship for the first time in his career.
Chelsea have struggled to kill games off in recent weeks and haven’t been able to find back-to-back wins in the Premier League since the last international break in late November.
Hudson-Odoi has become a particular target of criticism among some of the Blues fan base on social media which the coaching staff has taken note of in recent weeks.
With manager Frank Lampard ill for his media duties, his assistant Morris stepped in. Morris has been watching Hudson-Odoi come through the academy since re-joining as a coach at U18 level six years ago and is working to get the youngster back to his best.
“Me and Joe [Edwards] have both worked with him,” Morris told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. “Frank, not so much but he was around quite a lot with me when Callum was working with me.
“Being away for a year, a lot can happen in a year, especially at such a young age. We all saw what happened with his contract but now that’s done and dusted it is a little bit like let’s knuckle down and get to work.
“The signs at the moment are that he wants to do that. He wants to work hard and improve. The proof is in the pudding and when he gets his chance, he has to make sure he is ready to take it.
“But we do have to keep reminding ourselves that to rupture you Achilles as an 18-year-old, having not played much first-team football and to play the way we want to play then it will take time, I think.
“Not only he is young and he hasn’t gone through any tough spells in his life at the moment. I can’t remember when he has had a serious injury like he has had before. Everything has been plain sailing throughout the academy.
“He was one of the best players in the building for a long time. He did okay last year when he came in, albeit not in the kind of bigger games but remember his age, the fact he hasn’t played regular first-team football and the seriousness of the injury.
“I think those are things you do have to take into account; you need to give the kid time. Can he do better? Yes. He knows he can do better.
“He has been told he can do better, but at the same time, there are moments when you see things he is doing like in the Southampton game that we have asked of him off-the-ball.
“Although some might look from the outside and say he didn’t have the best game but there were things he was trying to do that we asked him to do in the first-half that was pleasing for the manager.
“So there is a bit of a balancing act of, yes you need to perform, but at the same time you need to take into account those points that I said.”
Hudson-Odoi’s poor form is partly rooted in his recent Achilles tendon rupture which he sustained towards the end of last season. He has since come back under a new coach who plays a high-energy style of football and is continuing to adapt to those physical demands.
Chelsea moved to renew Hudson-Odoi’s contract early in the season and offered an unprecedented worth up to £180,000-a-week with performance-related add-ons after Bayern Munich pushed hard to sign him. Morris doesn’t believe that the contract has led to increased pressure on the winger.
“He certainly isn’t showing any signs of that in being around the place,” he added. “You have always got to make sure. He has been asking me about his clips that he wants to go through a couple of days ago so I quite like that from him.
“He wanted to look at the game and go through clips and when someone is actively trying to improve, then you have got a chance.”
Morris thinks that the youngsters will need to continue to develop with opposition players getting to know their skillsets and with them learning how to stop them.
“I think the level of player that we have produced is giving them a better chance of maybe making that step,” he continued. “They probably have a better chance now Frank is manager than they have had previously but, at the same time, just because they do well as young players as 15, 16, 17 years olds, going to do it in the first team for Chelsea is difficult.
“Sometimes you come in and do well because nobody really knows too much about you but then the real tough part comes when there is demands weekly regular demands. It is about whether you can live up to those expectations and only time will tell and only if you perform well, in the beginning, to stay in there.
“Of course, there is no way I can get away from the fact that I am a homegrown player myself. I am a massive Chelsea fan so there is nothing better [than seeing academy talent]. I think every club is like that there is nothing better than seeing their homegrown players coming through.
“The fact we have had seven debutants this year is suggesting we are maybe giving some of them a chance, but it is not just about getting debuts it is about whether you can get some regulars. Some people competing to start week-in week-out.
“There’s some young lads here who are certainly not ready to play week-in week-out but at the same time, they are at least knocking on the door to try and impress the manager.
“As you can see, you never know what is going to come around the corner when you have got Mason Mounts and Tammy Abrahams. I am not sure they would have thought years ago that they are going to play many games for Chelsea.”