Tammy Abraham has revealed how he sat in tears inconsolable in the dressing room of the Vodafone Stadium in Istanbul – convinced that he had finally blown his chance of the big time. The Chelsea youngster had just missed the crucial penalty in the shoot out in the Uefa Super Cup final in August – and handed Liverpool a 5-4 shootout win after a gripping 2-2 draw and a brave battle by Frank Lampard’s youthful side.
But worse was to come – with the racial abuse the then 21 year old received after that miss, which left his mother in tears. Supported by Lampard, he recovered, but the doubts about his ability at the highest level still haunted him.
In his only previous spell playing in the Premier League, on loan at Swansea in 2017-18, he netted only five goals in 31 games as the Welsh side were relegated.
So, despite goals galore on loan in the Championship at Bristol City and Aston Villa, the worries were still there. Could he really make it at the top level?
Astonishingly, those doubts were only finally dispelled last year, when Lampard picked him as his central striker ten days after the Istanbul nightmare at Norwich – and he scored his first Premier League goal for Chelsea in a 3-2 win, actually netting twice. The mental shackles were at last off – and another 13 goals have followed, and England caps.
He admitted he had come away from Swansea thinking: “That’s my only chance and I didn’t take it. It was hard to take. I lost a lot of confidence, I was beating myself up. It was my first Premier League experience.”
Twenty five goals for Villa last year as they won promotion to the top fight restored some of that self belief, and Lampard handed him the no9 shirt at the start of this campaign.
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But then came that horrible night in Turkey, just after Chelsea had been thumped 4-0 at Manchester United.
Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian stopped his spot-kick and the old doubts returned – not helped by the vile abuse.
He said: “At Villa, I had only missed one. But the pressure got to me. Afterwards everyone came round saying “don’t worry,” but I wanted everyone to leave me alone, I was in tears.
“I lost confidence. I was doing well on my loans but when I came back to Chelsea, it just wasn’t working – I couldn’t get my first goal, couldn’t do anything. I was wondering if it was worth all the stress – I was getting abused on Twitter, a lot of racist comments, people saying I wasn’t good enough to be playing for Chelsea. It was the biggest down in anything I’ve done in football.”
But Lampard kept faith – and then came Carrow Road. That first goal came after three minutes, and then a winner, as Chelsea registered a crucial first victory of the season.
But, admitted Abraham to Chelseafc.com, if he hadn’t scored that day, it could have been the end at the elite level.
He said: “I knew if I didn’t score then it could be my last starting chance gone. When I scored, the emotions just got to me. I was thinking “I’ve just scored my first goal for Chelsea!
“From there, the confidence came back. The Chelsea fans started to believe in me. Being Chelsea’s number nine, you’ve got big boots to fill. I need to believe that I’m the man.”