LONDON (AFP) – Callum Hudson-Odoi admitted he is battling to banish his injury demons as the Chelsea winger bids to end his sophomore slump when Burnley visit Stamford Bridge tonight (11pm Brunei time).
Just months ago, Hudson-Odoi was heralded as the brightest of Chelsea’s young stars after his breakthrough season culminated in the teenager signing a bumper new five-year contract in September.
Persuading him to snub strong interest from Bayern Munich was seen as a major victory for new Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.
The 19-year-old was tipped to ascend to the ranks of the Premier League’s elite stars this term but while several of his young Chelsea team-mates have enjoyed vibrant campaigns, Hudson-Odoi’s progress has stalled.
Part of the problem has been the player’s attempts to shake off the painful memories of the torn Achilles in April that cut short his stellar run.
Finding it difficult to trust that his body would not betray him again, Hudson-Odoi played tentatively at the start of this season and quickly found himself consigned to a bit-part role. While he laboured to find a solution, Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount both surpassed their fellow Chelsea youth academy graduate.
If Hudson-Odoi was feeling frustrated, he did not let it show.
He finally saw light at the end of the tunnel when he broke a four-month scoring drought in Chelsea’s FA Cup third-round win against Nottingham Forest last Sunday.
As well as netting the opener, Hudson-Odoi set up Ross Barkley’s goal, but even now those unsettling injury flashbacks have not completely gone.
He was left clutching his troublesome right Achilles after a heavy tackle against Forest and said: “Obviously there are still times where I think to myself ‘If I get kicked on it like today what could happen?’
“There are times where I think to myself ‘If I do a certain movement it will go again’.
“But now as days at training go by, I think if you’re confident and do your strengthening work in the gym, it will still be strong and nothing should happen to it again.”
With Lampard hoping to bolster his fourth-placed squad with new signings, including attacking additions, in the January transfer window, Hudson-Odoi needs to get back to peak form as soon as possible to avoid falling further down the pecking order.
“I’ve been doing work every day with the conditioning coaches to ensure it’s strong enough and nothing else happens to it,” he said.
“I think I’m close to the point I was before. The player trod on my Achilles, which was a bit painful but everything is alright.”
Lampard hailed Hudson-Odoi’s confidence-boosting performance against Forest as a “nice step forward” and the England international hopes that triggers a more positive second half of the season.
“I have been a bit agitated, thinking to myself that I have had chances and I need to convert more of them, be more clinical in front of goal,” said Hudson-Odoi.
“So in this game I thought to myself ‘Hit it low and hard’. Recently I have been thinking ‘Be patient, the goal will come if you be yourself, be calm, everything will go your way.’
“I am really happy that I got the goal and I am looking to build on it and keep going. It is not just about the goal, it is about helping the team, working hard, keeping the ball, and overall I am happy with how everything went.”