At the end of last season, the Number 9 shirt was thrown down into the depths of disappointment once again, this time by Gonzalo Higuaín. No shame in walking away from what many Chelsea fans believed to be a cursed jersey. Big-name players Falcao, Torres, Morata and Steve Sidwell to name a few would tell similar tales of woe about their time wearing the shirt under the Stamford Bridge lights. Discarded by many, retire the number the people cried, but not I. Always under the impression that the number was an irrelevant factor for performance, and it was a combination of timing in one’s career and the mentality behind the ability. As the summer ticked over many applied their factor 50 and simply forgot. I, however, could not, as Chelsea approached a pending transfer ban the strike force set to face the season ahead filled me with little optimism. An ageing Giroud with obvious limitations to his game and the goalscoring record to match. A striker in Batshuayi who was coming off a failed loan spell at Valencia, slightly revived by a visit to Selhurst Park.
Step forward Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham.
The man who leads the race for the Golden Boot in the Premier League as I type this. My everyday range of vocabulary wouldn’t do his season of surprises so far justice. The man, the mammoth has impressed me with his influence on the pitch and his mentality, determination, and posture off it. However, this isn’t a breakthrough like many, Tammy’s journey is worth exploring so take out your map, the direction is down, let’s keep swiping.
A predictable beginning of impressing within the walls of Cobham of course, you’d make it no further without grabbing the attention of Jody Morris and Neil Bath first and foremost. From the Under 8s to triumphs in the UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup, it’s fair to say Tammy completed the tests without a single cheat code. Always surrounded by talent, the likes of Dom Solanke pushing for a similar dream, but with Chelsea’s history in youth integration, to say there was only going to be one winner would have been kind. 74 goals in 98 appearances to conclude the last couple of years in the academy it’s fair to say a new challenge was needed.
Next station. Bristol. Tammy would take his first loan, a familiar route for many Chelsea youth. The destination not so much. Critical for his development and a massive contributor to his mentality today. A direct flight to Holland, with many others for a Cobham cuddle at Vitesse was not on the cards. Instead, the pressure of leading the line in a competitive physical league was tasked to him immediately. He went onto score 23 goals in 41 games that season and looking back that may have been the season that put him on the map and took him out of Dom Solanke’s shadow once and for all.
Next station. Swansea. A step up to the big league, all eyeballs were on him, I and many others would go on to mistakenly judge his ability to succeed at Chelsea based on this season. However, let’s not be too harsh on ourselves this was the natural trajectory, right? Perform in the Premier League and then step up again. 5 Goals in 31 appearances were certainly nothing to boast about. For sure, a team missing the creativity of Sigurdsson and Shelvey in season’s past, an underwhelming Renato Sanches his only service. However, still outscored by Jordan Ayew. After seeing the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Romelu Lukaku take the league by storm and fail to establish themselves at the Bridge, what hope did Tammy have? Link up play, influence outside the box, technical ability at the highest level. I had my doubts and so did many others…
Next station. Birmingham. A step back down to the Championship for the “Championship Striker.” Many questioned the move as he’d already proven himself at this level, however, I looked at it from a personal point of view as a confidence boost for the player himself. My expectations and predictions were simple. Tammy would go onto recapture his form at Aston Villa and put himself on the transfer market for a Chelsea profit. 25 Goals in 37 appearances plus the bonus of promotion on his CV to counteract the relegation with Swansea the season before. Tammy’s name was in the mouths of fans once again for the right reasons. Confidence restored, glowing reviews from John Terry, perhaps more than a nice-looking net profit after all.
“The thing I love about him is that you see him on Saturday scoring goals, but he is like that in the week, running away punching the air in five-a-side games. You can’t teach that; it comes from within. Those are the people we want here.”John Terry (@ChelseaLoanArmy)
With a quote like that from Mr. Mentality himself, you’d think I’d be on the Tammy train, ticket paid, head out the window, tongue waving around like a dog. Carefree? No. So many high-profile strikers came and left before him, with the pedigree and experience to deal with the expectation but failed. Who was I to give my belief to a 21-year-old kid without double digits in the topflight? A journey that reminded me of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s, the struggle the graft, the setbacks. However, this position came with an extra layer of pressure. Ready to embrace him as competition under a Transfer ban but by no means expecting miracles.
Fast forward to the present day and a full cycle for this article. Tammy has gone on to discard every doubt I had in him to step up to the task of leading the line for Chelsea. Doing it in the number 9 shirt? Well, that’s merely icing on the cake. From his individual goal at Wolves and acute finish. To his brilliant hold up play with additional flicks whilst creating space for others. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Harry Kane’s international career is over. Above all, I’ll will never forget the abuse he received after missing the penalty in the Super Cup final vs Liverpool. If there was a time for Terry’s quotes to stand up to the test it was then, and they did.
There is no next station. Tammy has reached his destination, it’s Fulham Broadway and luckily there was still a seat for me on the train…