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Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham insists Premier League can only resume when it’s safe

Tammy Abraham insists he wants nothing more than to complete this season.

It has been his breakthrough campaign at Chelsea, including his first goal for England, his first in the Champions League, his first hat-trick in the Premier League and a memorable late winner at Arsenal.

‘That was my biggest highlight because the rest of my family are Arsenal fans,’ grins Abraham. ‘To score against Arsenal is a dream come true for me.’

Tammy Abraham has enjoyed his breakthrough campaign at Chelsea in the 2019-20 season

He would love to get back and finish what he started, with Chelsea’s young team well set for the top four, and yet he sounds a note of caution. Like many Premier League footballers, he wants to be sure it is safe to play again. 

He lives with his parents, his brother and sister, and is concerned about the possible implications for his father Anthony, who is asthmatic.

‘Everyone can see what’s going on in the world,’ says Abraham. ‘Everyone wants to come back to football. I love football. It was my first full season at Chelsea, I was having a great season and I would love it to continue.

‘The most important thing for me is for everyone to be well and safe, and for things to start opening up. Then by all means football can always come back. If it’s safe to do so let’s do it, but if it’s not then we will wait.

‘My dad has asthma, so if I was to return to the Premier League and, God forbid, I do catch this disease and bring it home it’s the worst thing possible.

‘The last thing I need is to catch the virus myself or be in contact with anyone with the virus.’

The Chelsea striker scored a memorable late winner at Arsenal in the 2-1 win last December

The Chelsea striker scored a memorable late winner at Arsenal in the 2-1 win last December

Abraham would consider moving out of the family home in Surrey and into isolation in a hotel. 

‘It’s a hard one,’ says the 22-year-old striker. ‘It’s something we’ve all been thinking about for the last six or seven weeks.

‘If the Premier League does come back, I don’t know what I’d do but the hotel could be an option; to self-isolate away from my family.

‘I’ve got my dad’s full support for going back. He just wants me to go back. He’s one of my biggest fans.’

Top-level German football will return on Saturday as the Premier League continues with plans for a restart without fans next month.

‘Germany have planned it out well,’ says Abraham. ‘The coronavirus has not been as big as it’s been in England. I feel they’re going the right way. 

‘As players, we’ve just got to be patient and wait for the clubs, the Premier League and the Government to come to a decision about whether it’s safe for us to do so. We’ll take it on from there.

Abraham celebrates after scoring his first England goal against Montenegro at Wembley

Abraham celebrates after scoring his first England goal against Montenegro at Wembley

‘If they bring back the Premier League then it’s clearly safe enough to do so. If they don’t then it’s clearly not.’

Abraham calculates it must be nine weeks since he was at the training ground. Chelsea were one of the first to close down because Callum Hudson-Odoi was among the first players in England to test positive for coronavirus.

Manager Frank Lampard sent a text message this week to check on Abraham and his family. ‘It was nice to have that check-up from the main man,’ he says.

There have also been live fitness sessions on Zoom, conversations on the social media groups and regular contact with his friend and team-mate Fikayo Tomori. ‘I’m talking to Fikayo every day,’ says Abraham. ‘What’s going to happen? Will it get voided or will it come back and continue where we left off? No one has a clue.’

It has not been lost on the group that footballers were criticised by politicians for not taking pay cuts or deferrals and then urged to hurry back to action and give the nation a morale boost. ‘Someone mentioned that,’ says Abraham. ‘We had a chat in a live session about a week ago; about everyone’s opinions about coming back to football. There were a lot of people for it and a lot of people against. It will always be that way.

‘We are humans. We do have feelings as well. I’m watching Sky News, waiting for Boris (Johnson) to make an announcement. We’re following what’s going on in the world and trying to see if it’s safe or not to go back to football.

‘If we can help, we will, whether that’s in terms of finance or in other ways, to help people, motivate them and give life back to the country. It’s a tough one. I just want to be safe and healthy.’

The alarming Covid-19 death rate among black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds should also ring alarm bells within the football community. About a third of players in the Premier League are in that group.

Like many Premier League footballers, Abraham wants to be sure it is safe to play again

Like many Premier League footballers, Abraham wants to be sure it is safe to play again

‘It does strike my mind,’ says Abraham. ‘But, just in general, the whole risk to our health when we go out on the pitch is a big thing.’

Abraham has recovered from the ankle injury which was nagging him before the season was suspended.

He has bought a Teqball table — like a table-tennis table for football — and has been locked in competition with his brother, Timmy, who has been playing for Bristol Rovers on loan from Fulham.

‘There’s a lot of competition,’ says Tammy. ‘We spend time together in the gym and play football together in the garden. We’re working on our technique and first touch. He’s 19 and working much harder than I did at his age. But he has a long way to go. He doesn’t beat me on the teq table. He doesn’t even come close.

‘I’ve stayed in good shape. I’m a young lad and I don’t feel I ever lose fitness. If there was a game tomorrow, I’d say I’m ready but I know a 90-minute game is different to going on the bike and doing 20 minutes or 30 minutes outside running. The tempo is different. You need a few sessions.’

Like so many other sports fans, Abraham has been inspired by The Last Dance, a documentary on Netflix which tells the story of Michael Jordan and the all- conquering Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s.

It is paused on a large TV on the wall as he conducts this interview via Zoom and he reflects on his own struggles at the start of this season, when he missed a penalty at Liverpool, before the goals started to flow.

‘It’s incredible,’ Abraham says. ‘Watching this motivates me and there’s one thing that caught my mind. Michael Jordan lost a game and he made up things in his head about what someone said to him. That person didn’t actually say it but he used that to go into the next game and to drive him on to be the best.

‘The incident did happen against Liverpool where I missed a penalty and received a lot of abuse and for me it’s just like Michael Jordan, it’s about coming out and proving them wrong. It’s about being at this club, being the main man, being the striker.

‘My dad spoke to me at breakfast and he said, ‘I know you’ve watched Michael Jordan and you’re motivated to go back to football. When you’re ready go out there and do the best you can’.

‘I miss football, just miss scoring goals, seeing the fans and being with my team-mates, having a smile on my face. If it’s safe to do so, I want to finish the job. If not, then go into the next season.’

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