‘You can’t keep somebody out when they are scoring.’
Those words could easily have come from Gareth Southgate and be his justification for including in-form Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham in his latest England squad.
But they are actually from someone who witnessed his rise through Chelsea’s ranks close-up, refer to one of the first battles he had to overcome in Chelsea’s academy and, as it turns out, were a sign of things to come.
Tammy Abraham has been in sensational form for Chelsea in front of goal so far this season
The striker has earned a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this month’s matches
ABRAHAM STATS 19/20
Minutes per goal: 89
Camberwell-born Abraham joined Chelsea as an under-8 after being spotted by Alan Blanford, the same scout who discovered Fikayo Tomori.
Chelsea won a tug-of-war with Arsenal to get Abraham who joined in 2004 along with another exciting striking talent in Dominic Solanke.
By 2013 a third attacking talent, also born in 1997, had been added to Chelsea’s youth set up, Izzy Brown from West Brom, who had already made his Premier League debut, to increase the competition.
Back then Solanke was the golden boy and the belief was he would be the one to ‘make it’.
Meanwhile the perception was it was Solanke and Brown who were having their credentials pushed most out of the trio.
With only one central striking position available and occupied by Solanke, Abraham often found himself moved out wide or into the No.10 position as Chelsea put his versatility that also saw him deployed as a centre-back – making the most of his height – or central midfielder for the academy, to good use.
But when he got his chances through the middle in Solanke’s absence Abraham kept taking them.
He plundered 74 goals in 98 youth team games during 2014-15 and 2015-16 and made himself impossible to ignore as a striker.
In Chelsea’s academy Abraham was behind team-mate Dominic Solanke in the pecking order
Dominic Solanke was Chelsea’s academy golden boy – but he is now playing for Bournemouth
He responded by scoring 74 goals in 98 youth team games during 2014-15 and 2015-16
Throughout the second of those two seasons he stepped up while Solanke was on-loan at Vitesse Arnhem and was rewarded with his Premier League debut by Guus Hiddink.
Of the two players who were once friendly striker rivals it is Abraham who has gone on to make the biggest impression, quickest at the highest level.
Key to that has been the success of the moves he has made.
Solanke wanted guarantees that Chelsea weren’t willing to meet on his return from Vitesse which led to him being frozen out for a year before joining Liverpool when his contract expired and is now at Bournemouth.
Abraham opted for loan moves that have all paid off in their own way to get his first-team football and has subsequently been exposed him to considerably more.
Solanke has made 35 career senior starts and 38 substitute appearances while Abraham has racked up 112 starts and 29 substitute appearances.
Abraham’s first loan spell, a 26-goal season, at Bristol City was an overwhelming success.
Manager Lee Johnson said: ‘The thing that stood out for me was the unbelievable ability to find space in the box where there was none.
‘In training everyone was moving away from the goal as he was moving towards it. ‘There is many a time I’m watching a game thinking, “go on, get a move on, get in the box” and he is holding his run, holding his run and he’s ended up tucking it in and I’ve had to go to myself “maybe he is a better striker than me”.
‘It was a tough season for us. We had a bad spell and he stayed consistent. He was fighting for me which doesn’t always happen.
’18, does he really care whether Lee Johnson is the manager or not? He did. That is a sign of his maturity and also his moral compass. He was always first out, last in. He loved finishing.’
With first-team opportunities thin on the ground, Abraham went on a series of loan spells
He won promotion with Aston Villa – enough to show Frank Lampard he could be the main man
Things were much tougher in his first stab at the Premier League at Swansea who had less of the ball, created fewer chances and suffered relegation. He scored eight goals that season and just one in the league after October.
Abraham, now 22, is remembered fondly at Swansea though. Their and his struggles never got the naturally upbeat front man down.
There was an acceptance that scoring goals for Swansea back then would have been a tough ask for an experienced striker never mind one still trying to find his feet at senior level.
It has gone down as a loan that came too early in his development, a club he joined at the wrong time in their history but, still, a valuable experience.
‘That’s where you learn and become a man quicker,’ he reflected last season. ‘It’s not just always going to be easy and winning games, you have to go through the downside as well.’
His confidence in his ability to score remained and the goals flowed the following season at Aston Villa, another 26 back in the second tier to help the Midlanders to promotion via the play-offs
Despite that, there were some, even at Villa Park, who were among those who harboured doubts about whether Abraham could replicate that form in the top-flight.
After a goalless start to the season Abraham started answering all his doubters in Chelsea’s 3-2 win at Norwich, his fourth appearance of the campaign.
Abraham started answering all his doubters with a fine display in Chelsea’s 3-2 win at Norwich
But he was the target of disgusting racial abuse following his Super Cup penalty miss in August
He scored twice that day, his first Premier League goals for Chelsea. His opener, a sweetly-struck half volley, was followed by a huge embrace with Frank Lampard.
Even in his short time as Chelsea head coach Lampard has played a big part in Abraham’s development. Firstly, Lampard showed huge faith in him by installing him as Chelsea’s No 1 striker.
He has also continued the work that begun when Abraham excelled after going full-time at Chelsea ‘to get his technique in line with his athleticism and personality,’ which former youth coach Michael Beale, a huge Abraham fan, praises both the player and club’s coaches for.
Lampard has worked with him closely on elements of his game after training including his shooting from outside the box, an attribute Abraham revealed last season he was also trying to improve by studying the likes of England captain Harry Kane.
At Norwich, Abraham scored his first ever league goal from outside the box, having scored more than 50 previously from inside it.
Within the meaning of the touchline hug would also have been acknowledgment from Abraham for his manager’s support after he was the target of disgusting racial abuse following his Super Cup penalty miss against Liverpool in August.
‘I think I dealt with it in the best way possible,’ Abraham said this week. ‘Stayed away from Twitter and all social media, I just spent time with my team-mates and my family.
‘It’s not acceptable. But whoever doesn’t have my personality might be affected more. I stayed away, ignored it and just let the football do the talking.’
Frank Lampard has been unwavering in his support of the striker and is reaping the rewards
Abraham could make his competitive debut for England against the Czech Republic on Friday
All Abraham is getting now is widespread praise and his rise has delighted so many people.
Not least his parents Marian and Anthony who have been credited with keeping him grounded. Anthony is in the stands for every Abraham game, wherever he plays.
His infectious, bubbly nature, humility and politeness have made him popular at every club he has been at, with everyone he meets and somebody people want to do well.
Abraham is part of a group of Chelsea youngsters who are making their mark in the first team this season and have noticeably wise heads on young shoulders.
They are such a credit to Chelsea’s academy and good examples of how to carry yourself the club and handle life in the spotlight the club have discussed using them to help in future media training sessions with their academy players despite still being young themselves.
Abraham’s personality is also summed up by another memory from Beale, who is now at Rangers and was head of Chelsea’s local development centres in south London when the striker first joined the club.
‘He celebrated goals [while at the academy] like he scored a winner in the Premier League,’ Beale said.
Now Abraham is scoring them for real in the top flight, Southgate simply couldn’t keep him out of his squad.