With their disappointing Premier League campaign coming to a close, Chelsea will be looking for a renaissance next year—and a young Canadian might just be part of that revitalization plan.
On Wednesday, 18-year-old defender Fikayo Tomori made his first appearance on the matchday roster for the Blues, in their penultimate league match of the season against Liverpool. Two days later, he was named the London powerhouse's Academy Player of the Year.
It’s just the latest step for Tomori, who’s been a part of the Chelsea system for most of his life.
Born in Calgary, Tomori has lived in England with his family since he was a toddler, and has been in Chelsea’s youth system since age 8.
The right-sided player, who has played as both a central defender and a fullback, proved precocious as he worked his way up the ranks, debuting for Chelsea’s Under-18 squad at age 16, before appearing for both the U-19 and U-21 squads the following year (2014-15).
The 2015-16 campaign has been even more eventful for Tomori, at both the club and international level. In November 2015, he made his debut in the Canadian program, joining a U-20 training camp under head coach Rob Gale.
“He loves to defend, he’s an out-and-out defender,” Gale told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “He loves the 1-v-1 defending, he’s very good in those situations. He has a desire, an aggression about him, to win the ball back. It’s a trait we’ve almost lost in our modern defenders.”
In March, he was back with the Canadian Under-20 team, wearing the captain’s armband in the team’s surprising 2-1 win over England in a friendly. Gale says Tomori’s years of service in Chelsea’s youth ranks made him a natural fit as captain.
“He brings a lot of experience to our group,” said Gale. “He’s not the most vocal of players, but that experience, you can see it in the way that he competes.”
Despite his defensive-minded tendencies, Tomori has found the back of the net on occasion; most notably, he scored a goal in Chelsea’s victory in the final of the 2015-16 FA Youth Cup, the club’s second straight Cup title.
And, back in February, he scored some brownie points with cynical soccer fans around the world when he accidentally broke teammate Diego Costa’s nose during a training stint with the first team.
Gale plans to call Tomori into the Canadian U-20 squad later this month, for a training camp and pair of friendlies in Costa Rica.
And while nothing is ever certain for any promising young player, fans will hope that Tomori – who is signed with Chelsea through the 2017-18 season – will be wearing plenty more blue (and red) for years to come.