The Blues defender has taken his chance under his new manager and it has earned him a first senior international call-up
Frank Lampard admits that Fikayo Tomori has been his pet project but he says that his consistency has helped keep him in the Chelsea team after being on the fringes in pre-season.
Chelsea considered sending Tomori on loan during the summer transfer window, with Everton among the clubs interested, but Lampard opted to keep him and to sell David Luiz to Arsenal.
Tomori was expected to be the fourth choice centre-back at Stamford Bridge this season as he played less than Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma in pre-season.
However, his good form since coming in against Sheffield United on August 31 has made him an important figure at Stamford Bridge, leading to Gareth Southgate calling him up for England’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Lampard, who managed Tomori last season while the defender was on loan at Derby County, spoke about the 21-year-old ahead of Chelsea’s game against Southampton on Sunday.
“He was quiet at Derby. He was quite quiet with me – he wasn’t quiet when they were all together,” Lampard told reporters. “From a distance. He has definitely got personality.
“And that group last year, the group he was in at Derby, he became very popular in the dressing room and popular with the fans because of his performances.
“He was Player of the Year. The progression was huge but the main thing I saw in him was work ethic. He quietly goes about his business. He trains hard, everything you ask him to do he tries to do and more. Physically he is great – we know that.
“But he is one of those when you are doing sprinting or running or some heavy running early season, which we were doing, you could see every day he is nailed on. He does the job. When you want to do a particular training session, something quite simple but takes focus, he is focussed and ready to go.
“And I think that has really shown itself in his performances since he stepped into the team. I put trust in him early in the season – I think that was obvious with the way the pre-season went with the centre-backs. At the moment, he has really delivered and long may that continue.
“I think there is a lot more to come still. You don’t know until you put players in. Against Sheffield United at home was a game where I thought he deserved his opportunity for his training, how he trained.
“That is a great message to all the players: how you train will relate to whether you get picked. Those are the rules here. You have to train at a level. And he trained so well for a period of time he deserved it against Sheffield United and then he gave me a big problem because he played so well and he has continued to do that.
“Yes, he is a project in a way but a nice one because everything you want him to do, he stands up and delivers.”
Tomori played in a back three against Lille in midweek but he has looked equally assured in a back four as Lampard continually alters Chelsea’s formation.
Chelsea’s modest success this season has come as Lampard uses a host of young English players from the club’s academy. Lampard has enjoyed picking English players like Tomori, alongside his fellow academy graduates Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham.
Lampard insisted though that he is just as happy to see young foreign players make it at Chelsea as long as they carry the same love for the club that developed them.
“Well, there are two things. One, I really like it, yes, an affiliation and the academy, and the fans love it,” he continued. “I do like that side of it.
“But the other 50 per cent is that I don’t care where they come from as long as they play and apply and do the right things, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an English 20-year-old or a French 20-year-old, etc.
“I think if the ethics are right and you deserve your place in the team, you’ll get your place in the team. But yes, it’s obviously a nice story because fans really do enjoy seeing the young English boys coming through and they all have an affiliation with the club.
“But then if you look below then slightly, you have Ian Maatsen who is a young Dutch boy, a really good young player. If he comes through I would feel exactly the same so it’s nice to see.”
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