Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham has described the dramatic loss of confidence he suffered after being subject to racist abuse at the start of the season.
Abraham was handed the no.9 shirt as Frank Lampard put his trust in academy graduates to make an impact on the Chelsea senior side, the striker fresh from a successful campaign on loan with Aston Villa the season before.
The 22-year-old made his first start of the season on the opening day as Manchester United ran out 4-0 winners at Old Trafford then, three days later, missed a penalty in the Uefa Super Cup shootout loss to Liverpool as Chelsea left Istanbul empty-handed.
Abraham has revealed how the miss left him in tears after the game before racist abuse destroyed his confidence, citing it as the lowest point of his career to date.
“The season before at Villa, I had only missed one out of eight or nine so I had confidence,” Abraham told the club website. “I remember walking up and the pressure got to me, nobody had missed up to that point so I knew I had to score.
“I had what I wanted to do in my head but I changed my mind when I was taking the run-up. Afterwards in the changing room, everyone came round me saying ‘don’t worry, it happens to the best players’ but at the time I just didn’t want to hear it. I wanted everyone to leave me alone, I was in tears.
“I lost a lot of confidence after that. I was doing well on my loans but when I came back to Chelsea, it just wasn’t working – I couldn’t get my first goal, I couldn’t do anything.
“In my head I was wondering if it was worth all the stress because I was getting abused on Twitter, a lot of racist comments, people saying I wasn’t good enough to be playing for Chelsea. It was the biggest down in anything I’ve done in football.”
Lampard continued to show faith in the young striker, who had denied his Derby County side promotion while winning the play-offs with Villa just months prior.
Abraham came off the bench against Leicester, before starting at Norwich where he bagged a brace – his first goals of the season.
He would do the same at home to Sheffield United before a hat-trick at Wolves, restoring his confidence and helping him score 15 goals before the season was paused.
“In my head, I knew that if I didn’t score [against Norwich] then it could be my last starting chance gone,” he said.
“When I scored, the emotions just got to me. I ran over to the manager and I was thinking ‘I’ve just scored my first goal for Chelsea!
“That’s when the confidence started to come back. I scored the winner in that game as well so from there the confidence came back gradually. The Chelsea fans started to believe in me and I could kick on.
“As a striker, you need to believe in yourself and have that confidence. Being Chelsea’s number nine, you’ve got big boots to fill so I need to believe that I’m the man, that I can score and do well for the team. You need that feeling going into every game.”