FAUSTINO ANJORIN: Frank Lampard, my childhood hero

From the production line of Chelsea Academy comes another Nigerian descent, Tino Anjorin, who wants to win everything for Chelsea like his childhood hero and coach, Frank Lampard.
Following in the heel of Chelsea Academy production line accentuated by Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, comes Faustino Adebola Anjorin, simply known as Tino Anjorin.

Born to Nigerian father, Tino is so fixated with his childhood hero Frank Lampard that he had all his playing years understudy and play like him the Chelsea legend.

The 18-year old midfielder, who made his Premier League debut last week when he replaced Willian in the 71st minute of a 4-0 home win over Everton, was snapped up by Chelsea Academy at age six.

According to Chelsea official website while shedding light into his journey from academy to English Premier League, writes; “Tino Anjorin has been with us for almost 10 years after joining our development centre programme as an Under-7 and then officially signing at the Under-9 age group.

“A strong, powerful attacking box-to-box midfielder, he loves to shoot and score goals, which was demonstrated in the 2018 FA Youth Cup final when he completed our 7-1 rout against Arsenal with the final goal at the Emirates.

That was his 23rd youth team appearance and eighth goal of the campaign, all while still a schoolboy. Anjorin also made his UEFA Youth League debut in our 4-2 group-stage win over Atletico Madrid.

“2019/20 saw Anjorin appear predominantly for the development squad, through age he was still eligible for the youth team however and was named captain for the FA Youth Cup campaign.

In total, Anjorin made 23 appearances across the Academy teams and scored 11 goals during the campaign.

“As an England Under-18 international, Anjorin played at the European Championship for the Under-17s in May 2018 before signing his first professional contract at the club in November 2018.

The following year saw an England Under-19 debut for Anjorin who scored his maiden goal during his third appearance for the young Lions against Bosnia in a European Under-19 Championship qualifier.

“After a string of impressive development squad performances and still only aged 17, Anjorin was a debutant under Frank Lampard in Chelsea’s 7-1 Carabao Cup victory over Grimsby Town in September 2019.

He was then handed a Premier League debut six months later, he replaced Willian in the 71st minute of a 4-0 home win over Everton.

“In the summer of 2019 Anjorin agreed a new five-year contract with Chelsea following his senior breakthrough under Frank Lampard during the season.”

Speaking with Chelsea TV few hours after making his long awaited Premier league debut, Tino describes the moment that he stepped into the pitch against Everton as a dream coming to reality.

“Everyone tells me how impatient I am. I was just desperate to get out there. The coaches keep telling me: ‘Tino, relax, your time will come.’

As it happened, the wait would only last another four days. With a renewed Chelsea scything through Everton in exhilarating fashion at Stamford Bridge last weekend, Anjorin was called back to the bench.

The 18-year-old had already made his first-team debut back on an icy November night against Grimsby, but this was his first appearance in the Premier League.

A milestone at which childhood fantasy turns into a hardened reality. “This is actually it,” The end of a chapter. “The start of my career.”

In a season dominated by the feel-good narrative of Chelsea’s youth, Anjorin is one of eight players to cross the gilded tightrope from the club’s academy.

A slick and powerful goal scoring midfielder, armed with a grace and guile that’s inspired the under-23’s unbeaten season, he is walking and breathing in the footsteps of those who finally broke the glass ceiling.

“[In the academy] we’re not friends, we’re like brothers. And when we go over to the first team, it’s very welcoming, it’s like a family,” Anjorin told The Independent.

“Having players like Tammy [Abraham] and Mason [Mount], they know what it’s like being a younger player in the academy.

They look after you and give you what maybe they never had at my age. Callum [Hudson-Odoi] is only a year above me. It’s relatable, so 100 per cent it makes you more confident knowing the chances are there.”

It’s a sense of confidence that’s spread through the youth teams, unapologetic for their ambitions, while “familiar faces” and role models are always within touching distance, emboldening each other by their individual achievements.

“Just look at Billy Gilmour out there the other day,” Anjorin says. “I’ve played alongside him and seeing him go out like that gives me the confidence to know I can go out there [with the first team] and not be afraid to do what I do.

“I know if I keep working harder I can try and be at their level. I want to try and put myself in the same position that Reece [James] is in now.

I want to be scoring, I want to be creating. In five years time, I want to be a leader in the team, helping the younger academy kids to come through, where they can look up to me too and thrive as well.”

It’s a sharp juxtaposition to just a few years ago when the academy represented something closer to a footballing Atlantis, replete with riches yet obscured permanently below the surface.

But while the transfer ban might have given clarity to the club’s cultural revolution, Anjorin’s breakthrough had been earmarked by coaches since he was barely a teenager.

Born in Poole, a coastal town better known for its sand than Astroturf, he was just four years old when his raw ability began to stand out.

Within the space of a few months, he was scouted by Southampton and Bournemouth, rotating his time between the two clubs.

After his father’s job was relocated to Kingston two years later, Anjorin was then handpicked by Chelsea while playing at a tournament in London.

“We got to the final and they enclosed the pitch with some sort of orange fencing so it felt like a little stadium,” he remembers vividly.

“I volleyed it into the top corner from the edge of the box. I’ll never forget that. A Chelsea scout came up to my dad after the game and started asking about me. From there, I’ve never looked back.”

Playing anywhere from centre-back to right-wing, Anjorin rose through the academy at breakneck speed, outgrowing his age-group at a pace his body struggled to keep up with.

Still only 14, he had begun training with the club’s relentlessly successful U16s side, featuring the likes of Reece James and Conor Gallagher.

“It was a massive jump at the time, a huge development gap,” he says. “The intensity is a lot higher, you have to be sharper and it’s a lot more demanding on your body.

I used to get a lot of growing issues. I played with the U15s a lot too and they were very strong as well, people like Callum [Hudson-Odoi] and Jonathan Panzo.

They’d win tournament and after tournament and I was overwhelmed because they’re the players I looked up to.”

Those leaps, while sometimes juddering, instilled a “winning mentality” in Anjorin. He became the youngest player in the club’s historically successful U18s team, a baptism of fire under Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, who helped cultivate a granite layer of discipline and determination.

“They made you demand so much more of yourself,” he explains. “You couldn’t have days when you stroll around. If you didn’t train hard, you didn’t play.

They prepared you for the mentality of first team football. It can be brutal [when you’re young] but it helps massively.

With Jody and Joe being there [in the first team now], it makes it still have that academy feeling. It doesn’t feel like a first team and an academy, it feels like one club.”

Anjorin became consumed by that spirit, staying behind every day after training, seeing a fitness specialist to work on his conditioning, even getting “grilled” for overworking himself.

“I’d be out there for five hours after training if I could,” he laughs, his smile momentarily betraying his age.

“I’m always pushing to do more, to be better and try and expand my game. When I get there [to the first team], I want to feel ready and be the best I can be.”

But with his 19th birthday long on the horizon, Anjorin is still embracing the freedom of the present while the club carefully juggles his future, splitting his time between playing matches for the youth teams and training with the senior squad.



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FAUSTINO ANJORIN: Frank Lampard, my childhood hero FAUSTINO ANJORIN: Frank Lampard, my childhood hero Reviewed by Osigwe Omo-Ikirodah on July 19, 2020 Rating: 5

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