Fit-again Hudson-Odoi can keep Chelsea out of Zaha market, says former Blues winger

A highly-rated academy graduate was back among the goals while on FA Cup duty and Pat Nevin sees him adding X-factor to Frank Lampard’s squad

Callum Hudson-Odoi could keep Chelsea out of the market for Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha, says former Blues winger Pat Nevin.

The talented 19-year-old was back among the goals on Sunday in a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round.

Hudson-Odoi was a lively presence throughout that contest, with the England international seemingly getting back to his best after a testing period on the form and fitness front.

Nevin believes a talented academy graduate can be the man to bring added X-factor to Frank Lampard’s squad, with there no need to consider alternative options in the January transfer window.

The ex-Blues midfielder told the club’s official website: “It hasn’t been easy for Callum to get back to his sharpest self in matches and I suspect there are several reasons for that. Coming back from injury, especially a serious one, is different for every single player. When it is the first major injury of your pro career it can play with your mind a bit.

“With any luck, that is him back and he will not have to consider that injury and those painful times again. The other thing of course was that while he was recuperating, other youngsters were stepping into his shoes, actually that should be ‘boots’ obviously.

“They were his mates of course but from being the golden boy along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, suddenly Tammy, Mason, Reece and Fikayo were getting all the plaudits once reserved for him. He wouldn’t have been jealous as such, but again somewhere deep down there must have been real pain that he was missing out while everyone else was having a ball, all because of a moment’s bad luck with that bizarre injury.

“With Willian flying, Christian Pulisic having some fantastic games too and Pedro one of the most decorated players on the planet, it would have been daunting to think about getting back into the team. With all of them there between him and a starting berth, it takes a lot to keep on believing, smiling and being positive around the club. The performance at the weekend and the belief shown by the boss will have given him an enormous boost.

“The thing I was waiting for wasn’t the goal he scored, but that first burst of pace that took him past a defender or indeed inside to create space. There was a decent amount of that sort of acceleration on Sunday and hopefully there is plenty more to come.

“Callum has many talents, but that ability to go past defenders and disrupt organised defences is priceless in the modern game. Actually it has always been important but it is all the more noticeable now there are fewer players who can actually do it regularly.

“This is the thing we have been missing more than anything else, at home particularly. A player who can drive past two or three defenders will be needed if we are to kill off the stuffy teams such as Bournemouth and Southampton among others.

“Maybe in Callum we already have this player at the club, even if the likes of Wilfried Zaha have been mentioned in dispatches.”

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