Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori has said it has been a ‘mad turnaround’ to go from playing on loan at Derby County to a first call-up to the England squad.
Tomori impressed in the Championship last season under Frank Lampard and is now making his mark under the Chelsea boss in the Premier League and Champions League following the sale of David Luiz to Arsenal.
Lampard has recently labelled Tomori his first or second-choice centre-back for the Blues and the 21-year-old’s impact and progress has been rewarded with selection for England’s upcoming European Qualifiers against Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Having come through the youth ranks at Chelsea, Tomori is delighted to have the chance to play in the top flight for the club and acknowledged this season has gone beyond his expectations.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really expecting it," Tomori said at St Mary’s after Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Southampton on Sunday. "I came in this season trying to improve myself and give myself the best chance to play in the Premier League. Playing for Chelsea is what I’ve been doing since I was seven years old, so it’s nice it’s happened this way.
“Having the manager say that about you is nice and that’s what you want. I know he has that faith in me and he’s showed me that faith last year and this year.
"I’ve just tried to work hard and I knew coming back for pre-season I would have to take myself up a couple of levels and I was going to have to learn from other people. So, that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s nice he’s saying that, but I want to carry on and keep improving.”
Tomori will now be hoping to make his England senior debut over the next week and joins Chelsea team-mates Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
However, Tomori could have instead opted to play for Canada, where he was born, or Nigeria, where his parents hail from, and he acknowledged he had to think hard about choosing England.
“England is such a big nation, as well as Nigeria and Canada, so I think I was going to be happy with whoever called me up - but it’s nice it is England,” Tomori said.
“It wasn’t England all the way. I had certain people and certain things that I had to consider. I spoke to my family and people that I care about it and that’s the decision I came to. So, when England came calling, it was difficult to say no.
"It was just more of a thing I was waiting for a call-up because the last international break I didn't get a call-up from anyone. This international break, I was waiting for a call-up and England called me up.
"It’s been a good week. Nice to get the England call-up, but winning in Lille and today, it’s been a good week. The manager (Lampard) told me in the changing room after the Lille game (about his England call-up) so I knew a day before and I had to keep it a secret.
"I told my family and then it got announced on Thursday. Not at all [did I see it coming]. The manager told me and I was like ‘oh’. It was a nice feeling. I’d say so [that it came quicker than I expected].
"Last season, I wasn’t expecting to be there but I never really put a limit on saying I couldn’t do it. It was just more a case of I’ve got to give my best for my club and wherever I was going to be playing week in, week out and try to get in the squad wherever I was. It is obviously good I am here and now, to be in the England squad, it’s a mad turnaround for myself.”
Tomori is one of several academy graduates to have been given an opportunity at first-team level at Chelsea this season following Lampard’s appointment as manager to replace Maurizio Sarri.
He is thriving under Lampard and his coaching staff, and says it is easy to play under the Chelsea legend, even when the team’s tactics and formation change.
“It makes it a lot easier because the manager outlines what he wants from us and we try not to change it up too much," Tomori added. "It’s still the same principles of we want to press, we want to work hard for each other.
"Regardless of the shape, those are the fundamentals and the basics of what we want to be doing. It makes it easier if we switch from a three to a four. Sometimes you have to adapt to the opposition but most of the time we want to play our own game