Hudson-Odoi Finding Form At Forest

How a Forest lifeline saw the second coming of Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Once touted for a move to Bayern Munich worth £70m, Callum Hudson-Odoi rose to prominence at the age of just 17; Camera’s, Microphones, Eyes, all pointed on him – a superstar fresh out of Cobham. Despite the fairytale start, there was a nightmarish period, and despite even that, Hudson-Odoi was offered a second chance by football, and since taking that chance, he’s back on the rise.

How did it all start?

Born in Wandsworth, London, 2000, Callum Hudson-Odoi has football in his blood; Bradley Hudson-Odoi, his older brother, born in 1988, enjoyed a 13-year playing career in the lower leagues, initially starting in the Fulham academy, featuring for teams such as Met Police, Woking & Sutton United along the way. Not just this, but both Bradley & Callum’s father, Bismark, playing as a midfielder also, out of Ghana, his homeland.

Callum rose up through the ranks of Cobham, Chelsea’s world renowned academy, based in Surrey, a place where he learned a high quality of football. From arriving aged Seven, he had his sights set on the Premier League, and eventually he would fulfill his destiny, achieving his first team debut on January 31st 2018, but the result wasn’t quite the one desired, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Bournemouth.

Despite a cold start to life in the first team, dreams came to fruition. Maurizio Sarri, then Chelsea head-coach, seemingly got the best out of him, scoring in the Europa league, before bagging to huge assist against his current club Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup Third round, with Morata finishing them both.

The dream would crumble bit by bit though, as the departure of Sarri, and eventually Lampard, saw the arrival of experienced coach Thomas Tuchel, who started him as a wing-back, but soon criticised his work-rate, and soon enough Hudson-Odoi vanished from the public eye, and was loaned to Leverkusen. Before being Champions of Germany under Xabi Alonso, Leverkusen finished 6th under then-Head coach Gerardo Seaone, with Hudson-Odoi utilised on either wing as a wing-back, perhaps a move Chelsea hoped would see him understand Tuchel’s strategy, and return re-enthused. Unfortunately, those hopes were lessened, missing six games with injury issues, and failing to capture form – the Chelsea loanee went goalless for the season in the league, assisting just once. From Wonderkid, to forgotten, it was perhaps the toughest couple of Seasons for him, 2021-23 where seasons to forget, and sure enough they were, and eventually things started to look up.

The lifeline that he needed

In summer 2023, Hudson-Odoi was announced as a new Forest player, signing a deal until June of 2026, Three-years, after leaving Chelsea in a deal worth an initial £3m rising to £5m with certain bonuses, also accruing a lucrative wage as part of the move to his new club.

Despite interest from Fulham, Forest continued to pursue, and after Willian’s contract extension, Forest saw a golden opportunity to sign one of their priority targets for the window. Neither club could offer the guarantees Chelsea could in regard to the league – a ridiculously low chance of bottom-end finish in the table, almost impossible that relegation would occur, and likelihood of top-10/European football. While Chelsea have been poor for much of the season, Hudson-Odoi was taking a risk joining Forest, for whom he knew – despite their ambitions – were by no means ruled out of a relegation battle, something of which we now know was a very real outcome, and one that went down to the wire.

Even with the lack of guarantee, Hudson-Odoi was sold on the passion of the club, the fanbase, and the ambition of the ownership. His debut goal v Burnley was remarkable: Cut inside, Forest needing a goal, and from distance fired past James Trafford. Some way to equalise, and what a way to mark your Premier League comeback. In a way, from that moment, while I felt there may be some setbacks, I also felt that this was the second coming of Callum Hudson-Odoi, and that shot was just eagerly waiting inside of him for some time – through the lows of the Tuchel era, and dark times in Leverkusen. All of that hardship for a moment of complete Euphoria, and overall just the confidence he needed to start the season.

Throughout the season, Hudson-Odoi faced some spells on the sidelines, the occasional drop in form, but his persistence and work rate shone through. As of the Chelsea game, where he scored against his former side on his 100th Premier League appearance, his numbers for goals are at 8, and 1 assist also. The “back-end” of the season has been his most successful, and perhaps the return of Ola Aina has further helped that – his ability to overlap, and help him on the pitch is wonderful to see, but more so, to have a friend, ex-Chelsea himself, with him day to day nonetheless has its benefits on the forwards mental health, and ability to trust his teammates on the pitch.

Forest offered him a lifeline, and he took it. My word did it pay off.

Where does he go now?

By this, I’m not alluding to a case of literally “where is he going?” [Club elsewhere], but more so, where does he go with form, with his career, with Forest?

With two more years on his contract, it wouldn’t surprise me if Forest try to tie him into a new deal around Christmas should his form continue, and likelihood of Premier League survival be present. But for him, the focus – I’m sure – will be one match at a time, and that approach is sensible.

Joining under Steve Cooper, his boss during the England u17 days, including a youth World Cup win, was huge for him – the inital confidence he [Cooper] installed in Hudson-Odoi was the foundations that were necessary to soon cultivate the success we see him achieve now. Nuno took that further, giving him the chance to play to his strengths, and starting him near-on every game. In a way, it was a transition that needed to happen, and Hudson-Odoi has been superb as a result of that.

Some have speculated he’d be out the door in the summer, but I don’t see it – a good environment at Forest, surrounded by friends, and colleagues, is really important. To any players development. And I don’t feel he’d make the jump quite so soon, after signing just under a year ago.

Forest is the perfect opportunity for him to shine, the platform is open to many eyes, and regular first team football cannot be taken for granted, especially in the Premier League – and I’m sure Nuno Espírito Santo, and Forest’s squad, will continue to get the best out of him.

There’s no doubt his quality is already high, but the ceiling hasn’t been hit just yet; there is more to come from Callum Hudson-Odoi, and that Forest lifeline kick started something special once again.

*Article provided by Jamie Martin (Head Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Callum Hudson-Odoi has made a huge impact at the City Ground.

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