Fresh from putting pen to paper on a new long-term contract at Chelsea, Ethan Ampadu spoke to us about his love of the Blues from an early age, his Munich memories, the progress he has made since he has been here as a player, and what his targets are for the years to come…
‘May 2012…I would have been 11.’
Ethan Ampadu has already accumulated plenty of impressive feats and performances which bely his tender years, but it is perhaps this line that will hit his age home hardest to Chelsea supporters. He was 11 years old when we lifted the Champions League in Munich, and like so many Blues fans, of all ages, it is the game he draws to mind when we ask him to pick out his favourite moment from supporting the Blues back in his childhood.
‘When Bayern Munich scored I was probably crying, getting angry at the TV! Then I saw my favourite player Drogba do what he does best, step up and score that header and then the penalty. Thankfully we won.’
Ampadu explains that his support for Chelsea stemmed initially from wanting to ‘go against’ his Dad, Kwame, who has strong ties to Arsenal, the club for whom he started out with as a player and now works for in their academy.
Ethan made it to Stamford Bridge once in his youth but the journey from Exeter was a long one and he was usually playing on weekends, anyway. So his first adult – well, teenage – experiences of our home ground were as a Chelsea player. We put it to him that many of his colleagues in the dressing room are the very same people he grew up supporting on television.
‘I haven’t really thought about it like that!’ he smiles. ‘They have obviously got a lot of experience in this game which I try and learn off to try and improve myself. Some of them were involved in the Champions League final and it’s a lifetime dream to be able to play with them.
‘I might have been a striker back then, because I used to be a striker, so that was one of the reasons I loved Drogba so much, but when I turned into more of a defender I looked at the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, John Terry, Gary Cahill, to try and help me better my game.
Having been a supporter it’s like a dream come true walking out at Stamford Bridge and playing. I have done it a few times and I just want to continue to work hard to try and get some more opportunities to do that.
Ampadu became the first player born this century to start a game for Chelsea when he appeared from the off against Everton in a Carabao Cup tie last October. A month earlier, he made his Blues bow six days after turning 17, and since then he has earned a spot in the Welsh national team, earning rave reviews for a dominant midfield performance against Ireland recently. Has it been hard to keep his feet on the ground?
‘No,’ he confidently asserts.
‘My feet are still on the ground because I have a lot to do. My dad will definitely keep my feet on the ground, and my family, and everyone here. I will keep my feet on the ground because I know I have got a lot to do, and I’ve only had a small taste of what I would like to achieve.
‘I have now got to keep working hard in training, trying to do the right things, and we will see what goes from there. Hopefully it will turn into some opportunities, but even if it doesn’t I have just got to keep working hard and hopefully the time will come.’
Ampadu’s quick adaption to senior life at Chelsea has quickened his development since he arrived, he thinks. He still lives in digs near the training ground, and it is clear from seeing him around the place at Cobham he is respectful of his seniors, but not short on self-confidence. It bodes well for the future.
‘On the pitch I would definitely say I have learned a lot,’ Ampadu says. ‘I have learned off exceptional, world-class players every day.
‘Even off the pitch I think I have matured as a person, being around very experienced men who have done a lot in the game. Compared to them I have not really done anything, so I would definitely say I have matured as a person which only helps me in life as well.
‘It’s all down to the players. They helped me settle in, and it’s not just me, every new player or youngster that comes in, they’re all good and help the player settle.
‘I’d like to think my game has significantly improved since I have been here,’ Ampadu adds as he offers some final reflections on this time at Chelsea to date, and assesses what lies ahead.