How Callum Hudson-Odoi epitomises the young, English mentality of 2018
One of the core principles of sports psychology is control. One element of control, perceived control, is loosely defined as a belief that you are capable of achieving desired outcomes and achieving goals.
It applies on a micro level (“I can score this chance”) and macro level (“I can make it all the way to the top”). According to the sports psychologist, mental preparation breeds confidence and confidence breeds control.
There is an inequality in our usual treatment of young players. We expect the micro elements of perceived control, but guard against the macro. We tell young players to wait for their chance, and yet demand that they are immediately confident in their surroundings when that opportunity comes.
The brave way
A year ago, Jadon Sancho had played only 16 minutes of top-flight football. But he had already seized control of his career; at the age of 17, the winger had rejected Manchester City’s overtures in favour of a move to Borussia Dortmund.
In theoretical terms, the decision was easy. Sancho’s macro goal was to become an England international, play Champions League football and develop as quickly as possible. Dortmund, with their reputation for putting faith in youth and regular Champions League participation, were the natural habitat.
But do not overlook Sancho’s bravery. He rejected a £30,000-a-week contract offer from Manchester City, which would have made him financially comfortable. Leaving your country of birth at any age is a daunting prospect, but doing it at 17 takes courage. We are an island nation whose population is traditionally not predisposed towards professional migration.
Twelve months on, Sancho is a senior England international and one of the brightest young stars in European football. He has played 1,800 Bundesliga minutes for Dortmund. By way of comparison, that is approximately 1,000 more league minutes than Ruben Loftus-Cheek has played for Chelsea. Loftus-Cheek is four years Sancho’s senior.
Now Callum Hudson-Odoi faces the same decision. Bayern Munich have submitted two bids to Chelsea to sign the winger permanently, the second of which is for £30m. Reports suggest that Chelsea are holding out for £40m but would be prepared to sell at that price. Hudson-Odoi is thought to be keen on the move. Eight months younger than Sancho, he is in the same quandary: so far, he has played 69 top-flight minutes.