LEVI COLWILL is not one for wasting time, nor caring about what other people think.
He is bullish and deliberate with his words. He gets straight to the point – just like his idol John Terry.
No surprises then that, sat in front of the English media in a swanky hotel in Chicago, the 20-year-old made everyone sit up and take note within the first 30 seconds of a pre-season interview.
Asked why he decided to sign a new six-year contract at his beloved Chelsea, the young defender declared: “I always wanted to be at Chelsea, be a Chelsea player and hopefully be a Chelsea legend one day.”
Quite the statement from a young guy who is yet to make a Premier League appearance for the Blues, yet he says it with a straight face and determined glare. He truly believes it.
In fact, it is all Colwill has ever dreamed of since joining the Chelsea academy aged 9. He grew up wanting to be like his heroes Terry and Ashley Cole – bona fide legends of the club.
This season, he has even taken Terry’s famous No.26, having been born on February 26, 2003. Fate.
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Terry and Cole left their marks in West London with the trophies they lifted – 23 combined – and Colwill’s desire is no different.
On what a Chelsea legend looks like, Colwill responded: “Win trophies, really. If we can win everything that gets put out in front of us, hopefully one day I become a legend.
“But not just once, keep doing it in multiple seasons.”
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Colwill finally has a chance to seize his dream. Defensive injuries and the trust and belief of manager Mauricio Pochettino sees him likely to start against Liverpool at the Bridge for their Prem opener on Sunday.
A big moment, and not just because his “football crazy” parents are Liverpool fans. It will be a game that makes the past few years, full of frustration and self-doubt, all worth it.
He admits his mentality was tested during loan spells at Huddersfield in the Championship, and a year later at Brighton in the Prem under Graham Potter and then Roberto De Zerbi.
Colwill explained: “At Huddersfield, I wasn’t a starter and then injury happened. Then I got a chance and then more injuries.
“When De Zerbi came to Brighton and I wasn’t playing much, I had to adapt, keep my head and not just throw my toys out of the pram. It was tough for me every single day.
“I’m so happy for everything I went through. You just have to dig in and keep going. The best players go through it all the time. It’s just how you come out the other side.
“I have had [this mentality] my whole life. It comes from my parents. One of my dad’s biggest things he tells me is never give up and no one can doubt you.
“So, I go into anywhere and try and be confident in myself and think: ‘If you don’t like me, I don’t really care’. I am here to work hard and improve and learn as a player.”
Thanks to this attitude, he left Brighton at the end of last season with a reputation as one of this country’s brightest defensive talents, having made 17 Prem appearances.
A few months later, he played his part in the England U21s winning the Euros in Georgia without conceding a single goal.
Next summer’s Euros with Gareth Southgate’s seniors is now a realistic target.
It is why De Zerbi tried, and failed, to bring Colwill back to the south coast on a permanent basis. On the Italian coach, Colwill smiled and said: “He’s a perfectionist. He wants the best, but Chelsea was always my first option.”
In the end, Pochettino’s words were the difference. Colwill said: “With me, a simple conversation goes a long way. I like to feel like I am a person.
“[Poch] gave me a bit of confidence to say: ‘If you play well, you’ll have a chance with me’, and that’s all I wanted to hear.
“But at the same time, you can’t let me sleep and not work hard. You have got to be on my arse every day.
“I know I can do it. [For Brighton] I played against some of the best players, and played well. Sometimes I played rubbish, it happens. You live and you learn.
“If I learn this now, in ten years I will really know what’s going on and hopefully can become a world class player.
“I just need to play. When I am playing football I am happiest in life.”
Colwill started out as a winger, and gradually retreated to central midfield where he studied Steven Gerrard before finding his calling at centre back.
Before a game, Colwill used to watch clips of Thiago Silva during his Paris Saint-Germain days. Colwill said: “He’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest and that’s what I used to be like before I grew a lot. Mentally he’s steps above everyone.”
And now, he will likely get the chance to start alongside The Brazilian veteran against Liverpool. Injuries to Benoit Badiashile and Wesley Fofana mean that position is his to claim.
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Given the seismic shift in Chelsea’s squad over the past few transfer windows, with trust being placed in youth, lifting a trophy this season may be slightly out of Colwill’s reach.
But, unsurprisingly, he argued: “It’s a different season with different players. There’s a different feeling in the changing room. We’ll go and do something really good this season.”
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