While sitting on the bench waiting to come on for Chelsea against an all-but-relegated Fulham, Tammy Abraham could have hardly envisaged how different things would be for him a year later.
The striker is coming towards the end of a stunning first season at Roma, where he is their top scorer with 17 goals – the most scored by an Englishman in a Serie A season – and is idolised by their fans.
On Wednesday Abraham will have the chance to cement legendary status at the Italian side as they make their bid for a first European trophy for 50 years when they play Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final.
It could be said that the move to Rome has been the making of Abraham, or it could be that the once out-of-favour Chelsea striker is simply being given the platform to display the quality he already possessed.
Trust in Tammy as faith pays off
Abraham’s exceptional form has not come out of nowhere.
In the 2019-20 season, when Frank Lampard was in charge of Chelsea, Abraham flourished with 18 goals in all competitions.
But the arrival of Thomas Tuchel in January last year saw his first-team opportunities decline. Abraham made only seven appearances under the German in the remainder of last season, with Tuchel later admitting he did not have “trust” in him.
The signing of Romelu Lukaku in August made it clear that Abraham was down the pecking order and, four days later, he joined Roma.
It was a big-money move for the Italians as they paid £34m, with manager Jose Mourinho convincing the club’s hierarchy that Abraham would be worth the outlay.
“It was all about someone believing in me,” said Abraham, who could add to his 10 England caps in June after being named in the squad to face Hungary, Germany and Italy in the Nations League.
“The past manager – Frank Lampard – gave me that chance. He showed real faith in me and that’s when I was producing. It’s the same now.
“When you have belief from the manager it makes you want to do the best you can. It’s just confidence.”
Fans fall in love with ‘Tammy Tre Punti’
Having a manager’s belief is one thing, but being able to settle in another country is another.
While there are many instances of English players heading overseas and flourishing, there are also cautionary tales of those who have struggled to adapt to a new culture and language.
For Abraham, now 24, from the moment he stepped off the plane to be greeted by swathes of fans he felt wanted – and that helped him to settle quickly.
“Since day one, as soon as I touched down in Rome, it made me feel like one of their own straight away,” he said.
“I told myself, ‘I’ll give my blood, sweat, tears for this club,’ and it’s been an amazing year.”
Abraham threw himself into his new surroundings. When not on the pitch he can be seen around Rome with his girlfriend, visiting the tourist attractions and exploring the city.
“Just learn about Rome,” he said when asked what he likes to do after training. Once, after being spotted by a group of fans at a restaurant following a Roma defeat he bought them all dinner.
The sight of Abraham passionately singing the Roma anthem before kick-off last September strengthened the bond between player and fans, who now chant Tammy Tre Punti – Tammy Three Points – whenever he scores.
“He has really got into the life out here. He isn’t just staying in his hotel room,” Rome-based Football Italia journalist Andrew Cesare told BBC Sport.
“He once told a funny story of when he was caught drinking cappuccino after dinner, but it is a morning drink here. He is really getting to know the culture.
“I am not sure how much Italian he has learnt yet, but there was a recent video where he teased Chris Smalling for having not learned any of the language, suggesting he does understand the importance of it.
“Roma fans are so proud of where they come from and they want people to at least acknowledge that, which Tammy has done.”
History awaits – but then what?
It has already been a record-breaking season for Abraham.
He broke Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella’s record of 21 goals in their debut Roma season and currently has 27 in all competitions.
Abraham’s goals have been key to Roma reaching the Europa Conference League final, with nine in only 12 games.
His tally makes him the highest-scoring Englishman in Europe’s top five leagues – alongside Tottenham’s Harry Kane – and that form will not go unnoticed.
“I don’t think it’s an easy decision for a young, local player to leave his club, to leave his house, his city, his country, to leave the Premier League – which of course is a competition that, when a player is in it, it’s hard to leave,” said Mourinho.
“He made that option and I think he made it by trusting in me. If he wants to go back to England – I don’t think he wants to now – he just needs to click his fingers.”
It is clear Abraham loves Roma and Roma loves him and that love will only grow stronger if he scores the winning goal in Tirana on Wednesday.
“He would have the freedom of Rome,” said Cesare.
“Francesco Totti previously spoke about when Roma won the league in 2001, celebrations lasted for the whole summer.
“A European trophy would be up there. There would be another summer of celebration.”