Hull City v Sunderland: World Cup winner hoping to kickstart stuttering Tigers

Fikayo Tomori, on loand at Brighton last year playing against Alfonso Pedraza, is now with Hull. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Fikayo Tomori, on loand at Brighton last year playing against Alfonso Pedraza, is now with Hull. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
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WHEN Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori became Hull City’s 13th and final signing of the summer just minutes before the transfer window closed, it capped a quite remarkable few months for the teenager.

Helping the England Under-20s to become the first Three Lions side since 1966 to win a World Cup has been the undoubted highlight but there have been plenty of other notable highs in 2017, be it helping Brighton & Hove Albion to promotion from the Championship or being on the bench for the champions in their opening three Premier League games of this season.

Signing for the Tigers on a season-long loan also made Tomori happy, even if the drawn-out saga – Antonio Conte insisted on signing Davide Zappacosta from Torino before allowing the youngster to leave Stamford Bridge – was as nervy an affair as waiting for the final whistle to blow in the World Cup final.

“I was away with the Under-21s in Holland on deadline day,” said the 19-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “I was sitting next to my ‘phone all day, literally texting my agent to see what was happening. I would then call him, we would speak and then hang up. Then, I would text him again.

“The hold-up was Chelsea waiting to announce the whole thing. All I could do was wait. My agent was saying the manager was also waiting. It was nerve-wracking. I was getting texts from (Chelsea club-mate) Tammy Abraham, saying things like, ‘It is 10.30pm, what is happening?’

“When it finally went through, it was a big relief as I was getting worried. I was told it was going to happen, just a case of when. But I was still excited when it went through.”

The England U20's squad and manager Paul Simpson pose with the World Cup after their arrival back at Birmingham Airport.

The England U20's squad and manager Paul Simpson pose with the World Cup after their arrival back at Birmingham Airport.

Tomori’s debut for City came in the midweek defeat at Fulham, the fourth time in five games that Leonid Slutsky’s men have finished on the losing side.

A response is required today against a Sunderland side in even worse form, Simon Grayson’s side having taken just one point from their last five outings. Tomori is eagerly looking forward to his home debut and another opportunity to experience a league he found out all about during four months on loan at Brighton last season.

The Canadian-born defender’s nine appearances were a mixed bag, as the Seagulls won five and lost three before rounding off his stay with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on the final day. By then, Brighton was in full party mode after clinching promotion a fortnight earlier and the club’s victory parade in the wake of the draw with Villa was something to behold as an estimated 60,000 fans packed the seafront to hail their heroes.

By that stage, though, Tomori had already left due to the national team calling. “I missed the celebrations,” he said. “The season finished against Aston Villa, I played in that game and then literally had to go straight to Japan (to start preparing for the Under-20s World Cup) the next day. I did see the celebrations on Twitter, all the videos and so on. It would have been nice to be part of that but I had to go straight to Japan.”

Just being part of the squad itself at the World Cup was good but to get through each stage and then win it was something we could only dream about.

Fikayo Tomori

Tomori’s reward, of course, came when England lifted the World Cup on June 11 after a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal was enough to beat Venezuela in the final. “That was crazy,” said the defender who started all seven of England’s games en route to lifting the trophy in South Korea.

“Just being part of the squad itself at the World Cup was good but to get through each stage and then win it was something we could only dream about.

“It was a great experience, especially as England teams hadn’t won much in a long time. For us to do that was a great achievement and, hopefully, something we can replicate in later age groups and maybe the first team as well.

“The medal is at home. My mum takes it to work and shows it off to her friends. Hopefully, I will get it back off her soon.”

Tomori was no stranger to silverware even before the summer triumph with the Three Lions. As a key member of the all-conquering Chelsea youth team, he bagged winners’ medals in the FA Youth Cup and the UEFA Youth League in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Such is the logjam of young talent at the Bridge, however, that Tomori is one of 34 Blues players out on loan. He still, though, has designs on making it at the Bridge.

“I have been there since I was eight years old so to make that step and play for the first team is the ultimate goal,” he added. “Tammy Abraham did brilliantly (at Bristol City last season). Obviously, I am not a striker so I won’t score 26 goals but, hopefully, I can have a similar impact on the team by helping keep clean sheets.”