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Cole Palmer is a man on the move, from Manchester City to Chelsea, from perennial substitute to pivotal starter, from England Under-21 player to, perhaps, a senior international. It has been a few months of swift change. He is trying to get used to new surroundings, having swapped south Manchester – in his native Wythenshawe – for the South.
“The biggest annoyance for me? It’s definitely the traffic. But overall, I’m enjoying everything else. It’s also much hotter here than in Manchester,” he stated. Palmer is certainly in high demand at the moment, despite maintaining a sense of composure. He remained composed enough to score a penalty in stoppage time for his new team against his former one on Sunday, resulting in a 4-4 tie. He also playfully inserted himself into a City huddle while they were preparing for a free-kick, much to the delight of Erling Haaland.
Maybe it represented Palmer’s fearlessness as he casually scored against City with a nonchalant gesture. He didn’t allow himself to get too excited. Reflecting on his 15 years at the club, he explained, “I can’t celebrate in the same way I would for a last-minute equalizer because that would be disrespectful.”
One possibility is that Palmer has been very successful in scoring important goals recently, and this was just another example. He scored in the Community Shield and the European Super Cup for City, as well as against Arsenal and Tottenham for Chelsea. This ability to perform well in big games may make him a good fit for playing in a tournament for England. Additionally, his confident penalty-taking may also be an asset.
He has essentially declared himself as the designated penalty taker for the incredibly wealthy team, confidently stepping up to take a penalty during the game at Turf Moor and scoring his first goal for Chelsea. He explained, “It was just a decision I made in the moment. After scoring at Burnley, I felt confident to continue taking them.” While penalties have been a challenge for English teams, Palmer is more than willing to be a specialist off the bench for a shootout. “Yes, I would be willing,” he confirmed.
Even though he missed a penalty as a substitute in the 2019 FA Youth Cup final against Liverpool, he remains unfazed. He recalls only one other instance of missing from the 12-yard spot, when he was much younger and playing against Manchester United. He shows a similar determination in open play, always eager to receive the ball and assist the team in tough situations or create opportunities.
He did not foresee the possibility of representing his country when he initially joined Chelsea, despite his success at Stamford Bridge. He stated, “I never had an England call-up in mind when I first signed with Chelsea.”
As a child, he did not have any plans to achieve what he has now. His mother prevented him from playing in the garden due to his tendency to break pipes. However, he has made significant progress, especially in 2023. He expressed his amazement at the rapid changes he has experienced – from winning the Euros, signing with Chelsea, and ultimately joining this team.
Gareth Southgate may have taken notice of his role in England Under-21s’ victory in the European Championship. This sparked a decision for him to consider whether he had impressed Pep Guardiola enough. There were offers for a loan from Brighton, Burnley, and RB Leipzig, but City only agreed to a permanent deal. Chelsea ultimately paid £42.5m to secure him. Reflecting on his move, Palmer wonders what would have happened if he stayed. He acknowledges that he may have played more, but believes that his decision to join Chelsea has been beneficial so far.
It is an understatement. If there appeared to be a risk in exchanging the stability of City for the chaotic atmosphere of Stamford Bridge, there was proof of more level-headedness from a 21-year-old. Although Chelsea has been known for their excessive purchases, he mentioned, “I did take note of the number of players already there, but I don’t think people realize how many players they actually let go.”
The departures of, among others, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Joao Felix, meant there could be opportunities in the attacking midfield positions. “I looked at the squad and thought: ‘If I go there and know what I can do then I’ll have the chance of playing’,” he said. “And thankfully it’s happened.” If there seemed plenty of traffic in the queue for places in Southgate’s attack, Palmer seems to have accelerated past several rivals. Now an England debut could follow in the next week.