Tahith Chong has been a regular for Birmingham City in the Championship and his loan spell is paying off. His performances have caught the eye of Premier League clubs, with Manchester United among those monitoring his progress.
Tahith Chong left Man United on loan to get games. So far, it’s paying off at Birmingham.
6:00 a.m. ET
Dawson, Rob Correspondent
In the summer, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent Tahith Chong on loan to Birmingham City with the message “I’ll be watching,” and he’ll be happy with what he’s seen thus far. Chong has been so good in his first few weeks in the Championship that Wayne Rooney warned his teammates about the dangers of the 21-year-old Dutch winger before the game against Derby County at St Andrew’s in September.
Chong was awarded man of the match after guiding Birmingham to a 2-0 victory, his second accolade in his first five appearances for his new club. A new league and a new city? It’s no issue.
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“Everyone at Birmingham has done a fantastic job of making me feel welcome, and that makes it easier to succeed on the field,” Chong tells ESPN. “I was really interested after the first discussion I had with the boss [former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder Lee Bowyer].” He went over his plans for me and the team with me. That discussion stayed with me, and we had a second one, and I felt like it was the perfect environment for me to continue to grow as a player.
“The door has always been open if I had any queries or wanted to know anything. As a player, it makes things simpler for me.”
Chong has made 16 appearances for United’s first team since making his debut in January 2019 and has been capped six times for the Netherlands under-21s, but the decision to seek a loan away from Old Trafford was reached following discussions with Solskjaer and his family during the summer. He has adjusted well at Birmingham after struggling for games on loan at Wolfsburg and Club Brugge last season. Chong has already received messages from Solskjaer congratulating him on his strong start, including a text message from the Norwegian after Chong set up two goals in a 5-0 victory against Luton Town in August.
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“I was gone for a year and a half, and injuries like that make you appreciate the little things in life.” It’s difficult because you go in and everyone else is talking about training or games, but you know you’re months away from being fit. Being able to go home and have your mother and father there to comfort you when things become difficult was very helpful in that situation. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.
“It’s always difficult to know you won’t be able to participate due to injury.” It was difficult for me since I was in a new nation and had only been playing for about six months. My parents had also relocated to England at the time, which was fortunate for me. It seemed like I was still at home, which helped the procedure go much more smoothly. I’m not sure what I would have done if my parents hadn’t been present.
“I went to Germany last season and didn’t get to play as much as I wanted. A smidgeon extra in Belgium. I felt like I was still learning even if I wasn’t playing. In Germany and Belgium, I gained a lot of knowledge. You collect many experiences that you carry with you. The goal is for me to play as much as I can for Birmingham, and then we’ll see where we are. I’m in Birmingham, and I want to see the team succeed.”
The Championship has a high learning curve. The fixture list’s relentlessness, coupled with experienced defenders lurking around every corner, ready to do whatever it takes to stop clever wingers, makes it difficult for young players to flourish. Chong, on the other hand, is certain that it’s the ideal location to improve.
“I know you may get a few kicks here and there if you want to dribble and get past guys,” he adds. “My philosophy is that you simply have to get up and go again. You get up after being kicked.”
He’s playing regular senior football for the first time in his career. He has started each of Birmingham’s last seven games, making a total of ten appearances for the club.
“I believe I’m dealing well,” he adds. “Playing three games in a week is an excellent learning experience, but you must recover properly, eat well, and sleep well.” That’s a new experience for me since I’ve never done anything like it before.
“It’s appealing because it’s unique, and you need such experiences. Everywhere you go, you carry a bag with you, and everything you learn goes into it. Maybe in two or three years, I’ll need something I’ve learned, and I’ll be able to go into the backpack and pull it out. That is how I see things.”
After a few months in Birmingham, the bag is starting to fill up.
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