When Chelsea reached their ninth League Cup final in January, overcoming Championship side Middlesbrough 6-1 at Stamford Bridge, on the bench sat goalkeeper Ted Curd – a young man born and raised in Hampton.
With manager Mauricio Pochettino in his view, Lionel Messi’s coach last season, Curd had just watched a side he now belongs to, and who are collectively worth close to £1 billion, secure yet another trip to Wembley Stadium.
The 17-year-old’s journey to professionalism has been highlighted by many, but it is Curd’s own mental fortitude that now has him rubbing shoulders with Premier League greats.
“Enzo [Fernandez] is probably the best all-round player there and Raheem Sterling is unbelievable in training,” said Curd.
“Thiago Silva doesn’t speak much English, but is still a voice on the pitch.
“I don’t know how he does it, it’s all with his hands and you always know what he’s talking about even when he’s not speaking.
“The level is incredible, I believe I’m quite good at being in the moment and not being phased by it, but when I talk and think about it now–when I’m sitting getting my boots on next to the big boys–it’s really, really cool.”
Acting as back-up to Dorde Petrovic alongside Lucas Bergstrom in that semi-final was Curd’s first experience of competitive first-team football at the west London club.
With first-choice Robert Sanchez out injured, another under-21s goalkeeper having just gone out on loan and Marcus Bettinelli not included in the squad, it meant the number 40 was bordering on making his first-team debut at Chelsea.
These situations would normally seem far-fetched to a 17-year-old, but the England international at youth level perfectly dovetails with his current surroundings based on the path that led him there.
A childhood spent emerging through the ranks of Chelsea from the age of six, paired with a recent loan spell at Hashtag United and an under-17 World Cup in Indonesia, have all stood Curd in good stead for what is to come in his professional football career.
Curd said: “I’ve always been intrinsically motivated, I don’t know where it comes from, but I enjoy thinking about what I can be as a goalkeeper and I am willing to do anything to improve.”
“I’d get up before school at 6am and go to the gym,” he said reminiscing on his time at Chelsea’s Glyn School, a move he describes as the best thing he’s ever done.
The Glyn School is an independent school education provided by Chelsea’s Academy and the programme offers young people the opportunity to train like a professional footballer while still maintaining an education.
Curd moved into a host family full time in Cobham at the age of 14, achieving grade nines in stem subjects such as maths, biology, chemistry and physics.
He attended Hampton Infants and Junior School up to the summer of 2017, before progressing to Hampton High until 2020.
Head of education at Glyn School Simon Knight said: “He’s got this lovely intrinsic drive to better himself and he was able to grasp every opportunity.
“Ted has those characteristics and traits that any adult in any industry would love to work with.
“He’s just got it right and I don’t know if you can teach that.”
Grassroots football club Esher FC is where it all began for Curd when was five year old.
It was here in the suburban village of Thames Ditton where he was first scouted for Chelsea in unusual circumstances.
Curd recalled: “It was actually my brother who got scouted, not me, and my mum had to ask the scout if I could come along as well or I would get upset.
“My brother unfortunately didn’t make it through to the under eights, I don’t think I would ever have got scouted myself because I was playing outfield at the time.”
Curd started in development when he was six-years-old as an outfield player at Chelsea, before officially signing with the under eights in March 2014 at Stamford Bridge where he has remained ever since.
Curd said: “I used to go in goal with my brother in the garden because he’s older than me and I didn’t really have much of a choice.
“It wasn’t until a showcase games weekend, we didn’t have a goalkeeper in our team, so I decided to jump in goal, done quite well and they asked me to come back to training next Monday and go with the goalkeepers.”
The dream of making it professionally in football is one many children grow up with, but the requisite dedication and consistent sacrifice to make it to the top level is often rarely thought of.
It is evident that Curd’s character and unique growth mindset was recognised in his earliest years from those closest to him.
After winning the Richmond NPL (National Physical Laboratory) tournament, Hampton Junior School won bronze medals in 2016 after representing Richmond in the London Games.
Curd described Dan Hatton, his teacher at the time, as football mad, passionate and the kind of person that everyone at the school loved.
Curd discussed one of his standout memories with Dan occurring when the teacher ran onto the pitch with joy during their semi-final in the NPL tournament.
Hatton said: “I’m blown away that he remembers that.
“I was a keeper myself, but for me to have a keeper like that in the class was great and I think that’s where me and Ted had a really nice bond.
“You get certain kids as a teacher that you’re just never going to forget and I always remember saying that he will go somewhere.
“Ted had that level of intrinsic motivation and I can’t speak highly enough about just him as a person, just the way he is, he’s given himself the best chance of going anywhere in the future.”
Hampton’s primary school has produced football talent, with Levi Laing at West Ham, Alfie Tuck at QPR and Alfie Gilchrist at Chelsea all currently operating at a professional level.
Head Teacher at Hampton Primary Partnership Helen Lockey said: “Ted’s sheer enjoyment and passion for football was always clear to see, but as he progressed so was his determination, skill and love of competition.”
Chelsea offered Curd a scholarship following his GCSE exams and he signed a professional contract with the club on his birthday in February 2023.
Curd said: “As a younger kid, I never thought about being a professional.
“I just played football and it wasn’t until lockdown that I started to question whether to ask some coaches if they thought I was good enough – I never asked in the end.
“I didn’t have much of a social life at Hampton High, I just had to get home, and I never went to any youth clubs that all the lads went to, I was always busy and wanted to get home for training.”
Last year, Curd was sent out on loan to Hashtag United, who play their football in the Isthmian League Premier Division, but have a collective social media following of over one million.
Curd said on his loan move to Hashtag: “It’s really important for goalkeepers to go out on loan, especially academy goalkeepers because the game is completely different.
“I spend most of my time in academy games waiting for the ball to come to me, but it never does, whereas at Hashtag, there are a lot of turnovers, so you’re constantly defending and engaged.”
The move epitomised the goalkeeper’s desire to improve his game, as he knew exactly what he wanted to learn from it.
Refining his handling with crosses and shot-stopping was at the top that list.
When Curd picked The Tags he knew all about the club, as well as the fact that he would be playing for an audience of more than 600,000 all season.
Just before a call with his agent to decide on the best option for his loan, Curd checked his phone to find Hashtag’s founder Spencer Carmichael-Brown had followed him on Instagram.
He said: “I thought that can only mean one thing, and when I spoke to my agent saying there were a few clubs interested, one of them being Hashtag, it was quite interesting to get my head around that.
“I’ve been massively aware of Spencer, watched all of his videos when I was younger and I watched Hashtag in the Wembley Cup”
The Wembley Cup is a competition Carmichael-Brown created in front of 18,000 people at Wembley and watched by 20 million people on YouTube.
Curd continued: “Even when I went to Hashtag for the first time it was a weird feeling, as I knew a lot of the names even though I had to get introduced to them, but you get to know them as a person and all of them are exactly the same as they’re perceived on camera, all great.”
Hashtag United manager Jay Devereux and Carmichael-Brown both said that Curd was a joy to have at the club, with Devereux specifically commenting on his maturity and professionalism.
Carmichael-Brown added: “We enjoyed every second of having him at Hashtag and getting to know him and his wonderful family, he is a top lad with a very bright future and good head on his shoulders.”
Curd kept four clean sheet in 16 starts during his time at Len Salmon Stadium, while continuing to impress all of those involved at Hashtag on a day-to-day basis.
On the international front, Curd was selected for an England camp for the first time at Under-15 level in July 2019.
Since then, the goalkeeper has been consistently involved with the set up at St. George’s Park and was selected for his first major tournament in May 2023 to play at the Under-17 Euros.
During the tournament in Hungary, England faced Switzerland on two occasions.
In the first, Curd saved an important penalty in a goalless draw to ensure England pipped the Swiss to top spot on goal difference.
The second was a play-off match, as the Young Lions won 4-2 to qualify for the World Cup.
Then in November 2023, Curd was called up for again for the Under-17s, but this time to compete at the FIFA World Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.
His side finished top of Group C beating New Caledonia 10-0, before overcoming Iran 2-1 and losing to to Brazil by the same scoreline
Curd said: “Being at the World Cup, it makes you think how big it is to be at England and how much of a honour it is.
“The World Cup was surreal, it was almost like we were proper professionals and we were at the real thing.
“The amount of people in the stadiums, the grounds we were playing in, the amount of people that wanted photos.
“I hope I can go to all of these tournaments, but I take one thing at a time, I never get ahead of myself and when the next one comes round, I’ll be working extra hard to be involved.”
All pictures not credited above, including featured image, taken by and supplied by Ted Curd’s family, with thanks