THE SELECTOR: MARCO VAN GINKEL

Apr 24, 2014 Posted Under: News

Our Dutch midfielder, who was back on the first team bench midweek after injury, is the latest player to pair six subjects into the categories first, last, best, worst, easiest and hardest…

FIRST
Game
My first game as a professional was for Vitesse against RKC Waalwijk and we lost 4-1. I came on as a sub when we were 3-0 down so I suppose you could say that when I was on the pitch it was a draw, but it was a very difficult first game for me.

LAST
Holiday
My last holiday was last summer when I went to Ibiza [pictured below]. It’s a really nice island, you can go to the beach and relax but you can also go there to party. It’s a place which enables you to do whatever you want, anything is possible. I spent most of the time relaxing, I was with a group of friends and we had a few drinks together. If you focus the whole year on playing football it’s nice to have some entertainment in the summer.

Ibiza Town


BEST
Music
I listen to all different types of music, I like general pop music but if I’m in a club I like Dutch house. Afrojack and Avicii are probably my two favourite artists at the moment.

WORST
Television
The television programmes I really don’t enjoy are cookery shows, there are far too many of them and I turn off as soon as they come on.

EASIEST
Training
The easiest training sessions for me are the day after a game. You go out on the pitch for a short time, do some stretches and a little bit of ball work, but the session is usually only around 40 minutes so it’s not the most difficult.

HARDEST
Opponent
In pre-season we played against Real Madrid, it was one of my first games for the club against a really top side and they were very impressive. We lost 3-1 but we were playing against some of the best players in the world, it was a great learning experience for me.

Marco van Ginkel in action

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SCHWARZER: ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE

Apr 24, 2014 Posted Under: News

Mark Schwarzer has been discussing his role in Tuesday’s Champions League shutout, and looking ahead as he takes centre stage at a pivotal point in the season.

The 41-year-old was summoned from the substitutes’ bench 18 minutes into our goalless Champions League semi-final first leg in Madrid, earning us an important clean sheet that leaves us in a strong position ahead of next week’s return game at Stamford Bridge.

It was the Australian’s second appearance in four days having not played before that since January, and explained afterwards his pleasure at being involved.

‘I really enjoyed the experience, I really enjoyed the game,’ he said. ‘Even at the age of 41 you can experience something new. To play a Champions League semi-final was fantastic. It was unbelievable playing in a Champions League game a couple of months ago, and now to play at this stage as fantastic.

‘I am glad I could play my part to get a good result ahead of the return leg. It’s half-time and it’s 0-0 but we can’t underestimate them. They have quality all over the pitch, can score from anywhere and we need to make sure we play at our best.’

Asked whether the defensive display had been a perfectly executed game plan, the goalkeeper suggested there was only one thing missing.

‘Maybe we didn’t get forward enough and take advantage of some of the small opportunities we had,’ Schwarzer said. ‘Defensively without a doubt, we were set up to try not to concede and give ourselves a good platform.

‘I can understand the purists want to see attacking football and goals going in, there’s nothing better than watching that, a 0-0 can be a bit boring sometimes, but as a team we want to get through to the final. Defending is a massive part of the game, and it’s underestimated.’

Tuesday night was just Schwarzer’s seventh appearance since switching from Fulham, where he had been first choice for five years. It was a move he does not regret.

‘It’s been a new experience and it’s been tough but I made a decision and it’s been great in a lot of ways,’ he said. ‘The experiences I’ve had as part of this team I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. You know somewhere along the line maybe you’ll get an opportunity and it as one of those.

‘The opportunity to sign for Chelsea and be a part of this was too great in the end. You could write a book about it.’

With Petr Cech now expected to be out of action until the end of the season, Schwarzer finds himself thrust into the limelight at a critical period. Next up are league leaders Liverpool at Anfield, where a win would reignite our title hopes.

‘We’ll see with Pete and I hope it’s not too serious. Our relationship is fantastic and he’s a really good guy.

‘[Now, we] have to focus on the next match, which is a rather large one on Sunday. There’s always a chance while it’s mathematically possible. We have to go there with the mindset that we want to win the game. We’ve beaten the top teams this season and want to keep that going. Liverpool are the frontrunners and have everything to lose, and we need to go there and spoil their party.’

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SPANISH REFLECTION

Apr 23, 2014 Posted Under: News

Two of our Spanish players have been looking back on last night’s 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid, a game played in their homeland, at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

The Blues produced a solid defensive display to earn a goalless draw against Diego Simeone’s side, ensuring there is everything to play for in next week’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Fernando Torres played the full 90 minutes against his boyhood club, and feels both teams will be optimistic of reaching a final against Real Madrid or Bayern Munich on 24 May in Lisbon.

‘It was a difficult game for us, we didn’t have many chances to score and, in the end, it was a good result for them and for us,’ he said.

‘We can beat Atletico at home but we know the result is dangerous for us because if they score we need to score twice.’

His compatriot Cesar Azpilicueta, who reverted to right-back for last night’s game, believes the backing of our supporters can make the difference next Wednesday.

‘It was a really difficult game, they have a lot of quality attacking players but the team worked really hard and we will have to again in London,’ he said.

‘We know Stamford Bridge is magic on nights like the Paris Saint-Germain game, with the way we finished.

‘Everyone has the feeling we can do it and the support of our fans will be a huge help for us. We are all pulling in the same direction and hopefully we can win the game.’

The Blues will be without injured duo Petr Cech and John Terry for the return, while Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi will miss the game through suspension.

‘They are very important players but we don’t have a choice, we need to work well, we have some difficulties but we will try to go through,’ said the Blues defender.

‘We need every player because we can’t always play with the same ones and we have a lot of important games.’

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THE 99-POINT PROMOTION – PART TWO

Apr 23, 2014 Posted Under: News

Yesterday, the official Chelsea website began celebrating the 25th anniversary of a vital season in the club’s history by telling the story of the Second Division Championship win in 1988/89.

Having been relegated the season before and got off to a sticky start in the quest to return to the top flight, Part One recalled those early weeks with an upturn in fortunes coming in a win at Leeds.

In Part Two today, the rise up the league table continues unabated through winter with reinforcements brought in before we take on our closest challenges on their turf up north…

Chelsea’s first victory at Leeds for over quarter of a century and first in the 1988/89 campaign had come on the final weekend of September. It was the seventh game of the season.

Although there was a stumble out of the League Cup against lower division Scunthorpe, Bobby Campbell’s side went through October with five wins, one draw and one defeat in the league, at Hull, and with four goals put past Oldham on their notoriously difficult plastic pitch and five past Plymouth.

The defeat on Humberside proved to be the last in the league for nearly sixth months, a run of 27 games unbeaten.

One of the surest signs that this was a team with the character and the ability to dominate the division came away at Stoke in early December. Peter Nicholas was sent off only five minutes into the game yet we still ran out 3-0 winners.

A big Friday evening win at Birmingham placed us back at the top of the table at last and on New Year’s Eve we hosted West Brom who were second but level on points. The Blues were losing 1-0 with only a minute left on the clock until one of the season’s most lethal weapons was unleashed – the Graham Roberts penalty.

The spot-kick he buried into the north end net was one of 12 penalties the defender scored out of an impressive goal total of 17 for the season.

‘He could handle the pressure of taking the penalties because he had played at Tottenham and Rangers, and for England, and Chelsea are a big club too and he could carry the expectation of the fans,’ says Campbell.

‘He was ice cold. People said he was a big hard man but he had good feet, he could nip in and flick the ball around and control it, and if my life depended on someone taking penalties then I would choose him.’

It is testament to how well Roberts (pictured below) did with his accuracy from 12 yards and juggernaut-like tackling that this former Tottenham favourite was voted Chelsea Player of the Year by the fans at the season’s end.

Roberts

To win so many penalties, it helped to have nippy attacking players such as Gordon Durie, Kevin Wilson, Kevin McAllister, who was asked to take on the mantle left by fellow Scottish winger Pat Nevin, and Clive Wilson, not to mention flying full-backs Tony Dorigo and Steve Clarke.

Campbell often managed to accommodate in the same side three players who were generally regarded as central strikers in Durie, Kevin Wilson and the previously prolific Dixon.

‘Basically I didn’t play wide,’ explains Dixon. ‘It was me down the centre and one either side, but Kevin would also get in the box and he got a few goals that year, as did ‘Jukebox’ Durie, and because of that, I was more prepared to go out wide sometimes and I actually found that certainly down the right side, I could be quite effective crossing at times. I still had some pace and I started to put a decent ball in and certainly Willo got a few goals out of it.’

Importantly, Dixon, whose large goal hauls for Chelsea had won him a place in the England 1986 World Cup squad, rediscovered his scoring boots in 1988/89 having fallen away as the Blues descended the First Division.

He netted 28 goals, of which 25 came in the league, and carried his form back into the top flight the next year to the degree that England manager Bobby Robson told him he almost made the Italia ’90 squad. By the end of the promotion season he was just a hat-trick short of Peter Osgood and Roy Bentley’s then-second-highest 150 goals for the club, and had signed a new three-year contract.

Durie, despite typical interruptions for injury, scored 17 goals that year and Kevin Wilson added 13 to the league total. Five of Durie’s came in a single game (pictured below) – at Walsall in the February when the home side were beaten 7-0, a club record away league win.

1989

‘I remember we were walking towards their home end when we left the pitch at the end of the game, and their fans clapped us off,’ says midfielder John Bumstead.

Dixon was injured that day so the no. 9 shirt was worn by mid-season signing Dave Mitchell. He didn’t score that game, nor in any of his seven subsequent Chelsea appearances. It wasn’t a good season for everyone in blue.

‘Dave Mitchell was an Australian lad and a good player,’ says Campbell. ‘He played in Holland for Feyenoord and over there he was one of the best, and I went and bought him but he was an example of someone who could not cope with the pressure of what it is to be a Chelsea player.

Dorigo‘I played three strikers because I liked good footballers and I thought if you give the opposition more problems than they give you then you have a start. It’s even better if you have defenders who can defend but also have the ability to create from the back, and people talk these days about full-backs going forward but I had two in Tony Dorigo (pictured right) and Stevie Clarke who went forward all the time.’

Two games before that thrashing of Walsall, an important change had taken place at the back. Kevin Hitchcock started the season in goal but suffered injury and shared the gloves with young Welsh keeper Roger Freestone.

‘When I first came in as coach the previous season I said to John Hollins we are a bit thin on the ground for goalkeepers. We had a boy called Perry Digweed who I had put in the first team at Fulham when he was 16 and I knew he was a good player, but he wasn’t our player, he was on loan from Brighton and they wanted him back.

‘So I got Kevin Hitchcock in and he did a great job for us. Roger Freestone was a good lad, a good goalkeeper but with all due respect he wasn’t quality enough to hold a place down in the First Division which is where I thought we were going.

‘We went up north for a game one day and on the bus coming back I bought Dave Beasant from Newcastle. We paid a lot of money for him but he was the best around that we could get. He was another one like Graham Roberts, he was good in the club and they knew their way around – they were men.’

Beasant and Campbell

Only a few months earlier, Beasant had been one of the heroes of Wimbledon’s unlikely FA Cup final win and on the back of that, Newcastle made him English football’s most expensive keeper. But then the Tyneside club hit financial problems and sold the 29-year-old down a division to Chelsea. The £725,000 we paid for the 29-year-old was at that point a club record outlay.

‘I want to be a First Division player and I want to be on that stage with Chelsea,’ Beasant said soon after signing.

‘As soon as I came here I knew things were right, I had an immediate understanding with the defence. They have a lot of experience and they play as a unit.’

It was not a season for blooding young players, that would come quite extensively a couple of seasons later, but one did breakthrough in this Second Division year – 18-year-old centre-back/midfielder David Lee.

He scored as a sub on his debut, one of four goals in 20 league games that year, as well quickly acquiring a nickname from the crowd – Rodney Trotter, after lookalike character in huge TV sitcom hit at the time, Only Fools and Horses.

On 18 March and riding the crest of our unbeaten wave, Chelsea travelled to Maine Road to take on Manchester City who were one point ahead at the top of the table having played a game more.

In front of a 40,000 crowd, we were 2-0 up by half-time with the lead then extended by what was the iconic moment of the whole season.

‘It is funny because every year I get reminded about that goal,’ says Dorigo, the scorer, ‘and it was brilliant because City were doing very well that year as well, our biggest rivals, and we went up to their place and similar to this season, Chelsea played fantastically well.

‘I’d already put one in that game at the near post from a corner,’ recalls Dixon (pictured above). ‘When we broke from another corner, Dorigo ran over half the length of the pitch with the ball and went round the keeper to put us 3-0 up.

1989

‘It was an unbelievable goal,’ adds Campbell. ‘Tony just kept going and he scored some important goals for us.’

‘Man City came back to 3-2 but was anyone worried?’ smiles Dorigo. ‘It wasn’t a problem. That win kind of cemented that it was going to be our year. We had some very good players and we knew we were the favourites, but you still have to do it and we did thank goodness.

‘Our support was incredible that day and that sticks in my mind clearly, because we would go up to these grounds in the north and to get that kind of backing always really helped.’

‘We used to take away five, six or seven thousand people to these Second Division games – unbelievable!’ agrees Campbell.

-In the final part tomorrow, the game promotion was won against familiar opposition is recalled.

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CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: AZPILICUETA ON THE DEFENCE

Apr 23, 2014 Posted Under: News

Before he left his native Spain, Cesar Azpilicueta spoke to Chelsea TV about the first leg draw against Atletico Madrid.

In a clip which can be viewed above (subject to registration), the full-back discusses the balance of the tie following the 0-0 draw and the quality of the two sides at the back.

In the full interview which can be watched now via the channel’s online access, Azpilicueta discusses further Chelsea’s performance and having returned to the right side of the defence for the game, a rearguard that ended up much altered from the one he is used to playing in.

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