GOURLAY TALKS TARGETS AND TOUR

Ron Gourlay has today (Wednesday) unveiled more details about the club’s summer tour and has also spoken about the priorities for the remainder of the current season.

The Chief Executive was speaking in Kuala Lumpur, capital city of Malaysia which will host part of the 2013 Here to Play, Here to Stay tour. As he revealed yesterday, the squad will travel first to Bangkok on 11 July where they train for one week and play a match in the Thailand capital. They will then fly south.

‘We will be in Kuala Lumpur for five days,’ Gourlay announced.

‘It will be double training sessions most days and it is a very important time. It is all about preparation and we have always been well looked after in Malaysia. Good facilities are critical and when we have been here before we have always had a successful season afterwards.’

On 21 July Chelsea will play a game against a Malaysia national select XI, as we did during visits in 2008 and 2011. This year it will be the second game of the pre-season preparations.

‘The team are looking forward to coming here in July,’ said Gourlay.

‘It has been a long season and we still have a lot of important games to go. There are 10 tough games in the Premier League, five at home and five away. The team are in Bucharest this week for a Europa League match and also have a very big FA Cup game on Sunday at Old Trafford.’

As Rafael Benitez has done previously, Gourlay confirmed that although the club is taking the two cup competitions seriously, finishing in a high league position is the priority.

‘Achieving one of the Champions League qualification slots is very important to this football club,’ he said.

‘Our whole philosophy is based on success on the football field and we have been doing everything in our power to ensure one of these slots. We want to be pitting ourselves against the top clubs in Europe next season.

‘We said from day one that Rafa was coming in as interim manager to the end of the season. It is important that we remain focused on the job in hand which is qualifying for the Champions League and then at the end of the season we will sit down, have a look at the situation and we will determine how we go forward.’

While in Kuala Lumpur in the summer, Chelsea will be working with the local community and the focus will be the Blue Pitch in the city which was opened during the team’s visit two years ago. However the chance for local young people to work there with Chelsea coaches is open all year round.

‘Everywhere we travel we leave a legacy and Kuala Lumpur is one of our most successful Blue Pitches,’ reported Gourlay.

‘Here to Play, Here to Stay is our grass-roots programme, using football to not only coach children but also to show how sport can play a part in education and nutrition. Our whole programme is based around our Blue Pitches.’

Also attending today’s media conference were Dato’ Seri Subahan Kamal, Vice-President of the Football Association of Malaysia (pictured below right) and Datuk K. Rajagobal, the head coach of the national team.

Gourlay Kuala Lumpur

In 2008 Chelsea beat the Malaysian team 2-0 and in 2011 we won by a single goal. Dato’ Subahan said he hoped his side would again provide testing opposition.

‘Last time we lost 1-0 to a Didier Drogba free-kick on the edge of the area which fans here will never forget, and the scoreline reflected a much-improved Malaysian team,’ he said.

‘We were preparing for a World Cup qualifier so we played Chelsea with our second team and they did very well and surprised everyone.

‘This year we want to prove we are better and when we play Chelsea we will be quite geared up. We are looking forward to playing against the international players we watch and are idols for most of the people in Malaysia.’

DAVID LUIZ: A HOME FROM HOME

‘Brazil is the country for football. If you’re a man you want to play football, if you’re a girl you want to play football. People live and breathe football.’

David Luiz seems to have confirmed what we all thought. Brazil, as a nation, is football mad. Last summer’s Olympics showed us in Great Britain there is little that can unite a country like sporting success, and with a World Cup and Games to follow in his homeland over the next three years, the defender is more excited than ever at the prospect of pulling on the famous yellow shirt when they meet Russia at Stamford Bridge this month.

‘I am a proud Brazilian, and love to play for my country,’ the 25-year-old told us. ‘I hope to be involved in such a big opportunity to play at my home with my country. My heart is yellow and green, so this will be another special moment in my life.’

Like most of us, as a boy David Luiz dreamed of captaining his country. Unlike most of us, he has achieved that dream, standing in for regular skipper Thiago Silva at the end of 2012 and in last month’s game against England at Wembley.

‘I have a privilege in my life and I say thanks every day to God,’ he said. ‘To be captain of your country and have that responsibility is a dream come true. When I was young, shooting balls in the street at walls, doors and windows, getting shouted at, I dreamed and looked at the TV with Cafu and then Gilberto Silva as captain, just looking at them wanting the shirt, and now I had three opportunities to be captain of the team. I’m a lucky guy.

‘The game against England at Wembley in February was special for me. I didn’t know if I would play, I didn’t train for two weeks before, only the day before the game, but I was captain of Brazil and there were great players involved. Ashley Cole, with his 100 caps, Steven Gerrard, Ronaldinho. To play this game after some difficult weeks, where I was doing treatment from seven until seven every day, it was so special. We were unlucky with the result but it was a very good game and both teams really tried to score goals.’

The next test will see David Luiz and his team-mates, under the guidance of Luiz Felipe Scolari, take on Fabio Capello’s side in west London. Sat in the home dressing room at Stamford Bridge, the former Benfica man admitted it would be a huge honour to represent his nation in such familiar surroundings.

‘This place is amazing,’ he smiled. ‘I like this dressing room, where I am before games enjoying the moments with my team-mates and the staff. We can be very concentrated too, thinking different things before the game. Everybody knows I love playing for Chelsea and at Stamford Bridge, it’s a special place for me.

‘My favourite thing is the atmosphere when there is a big game. The supporters are close in the stadium, in others they are far away. It’s a style you have in the English stadiums, and it’s nice, I like that.’

Alongside him in the line-up could be two Chelsea team-mates, Oscar and Ramires, equally excited about the forthcoming game. The most advanced English speaker of the trio, David Luiz often acts as a spokesman for the trio.

‘I’m not the leader,’ he insists, however. ‘Both guys are more shy than me, so this is my personality. Always I try to show people who the true David Luiz is. You remember when I came here? I didn’t speak one word in English, but I tried to show myself to people, that I’m a happy guy and wanted to make friends.

‘Some people don’t know but people helped me a lot when I arrived at Chelsea, and it made a nice atmosphere for me. Rami and Oscar are shyer than me, but we spend time together because we are friends, not just team-mates. I help them with some things and they help me a lot with other things, we’re like a little family. We were at my flat together for Christmas, and at Ramires’s flat for New Year. It shows how our life is outside of Chelsea too.’

There promises to be a party atmosphere on March 25, an ideal night for the family to strut their stuff in front of a packed stadium. The father figure, of course, is Scolari, who himself is no stranger to our home having managed the club between 2008 and 2009.

‘I’ve known Scolari for a long time, and he is a great manager,’ said David Luiz. ‘Everybody knows he worked in Chelsea as well, and won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

‘He has done great jobs in Europe with other teams too, he has great experience and has come back to the national team to help us. I did an interview once in Portugal and I said I would love to work with Scolari, one day I hoped to have the opportunity and now I have this opportunity.’

You have the opportunity to see Brazil take on Russia at the Bridge on March 25. Kick-off is at 7.30pm with prices starting from just £25 for adults and £12.50 for juniors.

MATURE MIKEL'S WINNING HABIT IN NEW MAG

The latest edition of Chelsea is an international special, as the magazine looks back on a successful Africa Cup of Nations campaign for Nigeria with the help of John Mikel Obi, as well as looking ahead to the forthcoming friendly between Brazil and Russia at Stamford Bridge.

Mikel has more medals and trophies on his mantelpiece at the age of 25 than most players are able to gather over the course of their whole careers.

Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Mikel has tasted success in all of them, but the midfielder went one better back in January and added a trophy at international level to his ever-expanding collection, when Nigeria were crowned Kings of Africa.

The Super Eagles beat Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final of the competition after overcoming Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast in the semi-final, and Mikel was astonished at the reaction of supporters back in his homeland.

‘It was crazy,’ he tells Chelsea. ‘It was really nice to go back home after the tournament with the cup – the whole country was waiting.

‘It was a big, big thing, because we couldn’t walk, we couldn’t actually get out of the airport. The whole way through, from the airport to the hotel where we were staying, it was crazy.’

Mikel, somewhat unsurprisingly given his experience at club level, was an ever-present during the tournament, playing, as he does for Nigeria, in a slightly more advanced role than he is accustomed to at Stamford Bridge.

Mikel in magazine

A number of the younger, less established members of the squad sought guidance from him as Nigeria continued to progress, and it was a role he was happy to take on.

‘Every major tournament makes you become more mature,’ he said. ‘I think it’s because I have played in so many major tournaments at such a young age that I have maturity – you go through a hard time to win tournaments and it makes you grow.

‘It’s a life experience and it’s something that I have been lucky enough to do from a young age at Chelsea as well, where I have played alongside some of the best players in the world and I’ve learnt a lot from them.’

African football continues to grow each year, and what gave Mikel most satisfaction from Nigeria’s success was lifting the trophy when the competition was so fierce.

‘The level has gone right up,’ he explained. ‘So to win it this time was just amazing. To win it at a stage when African football has become so interesting – when there are so many African players abroad – was really, really difficult, and we did it.’

BRAZILIANS AT THE BRIDGE
International football makes a welcome return to Stamford Bridge when Brazil take on Russia on Monday 25 March.

If selected, our Brazilian trio will have the opportunity to represent their home nation at the home of their club, and Ramires is relishing the prospect.

‘I can’t wait, and I’m sure David Luiz and Oscar are very much looking forward to this moment as well,’ Ramires tells the latest edition of the magazine.

‘I hope we are all selected to play in the game. Brazil have played many friendlies in London, but it has never been at our home stadium, but now they are coming to Stamford Bridge and it’s such an exciting possibility for us.

‘Hopefully it will be a great game and we can get a win. If I am chosen to play in the game here, that will be another one to tell my kids about.’

Ed de Goey

ED REFLECTS
After signing for the Blues in the summer of 1997, Dutch goalkeeper Ed de Goey enjoyed a memorable first season at the club, winning both the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. In this month’s Boys Are Back in Town feature, De Goey, now working as a coach back in his homeland, talks about his decision to move to Stamford Bridge, a remarkable maiden Champions League campaign for the club and the importance of a back-up goalkeeper.

COLE JOINS EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Elsewhere in this month’smagazine, Ashley Cole speaks about becoming only the seventh player in history to reach 100 caps for England, an achievement reached in the recent friendly win against Brazil, ensuring the left-backs joins the likes of David Beckham, Peter Shilton and Bobby Charlton.

MARK AUSTIN IS IN THE NEWS
As one of the most recognisable newsreaders in the country, Mark Austin has been at the heart of some of the biggest stories to break over the years. The former sports correspondent and Chelsea supporter is the subject of this month’s One of Us, where he remembers the first time he watched the Blues back in 1972, being on the job at Italia ’90 and his fondness for Claude Makelele.

Mark Austin

The latest edition of Chelsea is on sale now and available from all good newsagents and the Megastore, priced at £3.25.

Tickets for Brazil v Russia are still available from the Stamford Bridge box office, online or via the call centre on 9871 984 1905.

GOURLAY: A BASE IN BANGKOK

Bangkok will not only host a game in Chelsea’s 2013 ‘Here to Play, Here to Stay’ tour this summer, it will also be the base for the team’s training ahead of three matches to be played in Asia.

The news was announced by Chief Executive Ron Gourlay who was in Thailand to launch the game against the Singha Thailand All-Stars on 17 July. He also indicated new signings are likely by the time the game is played.

Chelsea visited Bangkok as part of our 2011 pre-season tour but this is the first time a training camp will be established there. The match will be followed by matches in Malaysia and Indonesia.

‘We all remember our last visit here in 2011 when I made two promises,’ said Gourlay at the media conference on Tuesday.

‘One was if we won the Champions League I would bring the team back within two years, and I also promised we would open a Blue Pitch for use by the community in Bangkok. That was launched in July 2012. So we are delivering on our promises.

‘The team love the support they get in Thailand, everybody always makes them feel very welcome and in July we will be here for Singha’s 80th anniversary. It is a very big year for their company and we are glad we can be there to be a part of it.

Singha is the global beer partner of Chelsea FC. Blue Pitches are an important part of the club’s corporate social responsibility programme with pitches in London, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, as well as Bangkok.

‘We will be using Bangkok as our pre-season base,’ Gourlay confirmed. ‘It is a critical time in pre-season and we will also be spending the week in the community as part of our Here to Play, Here to Stay legacy. We don’t just come and play a game.’

Gourlay gave assurances the club will bring the strongest team it possibly can to what he described and added: ‘When you look at the last three or four transfer windows, we have continued to invest in the team and the philosophy of the football club is based on success on the field.

‘We will continue to strength the team and I am expecting the introduction of two or three new players and hopefully they will be in place in time to be part of the team in Thailand.

The chief executive also said a number of the Chelsea players currently out on loan are likely to be part of the squad for the tour and next season. Gourlay would not be drawn on any questions about Frank Lampard or squad contracts in general, stating: ‘I am not prepared to discuss this at this time.

‘Obviously conversations must remain confidential between the club and the players at all times so that is as much as I can say.’

We are very excited about coming back to Thailand’ he said in conclusion. ‘The game will be in the national stadium and I am certain it will be full.’

PAT NEVIN: NO MATTER WHAT

Former Chelsea Player of the Year Pat Nevin put himself in the place of one of the current squad in this week’s column, and looks at the games ahead…

I got more than a little ribbing from a few Chelsea fans last week by email for trying to be upbeat about the club, when the rest of the world seemed to be announcing imminent collapse.

So I will refrain from dwelling on the record in the last seven games of five wins, one draw and one defeat, and that was away to the current league Champions. Yes there has been so much more going on and the form is variable, but in the middle of it all is a football team that is trying to win games and with a bit of luck a trophy as well on top of the small detail of hopefully Champions League qualification.

To be honest I can’t really be bothered diving into the whole Rafa situation here, most people know their arguments and have pretty well-rehearsed points of view, each of which I respect. I suppose I tend to put myself more into the perspective of a player, and wonder how it would be affecting me.

Negativity around the ground from (some of) your own fans isn’t the perfect situation, even if it is only sporadic. The rights and wrongs are neither here nor there if you are say, Oscar or Hazard. All you really want to do is play, play well, win, entertain and enjoy doing that while lifting the crowd. That is a little bit easier to do when there is positivity on the air, which to be fair there often is when those guys are actually on the ball.

Players can put up with a great deal however and are perfectly capable of performing at a very high standard no matter what the circumstances. Away from home, particularly in Europe there will be a good deal of negativity, not to say hostility towards you when you play, but you still manage that.

Players live through all sorts of trials and tribulations, there best mate in the team might get sold, the manager may change or the conditions vary, but they just get on with it. The toughest thing I ever usually had to deal with was difficulty or tragedy in my home life – now that is going to affect you far more than any atmosphere in a ground, positive or negative.

Even so I, and all the players, still managed to get out there and hopefully perform to a fairly high standard most of the time, no matter what.

Hence I prefer right now to do as I did when playing and that is concentrate on the games. The last two wins have been close but well-deserved in truth. The next thee I suspect will be much tougher. Steaua Bucharest will be very tough opposition over in Romania, you do not get this far in Europe without being able to play. The defeat of Ajax (pictured below), even if it did take penalties, was pretty impressive and I must say something of a surprise to me. Ajax toyed with Man City earlier in the season and as such anyone who thinks Chelsea should cruise this one should think again.

Steaua and Ajax

The team selection is very tricky indeed, some have been rested over the past few weeks, but at some point decisions will have to be made about which is the most important competition. I suspect in that the Europa League tie is over two legs, the first leg is one where you attempt to get through it without ruining your chances, rather than going for it gung-ho in the first leg.

A draw, preferably a scoring one would be a fantastic result for me, I would take that right here, right now. If that can be done without using every single first-choice player then all the better. I suspect the one that the club would love to win is the tie against Manchester United. They are of course in midweek action as well against Real Madrid, but you would have to be very biased to argue that their squad hasn’t got a just a bit more depth than our own. They also have the added bonuses of an extra two whole days’ worth of recovery time, a home tie and no travelling this week in the Champions league while we traipse over to Romania and back, and of course home advantage come Sunday. They also do not have a great deal to worry about in the league having it just about sewn up already.

You see the point about maybe rotating it a bit in Romania for the first leg? I wouldn’t even be surprised at a very defensive system in this one and for once I wouldn’t complain either. If it means winning the tie well and with style back at the Bridge a week later, once again I would be delighted with that.

Now for the quiz. Last week I asked could you tell me what was the score the last time Chelsea played Middlesbrough in the FA Cup? Many dived straight in with the FA Cup final in 1997, but there was another FA Cup game after that! Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 1-0 on 4th of January 2003, at the third-round stage. As ever there can only be one winner and it is Karl H Hillers from Reykjavik in Iceland. Well done to him.

This week to have a chance of winning a copy of the DVD review of last season’s Champions League campaign signed by John Terry, could you tell me what you think the score will be against Manchester United on Sunday? Do you go with your heart, head or indeed both? Answers to be in before kick-off at Old Trafford and send them to me at pat.nevin@chelseafc.com

Good luck with that.