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.
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.’