Before Mourinho, before Abramovich, before the big money and the all the big stars, before Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, Chelsea fans could go down to the training ground (in person!) and check out the boys as they went about their routines and preparations.
This was back at the old and rather shoddy (and cold and windy) facilities of Harlington, a stone's throw from Heathrow, which were actually owned (and are still owned to this day) by Imperial College*, and today are also used by Queens Park Rangers. Since Chelsea moved into the shiny new and amazing and world class Cobham in 2005, this sort of access is no longer allowed.
* Chelsea owned our own training grounds at Mitcham before they were sold in the 1970s to raise money to build the East Stand and forced the club into renting from the college. It now serves as the site for Tooting & Mitcham's new stadium (they play in the Isthmian League's second division), which Chelsea LFC used for a while as well.
At times over the past decade, Chelsea have opened up training to media or even fans, but only during tours to faraway lands like America or Asia. Yours truly got to attend one in Seattle a few years ago, while others got the chance this year in either Southern California or the Midwest.
In what seems like a welcome change of pace and fan engagement, Chelsea will be holding an open training session this coming Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea used to hold such special events at the stadium back in the Harlington days as well, but this is the first time I recall them doing this since moving to Cobham. It's part of a larger celebration of all things Chelsea, including a "summer festival" outside the grounds with carnival-style attractions, but the main event will be inside and limited to 5000 fans at £3 apiece -- a token amount.
In addition to Chelsea first-team training, Chelsea LFC, led by head coach Emma Hayes, will also hold an open session and after all that, there will be a Q&A with Antonio Conte as well. Talk about value for your money! Turnstiles open at 9am, with the Ladies' training session set for 9:45am and the men set to follow at 11am.
Tickets are on sale now through the end of Tuesday, and all proceeds go to Chelsea Foundation.