After a long period of absence due to a torn ACL, young Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma finally made his return to match action with the first-team a couple weeks ago, in the FA Cup third round win against Peterborough United. Although Zouma was not at his best in the early moments of the game against the lower division side, he eventually found his footing in Conte’s now standard three-man defensive set-up.
As revealed in the match programme for Sunday’s clash against Hull City, Kurt Zouma already feels indebted to head coach Antonio Conte, just for supporting him during the recovery process and making him feel like an important member of the squad despite being unable to contribute.
"It was really important for me because when [Conte] arrived I was injured. The fact he talked to me and told me to stay focused, to be careful with my rehabilitation and try to be back fit for the team as quickly as possible, it was important."
"When you hear these words, you are happy and you want to fight for him. He brought me on tour at the start of the season, even though I was injured, so that showed me he trusts me and I need to pay him back for this trust."
Another coach who played a big part in Zouma’s journey back to the first-team was Adi Viveash, the head coach of Chelsea’s (U23) development squad, with whom Zouma worked on his match fitness for a few games (and at one point even alongside a few veterans like John Terry and Cesc Fàbregas, too).
"I had a really good time with them because the young guys play very well. We played the same system as the first team, so it was a good thing for me. I played four games with them and you learn from everybody."
"Adi Viveash, the development squad coach, was very good with me. He taught me a lot, the boys were good with me and I even tried to give them advice as well."
"Chelsea have a very, very good Academy, with very good players."
-Kurt Zouma; Source: Chelsea FC via Football.London
So far, Zouma looks to have not suffered any lasting effects from his injury and he’s slowly working himself back to the level where he was before. He should be set to make his second start for Conte this coming weekend, in the FA Cup fourth round match versus Brentford.