There’s a very nice interview with Ryan Bertrand, Champions League winner, in yesterday’s Times by Henry Winter, in which the former Chelsea left back reflects on his good times and bad times with the Blues and reveals a few of the lessons and memories he’s carrying to this day from the likes of Lampard and Cole and Drogba. There’s plenty of other stuff in there, too, about his aversion to academies in general and about the big EFL Cup final coming up against Manchester United (and former boss Jose Mourinho) in a couple weeks, so if you do have access to The Times, you should read the whole thing.
So, the Chelsea bits. First, there’s what he learned from Frank Lampard, whose commitment to training and extra training was legendary.
“I’ve seen many half-decent players over the years at previous clubs go about their work with an unquestionable commitment. I say to the boys here, the midfielders, about Frank Lampard practising finishing after training [at Chelsea].”
“I like to do finishing after training. I even had the argument when sometimes the coach will come and say, ‘No finishing today, rest your legs.’ But equally I’ve come from a place where I saw Lampard do it every single day. It is no coincidence that he goes on to score 20 plus goals for five seasons in a row [2005-6 to 2009-10]. I’ve seen the practice and the end product. When everything’s finished he’d just walk over, bring a ’keeper, a slightly younger one and go with the coach, and work on anything. I did join in, I couldn’t help but not. I wanted to improve even though it’s not my role.”
Then there was Ashley Cole, to whom Bertrand served as understudy for several years, while learning to focus only on the things that matter on the football pitch and the training ground.
“There were some times he went through turbulent times. Fans will be fans you know, on his back and even on the outside the toughest of times, but his attitude to training, the way he would come out and train and play, was amazing. He was unbelievable.”
It seemed like Bertrand would be able to establish himself as Cole’s successor once Ash’s powers started waning, but eventually they both lost their places to César Azpilicueta instead. Bertrand thus decided to leave the club after 57 appearances and nearly as many loan spells (exaggerating for effect). As he’s said before, it was simply a matter of making sure that his career continued to progress in a positive direction.
“It was hard leaving Chelsea because I was there from 15, and I’d done a lot of things at that club, but at the same time it wasn’t that hard. I wanted to show people who I am. I wanted consistent opportunity. I couldn’t wait to get started.”
“Being at Chelsea was amazing but some young players who end up being at Chelsea, and other big clubs, get trapped in a cycle. Whether it’s pride or how they’re perceived from outside, they want to hang on to that club because it’s such a good look for them individually. That’s a process I could never understand because I always looked for progression. The moment that year that progression didn’t come, that was me done. I’m a footballer, I need to play.”
Bertrand made 38 of his 57 appearances in 2012-13, a season that followed the one most magical appearance in Munich the previous May. Bertrand was a surprise starter in the final and was tasked with trying to control Lahm and Robben down the Bayern right flank. Memories from that night remain vivid still.
“There were many great memories from the night. The gathering with the families afterwards. Drogba dunked me in the pool. There’s a picture of it somewhere. Petr Cech said that the previous time in Moscow [the 2008 loss to Manchester United] everything was red in the ground and it wasn’t good. But this time even though we were in their own backyard, he saw a lot more blue. Little moments like that have stayed with me. I’m going to sit down, possibly soon, and collect things and what it all meant to me.”
-Ryan Bertrand; source: Times
Bertrand will be turning 28 later this year, which is clashing with my world view in which he forever remains a promising left back in his early twenties. With 10 England caps to his name and closing in on 100 appearances for Southampton, Bertrand’s in a very good place career-wise and the only way I could be happier for him is if he had done all that in a Chelsea shirt.
Bertie’s Saints beat Sunderland 4-0 yesterday to halt a three-match losing streak in all competitions. They will face United on February 26 at Wembley for the season’s first trophy. Good luck!