Rob Green signed as a free agent last summer to help make up numbers in goalkeeper training and to provide veteran guidance, alongside fellow veteran Willy Caballero, to young Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was suddenly thrust into the limelight with an £80m price tag on his shoulders to boot.
At 39 years of age, with 658 appearances under his belt, “Greeno” certainly had plenty to give in that regard and knew what his role would entail. He had been plying his trade at the top levels of the English game for the past two decades, experiencing joy, hardship, and plenty of everything else in between. He had stood up to pressures in playoff finals, helping both West Ham (2012) and QPR (2014) win the Richest Game in Football, and he had crumbled under pressure with the world watching when he let Clint Dempsey’s shot slip through his fingers in the 2010 World Cup for England. The wisdom gained through those experiences — not to mention achievements like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or going back to study at university to acquire knowledge and skills beyond just football — made him a perfect third goalkeeper, and the squad’s respect for him was clear to see in Wednesday’s charity friendly against New England Revolution.
Rob Green made his first appearance for Chelsea in the friendly at New England, coming on in the 88th minute.— TheFootballRepublic (@TheFootballRep) May 16, 2019
His teammates gave him the hero's reception he deserved... pic.twitter.com/Kks5IBmtaB
Throughout the season, Green has had a chance to observe and help guide Kepa closely in training and on matchdays, and believes it’s been a fantastic season for the 24-year-old, one that also sets him up well for the future.
“Kepa for his first season in the Premier League has had a fantastic season, and one that he will get stronger off the back of.
“The demands. He’s a young guy. The amount of football he has played, all of a sudden he has gone into a season where he has played probably 50 games, more than 50 games. And it’s not just the games themselves, he’s going away for internationals, he’s travelling all round Europe to play these games.
“And the intensity of the games, and the spotlight of the games is far greater. He has managed that and maintained his performance throughout. His talent was there - it doesn’t take an expert to see that. But I think what don’t you realise when you’re out of it is the demands it has on someone who is still a young lad.”
The Europa League final against Arsenal, in Kepa’s first ever European campaign, will be Chelsea’s 63rd game of the season. It’s been a grueling season, and one of the longest in club history, with an early August start and late May finish. Energy levels have dropped while fatigue levels have increased as the players juggled three domestic competitions along the way, while taking long trips in Europe and leaving little time for rest and recovery.
After all that hassle, there is just one job left to do.
“The Europa League is an interesting tournament. What I have learned is you realise how much it takes out of the team and how demanding the schedule is. The boys are coming back from a long way away, you’re talking Greece or Ukraine, landing on a Friday and you look at the lads and the staff and they’re dead on their feet, and you’re thinking we’ve got another game in 48 hours.
“The standards that have been maintained throughout despite the demands is something that is truly a credit to the lads and everybody involved with the club.”
-Robert Green; source: Chelsea FC
Kepa will ideally be at Chelsea for a long-long time. For Green, this might be his last game as part of the Chelsea squad. Let’s send both of them off to a bit of well-earned rest on a winning note!