As with practically every facet of the club, Chelsea’s medical department has undergone radical and immediate change almost overnight this season. And while some of that change was surely necessary and welcome, it probably didn’t need to be so drastic and comprehensive as it has been — especially when it involved individuals who had been with the club for years and years, which was certainly the case in the medical team.
Jon Fearn was just one of several physios and doctors with over a decade of service to the club who were let go. For Fearn, whom we might remember for his (small) part in the whole Eva Carneiro vs. José Mourinho incident in 2015, not only was it a shocking decision on a personal level, but a hasty call on an institutional level as well — with repercussions that are still being felt today.
“The club had been really quite consistent for a very long time [...] with the staff we had, with the Medical Director Paco [Biosca] and the other Head Physio Thierry [Laurent] and Jason Palmer, we were a consistent team for many years. When the Medical Director and Thierry left, August, September time, I think a lot of us thought, ‘Ok, that’s the main changes happening.’
“Then the club brought in some people to look at the department [and] it was clear that the club wanted to make some changes and I was part of those changes [...] It was all very quick. It was a real shock. [...] Change is good but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can lose a lot of good and that is the challenge they are having at the moment.”
And indeed, the medical department has been in flux all season. Chelsea had brought in a private physiotherapy firm, Remedy, to look at things in October, but then apparently we had to bring in two more consultants in January, namely “Fearghal Kerin from Leinster Rugby and the highly-experienced Dave Fevre”, according to Training Ground Guru.
Meanwhile, we’ve been at the top, or near the top of the injury charts all season, which surely would not have met the baseline metrics that used to be set as the target for the department.
“I would say we were top six out of 22, 24 Champions League teams every year; sometimes we were first, second in terms of availability.
“As a group [we] would have 150 years’ plus experience [and] that’s powerful. [...] With all the managers that come, the thing that needed to be consistent was the medical philosophy and whenever a new manager came in it was proving to them, ‘This is our philosophy and these are our results.’
“The average Champions League team runs availability about 86% for a season and we set a target for every squad to be 90% and above. Most the time it was.”
-Jon Fearn; source: Physiquipe via Training Ground Guru
Chelsea’s new owners have not left a stone unturned at the club so far, from the playing squad, to the coaching staff, to the player recruitment and scouting operations, to the business and marketing functions, not to mention the eventual stadium rebuild, everything has been rebuilt, reorganized, revamped — or at least started to be. But perhaps we didn’t have to do it all at once.
What’s done is done however, and hopefully we can at least minimize the transition period this way. Our injury record has been quite atrocious this season — surely the worst in a long time even if such claims are often subject to a strong recency bias — so the sooner we can settle things down, the better.