FANS FLOCK FOR OPEN TRAINING
Chelsea fans were given their first glimpses of Guus Hiddink at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, when he led the squad in an open training session.
It was only the Dutchman's second day in charge since taking the reins until the end of the season, but he was happy to show supporters what to expect with an intensive practice.
Assistant Ray Wilkins welcomed the fans to the stadium before the session started, explaining what drills they would see as he helped set out the equipment in preparation for the 11.30am start.
As the six-thousand strong crowd clapped and chanted along to some familiar Chelsea tunes, the players gathered, waiting to emerge.
When they did finally come into view, their greeting was impressive, as it was for new temporary coach Guus Hiddink, who addressed his audience.
'I am not here to entertain,' he almost apologised. 'I am here to give the entertainment through the team. We hope to make a very good end to the season and we need your support of course. Thank you very much.'
MC Neil Barnett of Chelsea TV then introduced each of the players individually, with raucous applause all round, particularly for John Terry who reaffirmed his commitment to the Chelsea cause at the weekend.
The session kicked off with the customary keep-ball practice, as groups of three tried to gain possession from the six around them, before a sprinting slalom worked on agility and sharpness.
There then followed a period of free time for the players to do their own ball work. Most chose to exchange passes with team-mates, while Didier Drogba showcased some of his skills repertoire.
Possession games followed as the players attempted to keep the ball in teams, all while goalkeepers Petr Cech and Hilario worked on their own routines with coach Christophe Lollichon. Cech, who returned from injury against Watford on Saturday in particular demonstrated his sharp reflexes and safe hands.
To end the session, Hiddink, Wilkins and Paul Clement organised the squad into two teams to play a full-sided match, the pitch running between the two Stamford Bridge penalty areas.
Nicolas Anelka opened the scoring before Salomon Kalou's curling effort rebounded back into play off a post. Not wanting to be outdone with the style, Florent Malouda cut inside two challenges before shooting low into the bottom-right corner, and Michael Ballack smashed home from 20 yards.
There was plenty for the fans to get excited about, and they showed their enthusiasm every time cult figure Juliano Belletti gained possession, urging him to 'Shooooooot!'. Their response didn't go unnoticed with the Brazilian utility man.
'At Barcelona, every training session was open to the fans, so there was good contact between the players and fans,' he recalled. 'I would like to do this more times at Chelsea, and the fans would like to see us more, see us train and sign autographs like today. I think it is a good idea and I hope we can do it again more times.'
Like many of his team-mates, Belletti opted to stay out after the session and sign autographs for the patient supporters. In fact, the 32-year-old stayed out longer than anybody else, such was his reaction to his reception.
All in all, it was a fantastic day out for the fans who braved the cold, while the players were able to continue their preparations for Aston Villa on Saturday. So far, both squad and supporters seem impressed with Mr. Hiddink.