THE THURSDAY INTERVIEW: HILARIO

Posted on: Wed 18 Feb 2009

Recent weeks have been a time of change for Hilario, seeing one of his close friends and manager leave the club, but the back-up goalkeeper remains a happy man at Chelsea.

First, in late January, the long serving Carlo Cudicini moved on to pastures new with Tottenham, and then at the beginning of last week Luiz Felipe Scolari was dismissed and replaced with Guus Hiddink, who will remain in temporary charge until the end of the season.

For Hilario, now 33, experience has taught him that football is a transient business, requiring a readiness for all situations. It is a trait he has demonstrated well in his time at Stamford Bridge, turning in some impressive performances when called upon.

He is happy to admit that the past fortnight has been particularly strange with the change of manager.

'Yes, it has been, I think I am not an old player but I have the experience to help me in this, I learn that everything can change, the players can change, the manager can change,' he gestures.

'There is only one thing that stays and that is the club. We need to stay together and work for the club.

'It doesn't matter why the change happens, but when something does change we need to stay together and try to be professional, have fun and enjoy ourselves and do everything we can do.'

One thing that has remained constant despite Scolari's exit is the goalkeeping coach, Christophe Lollichon, who joined the club in November 2007 under Avram Grant. The Frenchman worked closely with Petr Cech at Rennes, and forms the final piece in a close knit goalkeeping department, his training methods a source of wonder and amusement for many onlookers at Cobham, such is his penchant for unusual equipment and routines.

'The guy doesn't rest,' Hilario jokes. 'I think he doesn't have any other life, he lives for the goalkeeping coach role. Since I met Christophe when he came to Chelsea, I don't think we have ever done the same exercise twice, he has a very big scrapbook for exercises!

On the training pitch

'It is always good to practice with him, the exercises are really hard but it is nice because I enjoy the work. Sometimes it looks like it isn't goalkeeper practice, but it all helps.'

The fun aspect is something Lollichon clearly encourages, and at the end of most sessions, the goalkeeping staff take part in a challenge, with the loser forced to complete an uncomfortable forfeit.

'We always have a discussion before the challenge, which is a nice way to end, because we work hard during our sessions so we finish with fun. No one likes to lose, I lost a few, but I can tell you that I don't lose too many!' Hilario smiles.

'They are always difficult forfeits, the bad one for me was jumping into the ice bath in the gym, but once Petr had to run from the middle of the pitch to the dressing room in his pants, the day Maradona was here last season, which was very funny. I even saw it on TV!

'Another very hard one is to do some forward rolls and then try to catch a high ball. It looks easy to do but when you do five or six rollovers, you can't stay on your legs, all the forces are pushing you down and you become lost!'

Since Carlo Cudicini's departure towards the end of January, Hilario has made the step up to number two. It is a promotion that allowed him his first football in 10 months against Hull City 12 days ago.

'It was good, really good. I always look forward to getting opportunities to play,' he explained. 'When I am on the bench or in the stand, it is always in my mind, to be ready, and you never know when the opportunity is coming. It was really good to feel the pressure of the game, and it made me feel happy. Not only because I played but, when you train you don't have the pressure of the game, which is important for me, but it is a good pressure, it doesn't make me nervous, just makes me stay focused and concentrated.

'Being number two, I don't feel different. Maybe I am now next to Petr but we are still good friends. Carlo is a very good friend and professional, but everything can change at any moment, and it is my time to be near to Petr but for me it is the same. The feelings are the same and the way I work is the same.'

Goodbye to a friend as Carlo departs

Hilario is still in regular contact with the Italian, who could feature for Tottenham in Uefa Cup action this evening.

'He is doing well, and getting used to his new reality. It could be difficult for him to live with a new home after being with Chelsea for 10 years, difficult to get used to it, but he is happy because he has been playing and it is a good challenge for him. He is enjoying life,' confirmed the number 40.

For now, with Cech fit again, Hilario's main concern is to put the work in on the training ground. The arrival of Ricardo Quaresma brings another familiar face to the Cobham training pitches, and his ability has impressed so far.

'He is a great player. He needs some freedom on the field to play, he has very good technical ability and is famous in Portugal for playing with the outside of his foot, he can cross and score some goals like that. He has a lot of things in his pocket, and he needs to feel loved,' the goalkeeper assessed, before considering who, if anyone, he least enjoys facing during practice.

'Come on we are in Chelsea, everyone has a good shot and great qualities,' he shrugs, before further thought. 'We don't think who it is, it doesn't matter, but I do always hope that Alex stays on my team! It is better that way because he does have a really strong shot!'

With that, he is back out on to the training pitches, where Lollichon has already prepared the next of his routines. If and when he is next called upon, we can all rest assured that Hilario will be ready.