THE THURSDAY INTERVIEW: CHRISTOPHE LOLLICHON
It is a common saying within football that goalkeepers must be a little bit mad to do what they do. For those who have met Chelsea goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon, the same must also be said of those who teach them.
The Frenchman, who arrived in the aftermath of Avram Grant's appointment as manager in late 2007, has since gained a reputation at Cobham for being a little eccentric, and is no fan of monotony.
Among the devices he uses to keep his goalkeepers sharp are inflatable men and hurdles, combined with a dose of disorientation and what occasionally looks like chaos. There is though, a clear method behind the madness, as he explains to the Chelsea website, while discussing some of the group's recent successes.
Firstly, you must be pleased with Hilario earning a first international call-up for Portugal's play-offs with Bosnia-Herzegovina?
I am very happy for him because he is a fantastic professional, he always has a good attitude and he has good quality. I am very happy for the goalkeeping group, it is important for Ross Turnbull to know the situation and think of Hilario, 34, number three last season, number two now, and it offers motivation.
For Hilario it is a big challenge, because there is the World Cup this season. The game he played against Liverpool was maybe a perfect game, tactically and technically.
How can Petr Cech improve and remain motivated, when he is already so highly thought of?
Technically Petr is at the top, it is difficult now to improve but he can maintain his qualities. Tactically he is fantastic.
I came back from France today where I had a conference about goalkeeping and English football. I had a DVD of games against Blackburn and Bolton, and the French people were very surprised.
For crosses and long balls, a lot of English goalkeepers stick close to their goal, but for Petr, Hilario and Ross Turnbull it is possible for them to catch the ball near the edge of the box or penalty spot. I am very surprised that other goalkeepers do not do the same, for me it is natural, and Carlo agrees with me, which is important.
What are your hopes and expectations for Ross Turnbull?
For Ross it is slightly different, he needs a lot of things. We are lucky because he is a very good man, and an intelligent man. He wants to understand why I suggest one exercise or another, which is important. If Ross is just like a machine it is not good.
He needs to work on his technique, physically and tactically, and I am very happy with him now. Since July, Ross improved in each aspect. In three months it will be very interesting to see the outcome of our work. He has already improved, but he still needs to work.
Where do you get the ideas for your training sessions?
In my head! I analyse a lot of games. When I started this job in France I bought one book, and I looked at it and thought this is not like the reality, so started to find my own exercises by analysing situations. It is possible to create exercises that are very close to the game.
The second thing is to find exercises for each goalkeeper. Petr does not need the same exercises as Hilario. Sometimes we have the same objective so it is the same, but not always.
I have in my file between 1,500 and 2,000 exercises, but I never look at it when I prepare my sessions, I take my paper, consider my basic plan, and come up with something. This is the reason why all sessions are different, and it is my objective to keep it interesting. It is better for a goalkeeper to have a new session each day, I don't want the goalkeeper to work like a machine, it is very important to concentrate and to think because in the game, every situation is different. For Petr and Hilario for example, just practising catching is stupid because they have great technique.
Goalkeepers are said to be at their best as they get older, what are your thoughts on this?
For me, it is about talent, not age. Hugo Lloris, the French goalkeeper, now is starting to play a lot in the Champions League for Lyon and for the French selection, big games and gaining experience.
Petr after Rennes played for Chelsea and immediately in big games. It is very important to have confidence from the manager and I think Petr plays like a goalkeeper who is 35-years-old.
Mickael Landreu started in the Nantes first team at 17, and now he is around 30, he has 450 games in the French league. It is fantastic, because he had the talent. So you need talent, and the possibility to play. It is not easy because for some managers it is not easy to give confidence to a young goalkeeper.
Another reason to be pleased is the home clean sheet record, which now stands at eight games…
It is very good for the club, but it is not only the goalkeepers. It is the team, because the team defends very well and the goalkeeper helps.
So goalkeepers aside, who has impressed you this season?
No goalkeepers? Okay… Anelka. He is a very intelligent player with very good movement. He doesn't play only for him, he is unselfish which is very important. He can run to create space, even though he does not receive the ball, which is good for the team, and he is a big player now in the French team.
And how confident are you that Nico and Florent Malouda can help France beat Ireland in the play-offs and get to the World Cup?
I want to be confident, but playing against Ireland is a big challenge. Technically the French team is superior, but for this game that is not sufficient. I am sure Raymond Domenech insists about this. It is a big fight and the French team needs to be intelligent and aggressive and put in a very big effort.