THE THURSDAY INTERVIEW: ROSS TURNBULL
Ross Turnbull became another year older this week, and crucially as far as he is concerned, another year wiser.
His job could be portrayed as one of the more frustrating in football - understudy to Petr Cech, the most successful goalkeeper in Chelsea history and a member of the squad whose form has rarely been questioned this season.
However although limited to two appearances in 2010/11 and seven since his arrival at the club two summers ago, Ross, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday, remains enthusiastic about his day-to-day learning and about the many years of career he has ahead of him.
Who from Chelsea's keepers will be between the posts for Sunday's FA Cup tie against Ipswich has yet to be announced. Hilario played four of the six FA Cup games last season with Cech in goal for the semi-final and final, but should Ross be called into first-team action soon, he believes he is an all-round better goalie than a year ago.
'I think I have progressed in every aspect,' he told the Official Chelsea Website this week, sitting down to chat after a full session on the training pitch followed by gym activities with the other keepers.
'Physically I am better than I was when I first arrived; mentally, technically and tactically too.
'It is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here because I knew by training with Pet, H and Christophe, and all the players, I'd learn so much from them, and so much from the manager as well in a tactical respect. It bodes well for the future.'
The shortenings Ross uses for his fellow goalkeepers' names need little decoding. Christophe is goalkeeper coach Christophe Lollichon, the original-thinking taskmaster behind much of the learning process Ross is undergoing, although the player also puts high value on studying Cech in action.
'I always watch the games and we try to help each other when we are not playing. It is good to be around someone who is world class. Pet is always there with advice and he has been exceptional this season and long may it continue. We all want to play but I understand that it is not possible and I wish Pet all the best when he plays.
'I was speaking to my brother the other day and we both agreed he has been the player of the season so far, but ever since I have been here he has been first class so it just seems normal. Credit to him for being so consistent in a difficult period for the team. He works hard on his game and he deserves everything he gets.'
Cech is two-and-a-half years older than Ross who ponders the question of whether he can be considered a 'young keeper' any more.
'A goalkeeper doesn't really mature until 28, 29, 30 years old so I have that to look forward to but I am getting past that stage now where I can be called young. I have gained good experience. I have played in big games, and lots of Premier League games at Middlesbrough with lots of league games at different loan clubs.
'The more experience you gain, the more you know what to do in certain situations. Some play to their late 30s and play exceptionally well because they have the experience of playing hundreds of games.
'When you are playing regularly, everything starts to come natural but when you haven't played regularly it is sometimes hard to get into the swing of things - but if you are playing week in week out, it does become easier as you get older.'
With training sessions the most important part of Ross's week for the time being, he is grateful that the sub-zero winter conditions at the tail end of 2010 failed to disrupt work to any significant extent. The only lad from northern England in the Chelsea squad, it is as if he brought Tyne and Wear winters down with him when he arrived.
'I speak to my dad and say it is freezing down here and he tells me it is still five or six degrees colder up there in the north east,' Ross smiles, 'but this winter has been pretty cold.
'We trained inside once or twice but apart from that they cleared the pitches and much credit to the groundsmen. All the rest of the teams in the league had the same problem and credit to the staff for not letting it disrupt us.
'Christophe set a few challenges where we had to use the snow after training but me and H always seemed to work quite well together and it always seemed to be Christophe and Pet that were rolling in the snow.
'Christophe's imagination as a coach is wonderful. Considering goalkeeping is quite a repetitive industry, he keeps it different every day which is perfect for us.'
Ross this season played in the 3-4 home Carling Cup defeat by Newcastle and the home 2-1 victory over Zilina in the Champions League. His personal performance that night rightly gave him satisfaction.
Now as he awaits Carlo Ancelotti's selection decision for Sunday, he notes his FA Cup experience is surprisingly sparse for someone with 100 career first-team games to his name, although only sparse as a player.
'Some of the lads who don't play as much thought they might play the away Marseille game but I remember saying at the time that I thought the manager would put an experienced team out to get some momentum going, so he might do it again for Ipswich. He has to pick what he thinks is best for the club and I respect his decisions.
'I've only played one FA Cup game, on loan for Barnsley at Northampton and we got beat. When I was playing regularly at Middlesbrough they changed the team for the FA Cup.
'Through the generations the FA Cup will always be special. It is spectacular going to Wembley and all the fans enjoy it.
'I actually went to Wembley as a Newcastle fan to watch them play Chelsea in the semi final. I had been down a few times with Newcastle and I don't think we had ever scored before and Robert Lee scored. We deserved to win that day.'
Many Chelsea fans coming out the stadium at the end admitted as much, but two Gustavo Poyet goals turned the semi-final back in Chelsea's favour and we went on the beat Aston Villa in the final. It was the year 2000.
'My record at Wembley as a fan isn't too good with Newcastle,' Ross points out.
'We lost to Man United in the FA Cup Final, I went to the '96 Charity Shield when Man United stuffed us 4-0 and I went when they lost to Arsenal in the Cup Final and Nico [Anelka] scored.
'They just can't seem to win a trophy when it comes down to it and I haven't had many good experiences as a supporter there but it was a great experience last year to be at the FA Cup Final with Chelsea and win it - and we all want to win it again this year.'