BERTRAND: FOND MEMORIES
Our FA Cup campaign gets underway today with Portsmouth the visitors to Stamford Bridge, and Ryan Bertrand has been sharing with the official Chelsea website his memories of the oldest club competition in the world, both as a player and a supporter.
The 21-year-old made his debut in the competition while on loan at Bournemouth back in 2006; an occasion he quite clearly recalls with great fondness.
'My first game in the FA Cup was while I was at Bournemouth,' he said. 'It was against Bristol Rovers, I played on the left of midfield that day and I remember hitting the post. It was brilliant to appear in the competition, a really enjoyable moment.'
It was another loan spell, this time at Reading back in 2010, which gave the promising young left-back his first taste of what it feels like to overcome the odds and embark on a memorable run in the competition.
Bryan McDermott's side were struggling to find any type of form in the Championship at the time, but managed to reach the quarter-finals of the Cup, eliminating Liverpool at Anfield on the way, a game in which Bertrand shone.
'The experience at Reading was really good, particularly the game against Liverpool when we won 2-1 at Anfield, as it proved to us that we could play against a top side.
'That win turned our season around and it gave us the confidence we needed to push on for the rest of the campaign. Not many teams win up at there, even the best teams, so it was a great victory.'
That famous win ensured the Reading players were propelled into the media spotlight, and the fact the game was shown on national television certainly gave Bertrand the perfect platform to prove to everybody exactly what he was capable of.
The FA Cup dream was soured however, in the quarter-final when having raced into a first half 2-0 lead against Aston Villa, the Royals capitulated in the second period, eventually going down 4-2 in what was, as Bertrand hints, a harsh lesson.
'Yes I think the fact the Liverpool game was live on television helped me in the sense that I played well personally and the team got the right result, so on the whole it worked out really well for me.
'In the next round we were 2-0 up at home to Aston Villa at half time, we could have scored again but then they came out for the second half and really turned it on. It would have been great to reach the semi-finals as they were at Wembley, but I think the fact we went 2-0 up so early on against a quality side ultimately proved our downfall.'
Bertrand was no different to the majority of youngsters growing up in this country with an insatiable appetite for the beautiful game; the FA Cup final was always a day which had a magical appeal, a day which captivated us all no matter which teams were involved.
'I used to support Arsenal as a youngster so I have quite fond memories of watching the FA Cup as they always did well in it. Ian Wright was my favourite player but later on I liked the side which contained players such as Marc Overmars,' he said.
'I remember when Chelsea won it in 1997 under Ruud Gullit as well, plus of course the final in 2001 when Michael Owen scored two late goals to win it for Liverpool against Arsenal, that really annoyed me. I can remember Ash [Ashley Cole] scoring a penalty for Arsenal against Manchester United in 2004 too.'
With regards to the third round clash against Portsmouth, the game epitomises what the tournament is all about; a Barclays Premier League side at home to a team in the lower half of the Championship; one team with much to lose, while the other is able to play their natural game with no added pressure.
Historically, we know that reputations count for very little in the FA Cup, and Bertrand acknowledges the fact that we will need to be fully focused in order to ensure any upsets are avoided at such a crucial time in our season.
'It doesn't matter how big or small a game is there's always the anticipation of what could happen, but everybody's confident so as long as we stick to what we know best there's no reason why we shouldn't go through,' he said.
'From a young age you learn that the pressure is always on you to go out and deliver when you are playing for a top club like Chelsea.'