BERTRAND: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD
As the team prepare to return to action at Loftus Road, Ryan Bertrand with two league starts and new contract to his name this season, speaks to the official Chelsea website…
Following one of the most dramatic and celebrated summers in British sporting history, many have risen to fame or cemented it further. One of our own who played his part in Britain's golden summer was Ryan Bertrand, starting three times for the Team GB football squad before their quarter-final elimination against South Korea.
An Olympic showing for Bertrand was just one highlight of what has been an incredible few months for the 23-year-old. Since starting in his first Champions League game in the final in Munich, and winning it, Bertrand has also scored his first Chelsea goal, made the step up to full international level and signed a new five-year contract at the club.
'It's been a lot!' Bertrand tells the official Chelsea website. 'It's slowly, slowly settling in though. It's been a crazy few months but I'm looking forward to getting more games under my belt.'
The Olympics certainly aided Bertrand's development according to the young left-back, and he was full of praise for the whole event where London excelled under the spotlight of the watching world.
'It was fantastic to be part of such a special occasion. It doesn't happen very often, especially with regards to the football team. We wanted to contribute to add to everyone else's success around us and though it didn't work out that way, we did our best.' he explains.
The Team GB squad consisted of Welsh and English players ranging from the ages of 19 to 38. This mix of experience and youth only served to add to the occasion in the eyes of the London-born defender.
'A lot of us had played together so it was quite easy to gel. There were a couple of experienced heads like Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs who were great role models for us and gave us a chance to learn off them.'
Barely days after the curtain was drawn on London's Olympics Bertrand was called up to the full England squad for the very first time for the friendly against Italy in Berne. He replaced Leighton Baines moments before Jermain Defoe scored the winning goal to seal a 2-1 victory.
He acknowledges it was a moment he had been waiting for having come through the youth systems for England from Under-17s all the way through to the Under-21s. The next step was always to edge towards the senior team and now the hope is that he can just keep it going.
He built on that cameo against Italy within a month, making his competitive debut on Tuesday at Wembley against Ukraine, again as a substitute. It was his cross that led to the penalty which team-mate Frank Lampard successfully converted. Although the team didn't win Bertrand is clearly delighted with the role he played.
'To come on in a World Cup qualifier and manage to have the impact that I did, with the cross that I put in leading to the penalty, was a bonus. First it's good to get on the pitch and then to have an impact on the game was fantastic.'
Life has been going pretty well for Bertrand in the blue of Chelsea, too. After a strong finish to last season, culminating in that night in Munich, he has started two of our opening three league games this campaign, impressing in the victories over Wigan and Newcastle. He scored his first goal (pictured below) in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City, but wasn't able to celebrate it in quite the way he had hoped, with the goal proving a mere consolation in the 3-2 defeat.
'If it had come in other circumstances, if we had taken the lead or it was another goal, I would have been able to celebrate it properly - hopefully it won't be too long a wait for the next one.
'The manager, along with Steve Holland and Eddie Newton, have put massive faith in me,' he stresses. 'They've been fantastic to me, believed in me, given me my chance - and I feel my performances have rewarded them as well.'
For somebody who has achieved so much in such a short space of time Bertrand is still keen to keep looking forward, and earlier this month signed a new five-year contract with the club. His hopes for those five years are simple - to win more trophies, increase his playing time year by year and keep progressing as a footballer.
With a succession of excellent performances convincing the club to offer Bertrand a new deal, it comes as no surprise to see him featuring more and more regularly, albeit in a midfield role. In defence he remains behind one of the world's greatest left-backs in the pecking order at Chelsea in Ashley Cole. The venerable defender remains a source of inspiration on a daily basis.
'Ash has won everything there is to win, he's won the FA Cup more times than anyone else and he still has the same attitude towards his football every day in training,' notes Bertrand. 'The way he approaches games is full-on 100%, and that's the one thing I always take from Ashley: to have the right attitude and approach games in the right way.'
Cole started in our last game in Monaco. Bertrand featured as a very late substitute with the damage already done. He says the squad is keen to put that result behind them.
'I think it was just a one-off. We're not looking into it too deeply. We're really disappointed that we couldn't top it off [the Champions League success] and go and win that cup as well, but it's important we just focus on the league now. We've been fantastic in that, with three wins out of three, so we just need to forget that bad result.'
Saturday's derby against QPR represents a chance to return to winning ways and keep the run going, and if Bertrand does feature he may well face directly a very recent former team-mate in Jose Bosingwa.
'Getting the chance to play against him will be strange with him on the other side. He's one of their players now so we want to get the better of him!'
Ryan Bertrand is on course to get the better of many more while his career path remains so upwardly mobile. Despite having achieved an abundance of landmarks in the past few months he has his sights set on celebrating further success in the future for both club and country, and if the recent past is anything to go by it will take a very brave man to bet against that happening.
By Rupert Cane.