SCHWARZER: RAISING THE BAR
Mark Schwarzer will link up with his new team-mates in Bangkok this weekend and admits he cannot wait to get back into the swing of things.
Schwarzer joins the side on the 2013 Here to Play, Here to Stay tour two days after they land in Thailand having been given time to settle as a Chelsea player in England, and he will be hoping to make a debut in Thursday's match against the Singha All-Stars XI at the Rajamangala Stadium.
An Australia international, Schwarzer is perhaps the most familiar of all our players with local football in the region, since his country began competing in the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
The aim of that move was to help improve Australian football, but Schwarzer has also noticed a step up in the wider Asian game in that time.
'The standard has improved and it's only natural when you've got some teams raising the bar, they have to follow or they will fall way behind the running. In the past four years there has been a huge improvement,' said the 40-year-old.
'On the same token I like to think it has improved Australia. You have to improve as a national team, it's exactly the same as in a club, you have to move forward or you will be caught up or overtaken. We're continuously trying to improve and we're there or thereabouts. We made it to our third consecutive World Cup which we're very happy with and looking forward to next year.'
This week there is plenty of work to do and Schwarzer is enthused about meeting up with his new team-mates in Bangkok before travelling on to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. He anticipates three testing games.
'Asia is such a big continent, and they are absolutely mad about the English Premier League,' he said. 'For many of those players, coming up against Chelsea will be a dream come true and they'll be doing everything they possibly can to try and make a mark. It will be a test for us but also a great opportunity for a lot of the local guys to get a chance against Chelsea.
'I'm looking forward to playing football again and getting stuck into pre-season at such a fantastic club. It's extremely exciting for me.
'Hard work is what you do as a footballer. You hit the ground running, it's all about hard work and you don't get something for nothing. That's why I'm still playing at this tender young age of mine. I enjoy pushing myself.'