LAMPARD LIFTS LID ON SUMMMER CAMP 2006
Holiday is over, training has been concentrated and match action is just hours away for Frank Lampard. The vice-captain has been telling www.chelseafc.com about preparations in North America.
It is only just over 30 days since you last played a game. Can you really be keen to get going so soon against the MLS All-Stars?
I am looking forward to playing. I did quite a lot in terms of holidays, moving about a bit.
By the time I came back to pre-season I felt I'd had a good break and after a week of double training sessions, you're desperate to play a game rather than train, train, train.
We have done a lot of training and it is time to get match fitness as well.
Can fitness levels really drop in just three weeks away?
I am so mentally absorbed in football that after three weeks off I'm ready to get back amongst it.
Those first few training sessions, the first week or two and even the first match on Saturday, you'll have lost a bit of fitness.
You have to have a break. I did a few runs but your body does lose that little bit and you need to put it in for a good couple of weeks in order to get it back.
When you are trying to get yourself to the optimum and you don't do anything for even a week then you feel you've dropped a little bit.
Was it fortunate that you just missed the heatwave that had been burning California just before you arrived?
You get more out of training if it is not as hot as the heatwave would have been. That would have sapped your energy and stopped you doing as much as we've done.
We were fortunate that a few days were cloudy and the sunny days weren't that hot. It allowed us to put everything we could into every double session.
What was your overall assessment of the training camp?
We have been to America three years running and they have all been good. The gyms are fantastic, huge and with everything you want and normally the pitches are good.
This year the pitch wasn't so good but the people were great, the hotel, everything. Nothing is too much for the people to help you with.
Pre-season in America has been easily the best pre-seasons I have ever experienced.
Would you say a word or two on the new players?
They have settled in very quickly. Shevchenko and Ballack are two established world class players so I never saw a problem with them fitting in football-wise and behind the scenes they have fitted in very well.
They are mixing with the lads. Ballack speaks better English but Sheva is still trying to be part of the spirit.
Kalou has looked very sharp in training. He speaks English so he's no problem. Mikel has been here just a few days but looks the player we knew he was from when he was on trial here.
Again another English speaker. Hilario again is a great lad. He seems like a bit of a character and he is willing to work hard.
There has been no-one who has come in and you've thought hasn't mixed.
Looking at the very young players who have been brought along; when you were at that stage, would it have blown your mind to have been involved in something like this visit?
I trained with the West Ham first team at that age but this is a different level.
You are looking at mostly international players and we never had that at 16. It is an amazing achievement, not just being here because that is probably the easiest part.
It is being here and not looking completely out of place or be in your shell and shy. And none of the young lads have done that.
They haven't disrupted a session by not being at the level we are. They've been great and it will be a great experience for them.
Would you have ever believed that one day you'd be in the same room as the Prime Minister and Snoop Dogg?
It was a strange kind of moment at that party. It was weird but it was a good night for us. We didn't know quite what to expect and that was a strange combination, but Tony Blair was great.
I was really impressed with how he spoke. He was really interesting to meet and I'd never met him before. And Snoop as well.
I didn't have a clue what an American rapper would be like with the lads but he was really chatty. I was a fan anyway, not a huge one, but it was good to meet them both.
That's the crazy world of L.A. I suppose.
You've been on all three pre-season trips to America. Have you noticed a significant step-up in interest this time?
I think we all have. The attention we get has raised from seeing the amount of fans who have been coming training for our autographs.
We never got that the first year here. Just walking down the street in Chelsea gear, you still get people asking which team we are but most seem to have a clue.
The first year here it was much more low key.
I don't know what they are trying to do with soccer here but it seems to be working. It is becoming a bit more popular.
Hopefully if people are going to take a team on board and support it, the fact that we are coming out here and mixing with the American people means they'll support Chelsea.
And it is Americans, not just ex-pats. You can see that from not just Snoop but Owen Wilson the actor coming down training.
He said he has been playing a bit of football recently and you don't expect a Hollywood movie star to know anything about football. So maybe we are moving forward a little bit here.
by Paul Mason