A new home for the new season

Hello everyone and welcome to my new home on chelseafc.com.

I have been an avid Chelsea fan for a long time, and it brings me great pleasure to be here writing about one of my passions.

Having written in the official Chelsea magazine for the past four years, I have enjoyed hearing the many views of Chelsea fans around the world, and I hope this column will provide some interesting thoughts for you to digest and provoke debate.

I was at Wembley for the Community Shield on Sunday, which of course served up plenty of talking points.

Firstly, I should say it was a great day and we shouldn’t overlook the fact we’re there at the Community Shield to help the FA raise a lot of money for charity, which they do. Football doesn’t always explain and showcase some of the real and tangible things it does that bring a difference to local communities, and Sunday was good for that. The back pages are often about a result or a dispute, and more often than not that good stuff is hidden, but it’s a mighty part of what the game gives.

I have seen first-hand some of the excellent work carried out by the Chelsea Foundation, and in January we hosted an open evening at the House of Lords. The cross-political appreciation of what a football club can bring to local communities really was extraordinary, and it both surprised and impressed people in equal measure.

Now, down to the football, and I have to start with one of those disputes I have just referenced.

I was dismayed by the handshake situation on Sunday. At a showpiece event, Jose Mourinho went out of his way to shake hands with every Arsenal player and waited there knowing their manager was coming down the stairs, ready to shake hands with him.  It was an opportunity spurned by the Arsenal manager.

It wasn’t an easy thing for Jose to do, probably going against every natural instinct to clear off down the tunnel.  The subsequent reaction was mean-spirited and hardly in keeping with the theme for the day of ‘Respect’.

But to the game – and clearly credit must go to Arsenal - let’s just hope that’s the only trophy they are lifting this season!

The pre-season is now all but behind us, now it’s down to real business. I don’t think you’d ever describe Arsenal v Chelsea as a friendly, and we still have Fiorentina on Wednesday night, but Swansea will be the beginning of a long, tough campaign to maintain a grip on the Premier League trophy.

Statistically it is tough, we won it in 2005 and 2006, but not many teams have successfully defended the trophy and there is always more incentive to beat the champions.  They may be the only bragging rights a team can claim at the end of the season.

Physically and mentally it is very tough, probably in equal measure, and the statistics back it up. The manager is right to flag up the difficulty of it.

Every game is going to be tougher than last year. It’s the nature of what we’re out to achieve and what everybody will want to stop us from achieving. So Jose is right, but it’s a high-class problem for us to have!

For all the summer’s transfer activity, I still think you can predict the top-four finishers – if not their final position this year. It will be difficult for the others to break into that. As for our rivals, the two Manchester sides will be a handful, Arsenal will be close but I don’t think they are going to be champions. Liverpool could go very well too, but I think it hinges on Christian Benteke’s ability to score regularly.

For us, if at key moments in the season we can keep the squad injury-free and mentally sharp, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t win the Premier League again this year. I hope that’s a proposition that few of you will argue with.

I will be rounding each column off with a look back over some classic Chelsea imagery, and this month it’s 30 years since the below picture, taken during pre-season training ahead of the 1985/86 season.

Things have changed a little since, but I am sure there is a similar dread felt among the players as they return to the training ground for that first session of the summer. Thankfully, it’s a lot more football-orientated these days, and I am sure the lads are raring to go.