Steps Up: Michael Hector

The latest subject of our feature focusing on players who have been developing out on loan is Michael Hector, who spent the closing weeks of the season training with the our first-team squad having previously been at Reading.

The 23-year-old returned to the Berkshire club for another season of gaining experience in the Championship having signed for Chelsea on 1 September 2015. He was a regular for the Royals, making 35 appearances in all competitions to follow 49 the previous year and this summer will be a repeat of the last with Hector again representing Jamaica at the Copa America…

 

Michael, please outline your football development so far.

Growing up I was at Millwall youth but I got let go there and I went on trial to Fulham but didn’t get taken on so my mum told me I had to go to college. I had a football scholarship so that was still my main interest, playing football with a bit of studying on the side.

The college team was quite good so we played against academies. We played against Tottenham and Watford and teams like that and one of the teams was Reading. I was playing centre-mid in that game and got moved to centre-back and did quite well and after the game was offered a trial and got signed. Since then I have been on loan a few times, including in non-league, in Scotland and in Ireland. It has been a long journey but once I played for Reading I started doing well, teams started taking interest and Chelsea came in.

Does the path you have taken affect your outlook on the game?

I don’t take anything for granted with where I have come from and being here with world-class facilities and the type of players you meet, where I come from you can only dream of things like that. And Chelsea is the team I supported so it is another incentive, it is a big thing for me to try to break into the first team. My mum is from Fulham Broadway and grew up in a block of flats right next to the stadium. Although she supports Man United her family is Chelsea mad.

 

Which loan experiences especially developed you?

Moving to Ireland to play for Dundalk meant living away from home and that was the first time playing televised games which was a big deal. In Scotland with Aberdeen was a big stage, playing against teams like Celtic. They are the type of games you want to play in every week and made me realise this is where I want to be.

 

Most of your football so far has been in the Championship…

It is one of the hardest leagues to play in. Ola John [a team-mate at Reading] who has played in the Europa League final and in the Champions League said it is one of the toughest he has played in. Sometimes it is not as pretty as it could be but you never know who is going to win the games and I have a learned a lot in the couple of years I have played in that league.

In the league with Reading it was very up and down but the FA Cup run [in 2015] was the highlight, playing at Wembley in the semi-final before losing to Arsenal in extra-time. I felt we were the better team that day.

 Michael Hector (left) in Wembley contest with Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez



At Reading you worked for a time under former Chelsea defender and coach Steve Clarke…

I watched him when I was growing up and he helped me a lot with his knowledge. He is a quiet man but when he speaks everyone listens and he has the one or two words you need to hear. You tune your game slightly and it makes a big difference.

 

You’ve been a centre-back and a midfielder at Reading. Which is your main position?

When I was growing up I was a midfielder and I do enjoy playing midfield, trying to score goals, but teams want to play out from the back and me dropping back to centre-back helped the team to do that and so that was the key when I signed from Reading, for me to try to do that so they can play out from the back. That is the modern day centre-back, they have to be okay on the ball. I have an open mind about my position.

 

Another Chelsea player Lucas Piazon was a team-mate at Reading…

Lucas is a very talented player, you can see the class. He didn’t get as much game time as he would have wanted but you saw the quality when he did start and some of the goals he scored were unbelievable.  

 

Finally, how was it training at Cobham in the final weeks of the season?

The first day I was a bit taken aback having watched these players as a supporter but then I settled and have been training normally. The manager was really good in helping me and talking to me and the coaches have been really helpful as well.

 

-          Next month Michael Hector will preview his involvement in the Copa America.