Zola and Elliott speak at William Hill event

Words of wisdom from two major Chelsea players from the past kept an audience enthralled at a special event at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night, run in conjunction with our betting partner William Hill.

Organised by the Football Writers’ Association and featuring prominent journalists on the panel, our former captain and Player of the Year Paul Elliott and the legendary Gianfranco Zola joined in a discussion that ranged from this Saturday’s game against Tottenham, Chelsea under Antonio Conte and youth development in the English game.

There were questions from the audience who obtained their tickets from this website and were overwhelmingly Chelsea fans, and the evening had the added benefit of all the proceeds going to the Chelsea Foundation.

Zola, Elliott and journalists Paul McCarthy, Patrick Barclay and John Cross all predicted a Blues win in this weekend’s derby and Zola shared thoughts on the team’s development under his compatriot Conte.

‘In my opinion, what Antonio is doing is great for the club as he is trying to establish a philosophy and that is what I believe Roman Abramovich wants. He wants to see the team playing with an identity. Then because you have that system of play, the Chelsea style where everyone knows what he is doing, and it is not the Zola or the Poyet or the Hazard style, it is the Chelsea way of playing, in that context you can put in Loftus-Cheek, you can put in Chalobah because they know the context, they know what they have to do and they can sustain it.’

Elliott, a dominating centre-back in his playing days who told the evening about his current role within the FA, gave his verdict on in-form Diego Costa.

‘There are different types of centre-forward and I have played against players like Marco van Basten who are unbelievably talented technically, physically with great mobility. I have played against Maradona who was like Gianfranco - magic in his feet with a low centre of gravity, but Diego Costa, for a centre-half, he is probably the worst type of centre-forward to play against. He is the one you want in your team because he is very aggressive, he is in your face and a lot of centre-backs like confrontation but not with a man like him. I would never want to upset him.

‘Chelsea played at Middlesbrough last weekend and he was leading the line, being a pest, in the centre-half’s face but when the ball came in, he was the quickest to it and it was a goal, job done!

‘And if I am a centre-back and he is my centre-forward, I know if the ball goes up there, it sticks and the two opposition centre-halves know they are going to be in a game for 90 minutes. That relieves pressure.’

Zola added his thoughts on Eden Hazard’s return to his blistering best.

‘I think I went through a similar situation,’ said the Sardinian. ‘The first year I came over here, in six months I won the Football Writers’ award and I really played very well. Everything came easy and that was the result of very good preparation and although the first part of the season I was not playing as well, I was prepared. I was going through a difficult situation emotionally and that is the reason why I wasn’t performing well in Italy. Then I came here and found the job I did well in pre-season paid off.

‘The second season I can honestly admit I did not prepare and train for a season that was going to be more difficult for me because people knew me, they were going to wait for me, and the results of the second season were up and down, not as good.

‘I wasn’t very happy and I believe Eden has gone through a similar situation but that is part of the process and when you go the through this moment, you become stronger, you learn something.’

Undoubtedly the audience at the Bridge last night learnt plenty too, with a prize of a shirt signed by Zola and Elliott given as a reward for the best question, judged to be one on young player development and the incentives and regimes needed.