For the first 45 minutes of the first pre-season game in America, the captain’s armband was worn by the Chelsea right-back. Expect it to be a recurring sight when John Terry is not on the pitch.
It was ahead of the New York game that Branislav Ivanovic was informed he is the club’s new vice-captain. It is a role undertaken for many years by Frank Lampard with Terry the skipper throughout. Other senior players who at times also stood in wearing the armband such as Didier Drogba and Petr Cech have now left.
Ivanovic, as is only to be expected, is honoured to be asked to assume the senior position.
‘I am really so happy,’ the 31-year-old tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I am very proud of that, to be the vice-captain of this team. This is something extra for me, more responsibility, and I will try to do it well for the team.
‘I am doing what I was doing before, trying to do my best. I will try to do that in the future as well but basically not a lot of things change. John Terry is the real captain and leader.’
Jose Mourinho has spoken previously about the benefits of having other leaders on the pitch as well as the captain, and Ivanovic, who is Serbia’s fifth most-capped player with 79 appearances, has skippered his nation for the past three years.
‘Of course this helps me a lot,’ he acknowledges, ‘because I am used to being that part of the team, and it is great. Anybody is proud to be the captain of their country and I hope we will have a good year.
‘The first week of this pre-season was very physically hard and very important for all of us,’ Ivanovic reports, turning to matters immediately at hand. This is the seventh start to a season he has spent at Chelsea.
‘We have done a great job in training. Maybe the first game we didn’t play well because we were a little bit tired, but with the freshness will come more. The pre-season is very good for us.’
He, along with Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta, played the full 90 minutes against Paris St-Germain at the weekend. Kurt Zouma, Oscar and Azpilicueta again were those who started and completed the match against New York Red Bulls. For a full-back, a full game means lot of running during this initial fortnight of pre-season.
‘The first couple of games physically are very difficult but it has to be hard to get you back to normal,’ Ivanovic explains.
‘For our position, it is important to play 90 minutes to have hard games. This makes you fit for the season and for us of course there will be a lot of running in the season, but this is our part in the team.’
One area where a vice-captain can help is with the quick settling of new signings into the wider group. Ivanovic already knew Asmir Begovic from speaking to him on a few occasion when Chelsea played Stoke.
‘I wish him good career in Chelsea and during all the years he was in Stoke he was one of the best in the league, and I hope he can help our team,’ he says, before confirming he is happy to now have Falcao as a team-mate rather than having to defend against the Colombian.
‘Especially when we remember how he good he was when he played against us. He is scoring goals in training and is working hard to be at that level.
‘The new guys are always happy when they arrive at Chelsea. They adapt very quickly and all of the guys help the new ones with this. It shows how good the atmosphere is inside our team.’
On a personal note as we look ahead to competitive action commencing, more of the same from Ivanovic will do very nicely indeed following a league championship win in which he played every league game. When attacking, he was bettered only by Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard in creating assists during last season’s Chelsea matches.
‘I like it when I am the one behind those guys in the list, and I hope this year will be the same mentally and physically so I am ready to do more.
‘Last year was a great year for me, maybe one of the best, and when you do this, you always have to set new targets to break, and go one step better than last year.’