The WACA, Chelsea’s training base during our time in Perth, is a legendary venue in Australia and well-known to cricket fans worldwide, and it means more to one of our players out here than most.
Michael Hector, the defender who has spent the previous two seasons on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt and Hull, is part of our pre-season preparations and as well as football, he has a strong cricketing background. His father Pat was a county cricketer for Essex and represented England at Under-19 level. Michael himself played the game at club and county level until the age of 15 when he stopped to concentrate on being a footballer.
‘I still enjoy watching cricket now and when I saw on the itinerary we were coming to the WACA, I was like ‘oh!’, and I told my dad,’ Hector says.
‘It is a special stadium and you see the history. We are in the away team dressing room and you see the boards there showing the five-wicket hauls, the team captains, the players who have scored hundreds at the ground, and a lot of them are legends of the games.
‘Obviously I understand this a bit more than other players on tour and it is a special place, and I am privileged and lucky to be training on it. Our names are up on the scoreboard and Ola [Aina] was down as the wicket keeper so he was asking me what the WK meant next to his name.’
‘It is weird coming out and playing football on the pitch, having watched it on TV when England are in the Ashes.’
The 25-year-old plays international football for Jamaica and supports the West Indies at cricket, although he follows England too and has been to many of their matches. He was an all-rounder in his cricketing days, and bowled with pace, another reason why he appreciates the WACA with its fast bowling tradition.
‘When I was playing for my club and my school I did everything, opening the bowling, opening the batting but when I started playing for the county, the standard was a lot better so I would be second- or third-change bowling, and mid- to late-order coming into bat. That is why I stopped as well, because you want to do everything when you are a kid and when it starts to get a bit more professional, I did not enjoy it so much. It would have been interesting to see how quick at bowling I could have got.’
Instead it is football that is now Hector’s focus, and after a season in the Bundesliga where he helped Eintracht Frankfurt to the German Cup final, he had an active time in the Championship at Hull last campaign where he was joined in the Tigers’ defence by fellow Chelsea loanees Aina and Fikayo Tomori.
‘I played a lot,’ Hector reports. ‘The season was not as expected for the team and if I am honest, it was up and down for myself and the team was quite low on confidence. It was a bit patchy but if now I have a good pre-season, I can knuckle down and see what happens from there.
‘Germany is a tough training programme but it is one game a week. In the Championship there are so many games you are playing with knocks and bruises the whole way through.
‘Ola and Fikayo both did really well, positive in what they did, and I enjoyed looking after them.’
All three are now part of Chelsea’s pre-season in Australia and may see some action in Monday night’s game.