The official Chelsea website speaks to our former goalkeeper and all-time great on his return to the club…
When it comes to playing careers, there have only been five with more Chelsea appearances than Petr Cech’s and during those many seasons he was in our goal he was an unqualified success. Now he is back – in his new role as technical and performance advisor which was announced earlier today – and success on the pitch remains his target. He aims to use the extensive knowledge he gained at the top of the game to ensure the current Chelsea operates in the best way possible.
It is a challenge he is clearly relishing, as he told the official Chelsea website on his return to the club…
‘I wanted to consider every possible option I had and I have to say I had so many options to keep playing because everybody was trying to persuade me to carry on playing,’ Cech explains. ‘So I had this on the side and I had offers from various places to continue in different roles but this offer I got from Chelsea is personal to me because I had a great history with this football club.
‘It was the best offer for me to consider and in the end I feel really happy and privileged to have this opportunity to come back and especially in the role I have, which is a role with a lot of responsibility and this is something I am really looking forward to.’
The 37-year-old explains what especially appeals to him about his new position within the football club structure…
‘I will be closely working with everybody at Cobham, every department – performance, recruitment, the team - and I have had 20 years of a professional career and 15 years in England with top teams. I have gained a lot of experience over the course of those years.
‘When you are a player you always see things in slightly different ways and you think why can’t things work this way. I can use that to my advantage because I know how a player feels or what they prefer or what they want to feel prepared to perform and to be at their best every day. This is something I know, what it takes to be prepared for a high-level performance game and this what I would like to create, a high-level performance environment - which is already in place but I would like to push it even further.
‘We can work at the best possible rate to make sure we have the best possible chance to win every game. This is something obviously easier said than done but there are a lot of things you can work on and you work with people and as a team, work towards the same goal. This is something I am really looking forward to because I like to have the opportunity to influence things and to make things work.’
Cech believes the additional experience he had by moving to another top-level Premier League club at Arsenal will be beneficial.
‘It was a very valuable experience for me to go to Arsenal and see how things are run there, how different the environment was. At Chelsea we were the club that lived with a lot of changes, manager changes, and Arsenal was the club where there were no changes for so many years so it adds to the experience and you see things differently. Then everything changed at Arsenal so new people came in place last season, a new manager, so this was interesting to see how that evolution works and you can take ideas, what works and doesn’t work and what might work better.
‘I have to say I know this club at Chelsea very well. I know the majority of people who are still at the club, I have worked with them, and so I am not stepping into something that is completely unknown to me. I have a very good idea how the club is run and the club has had amazing success over the past 15 years and we would like to carry on with that and continue with the same success, and even better success in the forthcoming years.’
Cech is still only a few weeks from the end of his playing career but for the first time he is able to reflect on it in its entirety.
‘It has been an amazing journey,’ he decides. ‘If you are born in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain then you have a completely different perspective on life. Then suddenly when the revolution came and the borders opened opportunities came, and that played a big part for me because of the opportunity to go abroad or to travel to national tournaments.
‘You start with small clubs and then you go step by step to the national team. This was my dream, to play for the national team and I wanted to play in the top division. Once you have that you want to play in the Champions League and at the age of 19 I did that and I started playing for the national team and then you think okay, what is the next step. That is to go to a top league and via France I ended up here and this is where my dream came true.
‘Then you have to do everything to make the most of it and looking back at those 20 years, and 11 years here and four years at Arsenal, I can say it has been an amazing journey.’
As a goalkeeper, one of Cech’s great strengths was his ability to zone out distractions and focus solely on the job in hand, but what was it like after all those years as a Chelsea player to line up in the opposition goal?
‘The first visit to Stamford Bridge as an Arsenal player was the tough one because it felt very strange that you warm up on the other side and you go to the other dressing room, and then all these songs are playing and it feels like you are still here, but at the same time you arrive with a different team.
‘It was only the first one when I found it hard. Over the course of the seasons, the second and third ones we met many times. Then it felt to me normal to come as a visitor but every time you come back, all the memories come back. You can’t forget 228 clean sheets, all the trophies you have, the Double and big wins at home, the Champions League, League Cups, everything.
‘You just can’t forget it so it is always a special feeling when you come back. Coming back again is completely new to me now, but it doesn’t feel unknown.’