The new edition of the official Chelsea magazine is now on sale and features an exclusive in-depth interview with Ross Barkley.
The England midfielder discusses his footballing roots and early development, reflecting on how he was never fazed by getting stuck in with kids older than him, how his position on the field developed as the years went by and how his penchant for scoring goals grew.
'I grew up playing about in the streets and as a kid, you don’t really think about getting injured, so you’re throwing yourself into tackles on concrete, diving in and making holes in your clothes,' Barkley tells Chelsea in the cover feature.
'When I was nine or 10, my mum’s friend knew someone who had a local team. So they took me down there and in my first game I scored a hat-trick. From there, I was just scoring goals.
'Even when they put me in defence because I was a big lad, I just kept running out from the back and scoring goals and goals and goals, and when I became a midfielder I came more into my own. I was closer to the goal and, because I was big, I could win the ball back and then drive, or make a few passes.
'When I was 14, I played Under-18s, and I still needed to develop a bit more for that age group, so I’d play as a striker for them. That helped me develop my understanding of the runs strikers need to make and playing one-twos into the striker’s feet.
'I played every position as a youngster. I played right-back and then, when I broke into the Everton team as a young lad, David Moyes put me in on the wing. It gave me a good understanding of all positions.'
Barkley has become a key part of Maurizio Sarri's plans this season and he explains how the Italian has helped him improve, as well as how he became aware of the head coach’s methods even before he took over at Chelsea.
'I look at things more tactically,' the player says, 'understanding about arriving in the box at the right time, or if the balance is not right on the pitch to maybe not make the run into the box at this time.
'In pre-season, just to get an understanding, he’d show us a few clips of his Napoli side doing the movements and the tactical work that we do now – just introducing the way he wants us to play to eventually be the best team in Europe.
'I watched a few of their Champions League games last season – the games against Man City were very good – and then a few Italian matches that were on TV over here as well. Whenever they were on, I’d watch their games because I heard how well Napoli were doing – they were close to winning the league, so I took notice.’
The 25-year-old also assesses our form so far this season and outlines his desire for a strong finish to the campaign.
‘We’ve done okay from the start of the season until now, but it’s how we finish. The second half of the season is going to be massive for us and I’m fully focused on doing really well in that period.’
No ordinary Joe
Following his return to the club as technical Academy coach, the magazine also caught up for a chat with Joe Cole, who reveals how he will be drawing inspiration from a variety of sources as he embarks on the next stage of his career.
'I take influence from all of them,' he states, referring to the numerous quality managers he played under. ‘I think the biggest mistake I’ve seen by players going into management is that they base themselves too much on one manager. You can only be you. Of course, I’d be stupid not to learn from your Ancelottis and your Joses, or Rudi Garcia, who I worked with at Lille and really liked,
or Harry Redknapp.
'The list goes on. I’ve worked with loads of great managers and I’d be stupid not to take bits and learn from them, but one thing’s for sure – when you look back in the mirror, it’s always going to be you, so you have to put your own spin on it. That’s how I’ll be. I will succeed or not in this game, but I’ll do it my way.'
Going back to another era in Chelsea's history, Barry Bridges reminisces about being part of one of our most exciting teams of all time during the early Sixties. He also reveals how the bond he forged with his team-mates stands strong to this day.
‘I was in Spain for a month recently and Terry [Venables] has a big place over there, so we went to see him,’ explains the former Blues forward. 'It’s the first time I’ve seen him in about four years and it was so lovely. Within 10 minutes it was as if it was yesterday. It’s the same with a lot of the other players as well.’
The strikers theme continues with Kerry Dixon and David Speedie’s perfect partnership under the microscope and a look at the 10 players to have scored more than 100 goals for the club, after Eden Hazard joined that elite group last month.
Photo Album takes a look at Mark Hughes's varied career and, although she may now play at the other end of the pitch, Chelsea Women's new goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger explains how she used to be a striker.
Chelsea is available to buy for £3.95 in the Megastore at Stamford Bridge and all good newsagents from Wednesday. It can also be ordered online here