Thomas gelled smoothly at Chelsea very quickly, and that has been the key to his success. He was a coach of teams who were at or near the top of their respective leagues, Borussia Dortmund and PSG, and of course that gives you great experience. When he walked in, you could feel he had a lot of experience in football already, from being a coach of youth teams to the top teams.
When you come to a new club and you’re taking over from a club legend, there is a lot of expectation you start winning straightaway. Thomas is a good listener and he quickly realised how the club works. That helped him to make the right choices, together with his staff.
The people around him are a great support to him. They are a great team together, along with Joe Edwards and Anthony Barry who were with us previously. They added a little continuity and allowed Thomas and the staff he brought to get more information from them. They took them under their wing and have really created a strong bond.
Arno Michels, Zsolt Low and Benni Weber knew each other from before but they included everyone, people like Hilario and James Russell, Will Tullett and Matt Birnie, and that is why the transition was smooth for Thomas. Things were going in the right direction from the very start.
It’s been an amazing year. It has had great moments and some not-so-great moments, and that is part of football and part of life. We will always look back at those great moments with happiness. We added two major trophies to the cabinet, so it’s been a huge success.
Thomas the man
I had played against Thomas’s PSG team in a pre-season friendly when I was at Arsenal, but I hadn’t properly met him in person until he arrived at Cobham the day before the Wolves game a year ago today. He walked in full of energy and ready to make things happen.
He is open minded, he is a good listener, a good communicator, and he has a very good sense of humour! He likes to joke and make a good atmosphere around the place. Any group needs people like that, but he is a hard worker and makes sure the team is ready every day so they can perform at the highest level. That counts the most.
What people see during press conferences and games is the character we see of Thomas at Cobham. That’s who he is. He loves football and lives the emotion, and it shows. He’s the same in training. If he likes something or doesn’t like something, he always lets people know.
It was nice for Thomas to finish his first year with yet another win over Spurs. We played them three times in a short period, and beat them three times. That’s not easy, but everyone at the club enjoyed doing that, and I know our fans certainly did!
Mendy the Best of the best
Edou was named The Best goalkeeper by FIFA and it’s another great achievement for him. He is the first African goalkeeper to win the award, which is amazing, and testament to how well he has done since he came to our club. He had an incredible year, winning two trophies, and it reflects his hard work and attitude. It’s great to see him getting recognition, and our other players who made it to the Team of the Year.
The best thing is Edou can now add more trophies this year. He is at the Africa Cup of Nations now, Senegal are one of the favourites, so he could even win this trophy before he returns to us. And then we have the Club World Cup and the Carabao Cup final to look forward to in a few weeks. Hopefully for him he will be on the right end of three more trophies.
I must touch on Kepa, too. He had to fill those big boots while Edou has been away, and he has been brilliant in all those games under even more scrutiny than usual. You need a strong team and every person ready to help. The goalkeeping group work so hard together to make sure they are all ready for when the moment comes, so Kepa deserves credit too.