Stamford Bridge converted into a pop-up vaccination centre once again today and among those receiving a jab was Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, returning to familiar territory after the summer break.
Following a successful event at the stadium a month ago, staff from the NHS returned to SW6 to help ramp up vaccination levels in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which has had one of the lowest take-ups for the Covid-19 jab throughout the capital.
The pop-up vaccination centre idea came about following dialogue between the NHS and the club, having originally been suggested by Imperial Healthcare medical director Professor Julian Redhead (pictured top with Tuchel).
Among those in attendance on a balmy Saturday at the Bridge were Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck and Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham, as well as Tuchel, who spoke to us about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.
‘I got my second vaccination today so it’s a big step - for travelling, for being safe and for feeling more safe so it’s the right thing to do,’ said the Chelsea head coach.
Commenting on the club’s efforts to support the local community, he added: ‘It’s good. We are here in the middle of the city so it’s a good thing to use the stadium for society.’
Tuchel had made the short trip from our Cobham training base, where his players had earlier opened their pre-season campaign with a victory against Peterborough United, and he was pleased to be back at the Bridge for the first time since May.
While preparations for 2021/22 remain in the early stages, the German admitted being at the stadium and the prospect of a capacity crowd soon joining him and his players was particularly motivating.
‘It’s always exciting to see the stadium and to see the new pitch and to feel a little bit of the atmosphere,’ he added. ‘We’re happy to come back soon and play here in front of our spectators hopefully.
‘If this is possible, it would be the first time that it’s a full stadium. We had a great experience against Leicester and we could feel what difference it will make to our sport and to the game.
‘We can’t wait to experience it again but we have a long pre-season to go and there’s quite a lot of days in between.’
There are, in fact, 28 days to wait before the Blues return home for our Premier League opener against Crystal Palace. For those who are yet to be vaccinated, or who are waiting for a second dose, that is plenty of time to act in order to protect yourself, your family and the Chelsea community prior to the big kick-off.
Hands was proud to see the efforts being made in his local constituency and praised the impact of football to make a positive difference.
‘It’s really important because both Hammersmith and Chelsea, and Kensington and Chelsea, the two local boroughs, have two of the lowest uptake rates across the country,’ he said.
‘Nationally, the vaccine programme has of course been an enormous success but not all parts of the country have kept up fully.
‘Football has gone way behind the usual supporter base in the last few weeks with Euro 2020. People are thinking about football more so actually the game giving back to communities is a really important part of this message.
‘Football also has this ability to connect with groups that sometimes have vaccine hesitancy like younger people or some minority groups so it can be a really good medium for reaching people to get vaccinated.’