The next instalment in our series of interviews with some of Chelsea’s most noteworthy goalkeepers over the past few decades is Ed de Goey, the unflappable Dutchman who briefly held a couple of club records.
Considering the vast experience he brought to the table, De Goey’s transfer fee £2.25m can be considered an absolute bargain for the Blues, as he joined shortly after the conclusion of a 1996/97 season which had seen no fewer than five goalkeepers appear at one time or another.
A veteran of the 1994 World Cup, he quickly overcame a shaky start by helping us to glory in the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup – and it was his stunning save in the last minute of the semi-final against Vicenza which helped us reach the final in Stockholm.
A clean sheet ratio of 40 per cent was far superior to any other Blues keeper who had played before him and in 1999/00 he set club records for most appearances and clean sheets in a season, although both were subsequently surpassed by Petr Cech. He is also the joint tallest player in our history at 6ft 6in.
The team at Chelsea magazine spoke with De Goey a few years ago to talk through his six-season spell at the Bridge and here is what he had to say about life as a Blue.
You became a goalkeeper coach after you finally hung up your gloves. Who held that position during your time at Chelsea?Eddie Niedzwiecki. He was not only a fantastic coach, he was a very nice person. I know how much the fans loved him for his performances at Chelsea. He was a great goalkeeper and a very warm person, so it's easy to see why he is a legend with the fans.
It’s fair to say you enjoy a similar status with the Blues faithful after your six years here, which saw us lift numerous trophies with you between the sticks. Why did you decide to join Chelsea?It was in the summer of 1997 and the national team had a game in South Africa. On the way back I spoke to Ruud Gullit, who was there with us, and he was looking for a new goalkeeper. He asked me if I was interested; my response was that I was very interested! A couple of days later I had signed my contract. And that was it.
It must have been a great time to join the club as we had finally won a major trophy for the first time in 26 years, having just lifted the FA Cup.That is correct. When I joined they had just won the FA Cup so it was certainly very interesting times for the club. Chelsea was a growing team with big stars joining them, trying to achieve a lot. If you see how far they are now, it has become a huge club so it was nice to be part of that in the early years.
You enjoyed a dream first season, lifting the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup.That's why I signed for Chelsea – I wanted to win trophies. I knew it was a big club with huge potential and we showed that in the European run.
A lot of fans might not remember it because of the incredible comeback we made in the semi-final against Vicenza, but you made a superb late save which effectively got us into the final...I remember it well! I dived to my left and flicked the ball away from two onrushing strikers. It was a vital save and because of that we were able to finish the job and go on to the final. And we all know what happened then...
We certainly do – once again, your good performance was forgotten about because of the strikers taking the glory!That's what football is all about – scoring goals and winning trophies. And, to be fair, it was something special by Gianfranco Zola. It was my first time to be in a final like that and we all prepared very well for the game. They obviously did as well, because it stayed 0-0 for a long time until Franco came on...
Which players did you get on well with during your time here?Ruud Gullit was a close friend. When I first joined Chelsea, everything was new for me so he really helped me a lot. Dennis Wise was great with me, too, but then again, he was great for everybody. Then there was Tore Andre Flo and Gus Poyet, who were living near me so it was easier to mix with them.
What about the other goalkeepers?Kevin Hitchcock was a very close friend and we spent a lot of time together. We had a smashing relationship – he helped me a lot, especially in the beginning, and we spent a lot of time together.
A lot of that time on the golf course?Not really – he was too good! We spent some time on there, but that was mostly when we had a training camp with Chelsea and had some free time. Otherwise he was out on the course with Gianfranco, who was maybe in the same league as him. I was a couple of leagues below [laughs]...
Was it a different relationship with Mark Bosnich and Carlo Cudicini? You had one who was a No 1 almost everywhere he went, while the latter was the son of one of Italy's most famous goalkeepers.With Carlo I was quite close, a bit similar to how I was with Hitchy. In the beginning I was the No 1 and then later on he was, but it didn't change anything between us; I think we just wanted to help each other as much as possible. With Mark Bosnich it was a little different. He wanted to be the best goalkeeper but it doesn't always work like that. On the pitch he was a good person to work with, but off it he was a lone guy. That's just how he was.
Was it tough losing your place to Carlo when you were such an experienced goalkeeper and he had barely played at all?That's just part of life as a footballer. I wasn't very happy with what the coaches told me as to why Carlo took my place – that's the only bit I didn't agree with, but it was the decision of Claudio Ranieri. And after that, Carlo proved he was a very talented goalkeeper.
I guess Carlo learned from your attitude to losing your place, as he went through a similar experience when Petr Cech arrived here.I think so. Although it is not easy to be No 2 and sitting on the bench, respect wise it is important that nothing changes between the players. I was always taught that if I was the second-choice keeper, my job was to make sure the No 1 was playing as well as possible – so I had to do everything in my power to make sure I was putting the right kind of pressure on him. That's what I tried to do.
You were a key part of the first Chelsea side to appear in the Champions League, when we reached the quarter-finals in 1999/00. What was that season like?I'd played in it with Feyenoord in the Nineties, but that season with Chelsea was something special. It was a great achievement for us in the club's first year in the competition and it was a much better experience for me.
Do any games stand out?The trip to the San Siro to play against AC Milan was very special and there was something very unique that happened in that game. I have never seen so many people standing up and singing for an opposition player – and that was Marcel Desailly. There was everyone in the stadium clapping for him and shouting his name. What an incredible achievement for any player and it must have felt amazing for him.
Did you get a similar reception to Marcel when you went back to Feyenoord?I did, but nothing like what Marcel got from the Milan fans, to be fair [laughs]! I had a great reaction from the Feyenoord fans and that was very special. The supporters know exactly what you have done for a club and it's really nice when they show you their gratitude for that.
You left the club in 2003 just after we’d booked a return to the Champions League. Were you aware you would be leaving that summer?No, I didn't know at all. The strange thing was, in a meeting with Ranieri he told me I was getting older and he wanted more young keepers. But then straight after my meeting he called the young goalkeeper [Rhys Evans], who played for England Under-21s too, and told him to leave as well! If you go for the youth, why let him go? I had mixed feelings to leave. But I couldn't do anything about it, he was the manager and what he decided goes.
The irony is that Cudicini had an injury-hit season and you probably would have offered a safer pair of hands than Marco Ambrosio, who signed as back-up keeper that summer!That's true. But I was at Stoke City by then, so I couldn't. I'll never understand the reasons, but it's just part of football. One moment you're a great player doing well for a club and then the next minute the manager says, “That's it, time to go.” And there's nothing you can do about it. But I loved my time at Chelsea and I still follow the club as much as I can.