CFCnet, as part of the Fans Forum, was this week invited to visit the Club’s 140-acre training ground at Cobham. What we saw was extraordinary – a very serious, elite sports complex on a par with any sports organisation in the world.
The first thing that immediately struck CFCnet was the amount of staff present at Cobham. A sizeable percentage of Chelsea’s 500 employees are based there – physios, sports scientists, dieticians, admin, catering, ground staff, security – you name it, they’re there. In abundance.
We sidled up to one aimless-looking staff member only to discover that he was avidly measuring players’ heart rates and monitoring all aspects of their training session performance. When asked what he did he simply said, “I’m a sports scientist employed by the Club”.
In brief, all the players are monitored continuously across every aspect of their physical condition before, during and after training. The training sessions are also carefully calibrated to maximise players’ fitness whilst leaving them fit and fresh for the weekend – a hard balance to find as Scolari found to his cost.
We got there as the team were limbering up and whilst I was disappointed not to be asked to ‘run the line’ at the training session, we gazed at the players knocking the ball around whilst grabbing coloured bibs to get down to some serious work. We promptly left for a cup of tea and biscuits, as you do.
The Complex buildings, ecologically designed to blend into the surrounding area, were magnificent – full of state-of-the-art equipment, luxury rest rooms, canteens with lounges, pool tables and TV’s, gyms, spas …
Most impressive was the medical floor with doctor’s offices, physios and training staff looking after the injured players. Smelling of Deep Heat and liniment we were shown the gym with Joe Cole strenuously going through a difficult leg balancing exercise to regain his leg strength and mobility. Joe was completely focused, as were the three staff working around him.
We then moved to the swimming area complete with steam room, cold immersion pools, sauna, as well as a sizeable pool that had a moveable floor. This allowed the depth of the pool floor to be altered according to the exercises the physios wanted to implement with the players.
Most impressive of all was the hydrotherapy pool which had a moving conveyor belt floor allowing players to ‘run’ without their full body weight bearing down on them. The hydrotherapy pool was computerised to the hilt with both the injured player and physio in the pool together whilst using the technology to the maximum.
The players’ canteen was smaller than I’d have guessed but it did have a sweeping vista of the training ground. With a well-used pool table and lounge facilities the area was obviously the locale where the players congregated after training.
Of interest to the various supporters groups was the fact that the players watched Sky Sports News. Next time CFCnet is asked to do Sky News we’ll be a bit more conscious of the fact that players might be watching. Whilst we try to give them encouragement we occasionally can be hard on them and this has given us food for thought, particularly when you see the effort on behalf of everyone at Cobham to bring success to our Club.
It was also interesting that there were no newspapers delivered, just copies of the official Chelsea magazine. After all, why upset Ashley Cole for no reason! Seriously, the Club obviously feel that having no newspapers around is better for morale and I’d probably agree with that. In any event, reading the Independent’s James Lawton is enough to put anyone off their meal.
The adjacent Academy building was also mightily impressive. It was of a slightly lesser calibre than the first team’s headquarters but we were told that it was important to ensure that the first team’s training HQ was better (’aspirational’) and that the lower teams weren’t too pampered. Frank Lampard himself voiced his concern at this in the latest ChelseaChelsea magazine because when you see the set-up, any young person would think he’d made it and might lose his hunger.
Despite this drawback, the Academy was nothing less than amazing and would be better than most training complexes belonging to other Premier league Clubs. With twelve changing rooms, Nintendo and Pool areas, canteen etc, it was the sort of place any aspiring kid would love to belong to – both female and male because the women’s team also had its HQ in the Academy. CFCnet wondered whether keeping the first team away from the women’s team was an intentional ploy. Answers on a postcard and winners who vote ‘yes’ will be notified by post.
After watching the players train some more, Guus Hiddink kindly took some time out to answer 15 minutes of our questions. Hiddink was obviously a very savvy media performer – witty and insightful, courteous but guarded in equal measure.
He carefully sidestepped some obvious landmines but gave us enough to know that (a) he won’t be staying (b) he wouldn’t recommend anyone else publicly but will ‘offer his thoughts’ if asked by the Club (c) some Russian national team players are Chelsea standard and (d) our support is fine but not as loud as some northern Clubs, although Guus noted that the teams’ performance had a bearing on this. Quite right.
Two things struck me on the day: Firstly, the Club are immensely proud of their Cobham complex and completely unified in their vision to bring success to Chelsea FC. A commitment to excellence is prevalent in everything they do and anyone who ‘boos’ the team after seeing Cobham would hang their head in shame.
Secondly, the staff at Chelsea who took us round Cobham must be applauded for their commitment, courtesy and all-round politeness in giving the Fans Forum a great day out. I’m sure I speak for many people who attended in saying that we were enormously impressed by this. A huge thanks to David Newby who organised it and also Steve Atkins, Linda Edstrom, Darren Grace as well as every other member of staff who made us feel welcome. I felt very privileged to be there.
It was an extraordinary day and our Club is in good hands. Believe me.