Chelsea’s visit to the Madejski Stadium in 2006 will forever be remembered for Petr Cech’s horrific head injury. Ten-man Chelsea winning the game with John Terry finishing in goal was eclipsed by the collision that put footballing matters into perspective. Not many people crawl from the pitch of their own accord with a fractured skull like Cech did.
His return was celebrated by the whole of football. However, his following form was not. Common belief was that his injuries were far deeper than superficial, many thought the real damage had been done physiologically and that Cech would never again be hailed the top of his game. Rubbish.
After all, Cech is a goalkeeper. The thought he may be ‘scared of getting hurt’ was ridiculous, if that was the case he wouldn’t have remained a keeper, let alone Chelsea’s number one.
So when I was given the chance to speak to Cech on Chelsea’s new Google+ Hangout setup, my first thought was to ask him whether he thought it had changed his style of play.
‘I don’t think the injury changed my game, I’ve always played the same and the passion has stayed. I’ve improved since because of the experience I’ve got now and I’m a more complete player than I was back then.’
‘The only thing that has changed is that I play with a helmet and I needed to adjust because you hear differently as your ears are covered. But obviously if you keep repeating things then you learn and now I would say the helmet is like my second skin, so it doesn’t really matter now.’
Many seem to forget how young Cech was when he suffered his injury. At just 24 anyone in football would have told you he still had a long way to go before becoming an accomplished goalkeeper, even when he was being labelled the best in the world. A goalkeeper’s prime is generally considered to be around and beyond the 30 year-old mark and Cech turned that age on the 20th May 2012. After saving Arjen Robben’s extra-time penalty and Ivia Olic’s shootout spot-kick, Cech celebrated that birthday with the Champions League trophy in his hands. He was the unsung hero of the greatest night in Chelsea’s history, not bad for someone tipped never to regain their world-beating talent.
Cech is often recognised as a face of Chelsea’s ‘old guard’ and with goalkeepers playing into their late 30s and early 40s nowadays, it’s easy to see him handing over to the next Chelsea backbone, whoever they may be. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than him in goal for Chelsea and he’s indicated he’ll stay all the time he’s wanted, something which I’m sure all Chelsea fans are glad to hear.