• Roberto Di Matteo used family messages to motivate team
• Winners' medal on Champions League debut for 22-year-old
Roberto Di Matteo had suggested he had something unexpected planned to motivate his players in the buildup to the Champions League final. Yet, as they gathered in a private room at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the eve of the showpiece for what they anticipated would be a routine tactical team-talk, none of Chelsea's players had quite envisaged the lengths to which their interim first-team coach had gone in his preparation.
Where the squad had anticipated ProZone graphics flitting across the big screen clamped to the far wall, instead the messages delivered were of a far more personal nature. Two weeks previously, Di Matteo had commissioned the club's video analysis team to compile video messages from members of each player's family, their words of encouragement inter-cut with YouTube clips from games and even footage of them growing up as children, which were duly delivered in Big Brother style in front of an increasingly emotional audience.
The presentation lasted around half an hour, the playing staff veering from fits of laughter to the brink of tears. "They really surprised us with those messages," said Didier Drogba. "The families have always been there with us – in Moscow in 2008, against Barcelona in 2009, when we lost those games. This win I want to dedicate to them, all our families, because they have been supporting us, always believing in us. This is their victory."
For Ryan Bertrand, the rookie in the starting lineup, the moment was particularly poignant. The full-back had never previously featured in European competition, having failed to gain inclusion in the squad for the group stage or even on the bench in the knockout ties. Yet, with injury and suspension limiting Di Matteo's options, the 22-year-old debuted in an unfamiliar midfield berth on Saturday and, having been a steady presence for 73 minutes, departed Munich still pinching himself with a winner's medal draped around his neck.
His own video message had served to inspire. "We just got called into the meeting and there they were, for every single player," he said. "First it was my mum and brother saying: 'Well done and good luck to the whole team,' and then it went to all the rabble, all the family, which was a little bit embarrassing. There could have been some tears but there was a bit of laughter and banter too, and the whole thing really spurred us on. That was a brilliant touch."
Bertrand had trained all week in midfield but, with Florent Malouda's hamstring injury on the mend, only discovered on Saturday morning that he would start the final. "I did my best to put the fact that it was the Champions League final to the back of my mind and take it as another game," he said. "I say that but pre-match, trying to prepare for the game, I had all these images flashing through my head: of where I have been and where I have come from.
"I thought about my brother, growing up in the Friary Estate in Peckham and around Bermondsey. I remember playing 'World Cup', like a tournament with every man for himself, at the bottom of these flats. There was spray paint on the wall and a sign saying 'No ball games'. That meant 'let's play football there'. I just wanted to go out there and do myself justice. "
His was a steady performance in direct confrontation with Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm, the Germany captain, with the Chelsea support offering him a standing ovation as he departed with 17 minutes of normal time remaining and the contest still goalless. This was reward for an apprenticeship served largely on loan at a collection of Football League clubs, with the defender, who had been signed controversially from Gillingham as a 15‑year‑old, now intent upon proving he belongs in this company.
"If you go out on loan, you have to think about yourself and your career and be realistic. There have been times when I've wondered about whether I'd make it but in life you have to have Plan A, B and C. So we looked at it realistically with my mum and my family and, thankfully, I have dug in there and managed to turn a few people's heads.
"This time last year I had just come back from Nottingham Forest and was trying to see how many games I could get before the end of the season. In the meantime, I was playing reserves and chipping in to keep my fitness. We won the Reserve League that year, so all this feels like a bit of a contrast."