Petr Cech's Chelsea journey low on stability but heavy on silverware

Europa League final win would mean keeper has claimed every major club honour despite having eight managers in nine years

It felt almost appropriate that as Petr Cech edged up the aisle on flight ZT7411 to Schiphol, the Boeing 757 should lurch through a pocket of turbulence. So much of the goalkeeper's time at Chelsea has been jolted by upheaval in the dugout, with eight different managers having come and gone over his nine years with the club. And yet for all the natural talk of trauma, the one constant to mark his time with the London club has been a drip-feed of trophies.

If Chelsea win the Europa League Cech will have won every major piece of silverware on offer for a club player in England. The meeting with Benfica will be his 12th final for Chelsea if the Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup showpieces are acknowledged as significant.

The goalkeeper who turns 31 next week is established at the core of a dwindling group of players involved with the club since the League Cup of 2005 kick-started Roman Abramovich's revolution.

Didier Drogba departed last summer after the Champions League had been won. Frank Lampard and John Terry remain but have grown accustomed to diminished roles. Cech, in contrast, has remained integral whatever the identity of the manager in situ.

"The success we've had shows everyone is trying to do his best, no matter who the coach is, no matter how the season goes," he said. "The easiest way to cure the problem has been shock [therapy]: you can't change 20 players in the middle of the season when things have been going wrong, so it becomes dangerous for the manager if you have a spell where nothing is working. We've experienced that a few times and each time, the manager has left.

"But each time, you can see the reaction of the team, how we try and improve things. We know we don't really want to change managers – that's absolutely clear – and it's so unfortunate when it happens. The ideal situation is the Manchester United scenario where you have the same manager and still win a large number of trophies. But we seem to prove that wrong.

"If you see the stability, organisation and the control Arsenal have, it's amazing, but if you ask their fans about the last eight years, they'd say they've not won anything and they don't like that. We'd have liked to have had more stability, but we always seem to get a trophy. Our fans might say: 'Yes, we'd like to see more stability, but we'd rather have the cups.'"

What Chelsea retain is a strength of character that has ensured this steady stream of trophies. Cech has been heavily involved in all 10 major honours of the Abramovich era, his own memories of Munich a year ago still vivid.

It was the Czech's penalty saves, from Arjen Robben in extra-time and then Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ivica Olic in the shoot-out, that helped secure the club's first European Cup, the goalkeeper diving the right way for each of the six spot-kicks he confronted that night. Research paid off, the DVDs scrutinised on the flight over to Germany yielding an insight. It took only 37 minutes to travel from Gatwick to Amsterdam this time around, though the same painstaking preparations are under way "If it comes down to penalties again it will be nerve-racking for everyone, and I'd rather not put the supporters through that, but any way you win a trophy is the right way," he said.

"So far, Munich has been the highlight of my career. It was special because we'd lost in 2008 and sometimes you don't get a second chance. We got that and grabbed it.

"It was just meant to be, an incredible story, but winning back-to-back European trophies would be another great story given we've had to change the manager again in the course of the season. I look at this as being the perfect way to finish the season.

"It was not easy for [Rafael Benítez] with the reception he got, but from day one we were all in the same boat. He came here to improve the situation and help us, and that is what he and the coaching staff have done. We are in a Europa League final and on the edge of qualifying for the Champions League, and that is basically what everyone hoped for when the change came.

"Now, whoever comes in will have a really good base to work from. The young players have tasted the Premier League and understand the pressure that comes from playing for Chelsea. We'll still have players with all the experience and success from the past. The new manager will make some changes, add some players, but he will find a really strong situation here."

And if that new man is, as expected, a returning José Mourinho? "With José we had great success in the past and I think people still have great admiration and memories for him," he added.

"If he comes back, he will be more than welcome. You always remember a manager who gave you a chance to play and you had success with and the club had success with. They are the moments: the joy of working together and winning together always stays with you."

comments powered by Disqus