The stage is set, the players are all in the locker room. Frank Lampard can be seen walking up and down, exchanging pleasantries with Juan Mata, reserving special compliments for his beard. David Luiz, standing in the other corner of the room, is stroking his hair gently, making sure that every curl looks as good as it did the previous season. John Terry has his phone out, evidently flicking through images, while also making sure that no one is behind him to see the content that is being displayed on his gadget. The new boys, as welcome as they are at the illustrious club, are quietly sitting together.
Suddenly, Jose Mourinho makes his way into the room. The commotion in the room has evaporated. The rumbling of the supporters is the only thing that can be heard. Everyone present in the room expect some words to come out of the mouth of the coach. All eyes are fixed on him, knowing that this day would present him with as much anxiety, if not more, than the rest of them.
“The media have made a lot of what we can do and where we have our problems” he started, addressing all the people in the room.”All of that counts for nothing when you step out on the field.”
“Other clubs may express interest in you guys” he continued, casting an eye towards David Luiz and Juan Mata, who were sitting close to each other. “But it is your job to put the interest of the team above your own, dismissing these rumours as you hear them” he said, as he began to move around freely again.
“There may be times when you have to put your bodies on the line, just for the sake of the team”, his voice echoed. Petr Cech could be seen feeling his head-gear, as he remembered the incident that threatened to pre-maturely end his flourishing career. He was interrupted in his thoughts by the boss, who went on to finish his sentence, “however, that’s always going to be a sacrifice worth making, and it will immortalize you in front of everyone”, the Portuguese tactician bellowed.
“There will be times when you question the club’s loyalty towards you”, he said. A group of the elder statesman in the team could be seen looking down at the floor, none more so than Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry. “But as you have learnt, good performances will mean that age is just a number”, he said, moving his hands in a rhythmic motion as he spoke.
“There will always be people questioning your credentials” he said, the Spaniard being indirectly addressed. “You must not let that get to you though” he went on, as Torres’ eyes met those of his superior. “It is time for you to come out of the shadow of a previous hero, and for you to pave your way into the light” the voice echoed across the room. Mourinho paused for a moment, as he allowed the essence of the sentence to magnify itself.
“You do not play the same way as the last Chelsea team that I managed” he said, seeing that barring a few who were still there since his first stint, there were a whole lot of new faces. “But that does not mean that you can’t emulate their form, or better them even”.
The words were met with an apparent boost in the psyche of the players, who could be seen giving a gentle smile in the direction of the guy who was delivering the speech.
“I may have served at this club before, but this is all as new to me as it is to you”, he said, looking at Chelsea’s most recent recruits, Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel, who were both set to play some part in the match.
“There will be critics throughout the course of the season, but what you must all remember is that being your greatest critic yourself is the best way to succeed in life.”
There was a pause. The players remained quiet, the crowd could be heard again, as it had almost becoming non-existent to the guys while the manager was talking.
“Look at each other, and take a good look” he spoke again, gathering all the spirit left in him to deliver one final word before he led the team out. “This season, you will do whatever it takes for each other, you will dive into those reserves of energy, you will play with menace, you will not let anything or anyone come between our ambitions and you will never look back.”
“This season” he said, “you will fight together like brothers”.
Everyone looked at each other, as respect and mutual admiration spreading through their veins. Even though not a word was uttered, just the collectivity with which they stood as they prepared to make their way into the tunnel was worth a fortune.
“One last thing” the coach said as he unlocked the door that would lead into the tunnel, “best of luck, guys”.
The players strode onto the field like a pack of wolves, with the words of the manager still echoing in their ears. As they passed one final look at each other, they knew that the time to write their destiny had arrived.