Ben Chilwell eager to turn adversity to England and Chelsea’s advantage | chelsea
IIt was a Christmas that Ben Chilwell will certainly never forget. Sidelined with a partial rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Chelsea’s Champions League win over Juventus a month earlier, the left-back was set to return to the club. action when disaster struck.
“The plan was for me to watch the boys on Boxing Day and train with the group that didn’t play on the 27th,” Chilwell recalled at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground. “But on Christmas Day, I was doing a session on this pitch [he points over his shoulder] and I just felt it go away. I planted my foot in a rehab session on the grass and my knee bent again. It wasn’t as painful but it was the same feeling I had against Juventus and I knew: “I can’t live my career living this every month.”
Despite the setback, the 25-year-old defender’s quick recovery from surgery saw him return as a substitute in the win over Watford on the final day of last season. He is aiming for a starting spot in the England squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
“In my head, I was 100 per cent ready to get back to it in January but I’ve always been pretty good in adversity,” he says. “In my head the surgery was over, keep going with rehabilitation, get stronger, fitter; it will improve my mental toughness and i will be back just for pre-season, flying, ready to go. Obviously this season with Chelsea and the World Cup as well were big motivations to really do everything, those little percent that I might not have done, to push myself and make sure that when I come back, I was even better than before.”
It was at Leicester, which he joined aged 12 after playing for Rushden & Diamonds youth team, where he believes he learned such resilience.
“I was the last person in Leicester to get a scholarship and I had to work a lot harder than everyone else to get it,” he says. “It was when I was running errands around the park with my dad. The following season I was captain of the youth team within six months and training with the first team. That was the adversity, but it showed me that if you work hard, you can do it.
Chilwell is delighted to be reunited with the rest of the squad as they embark on their tour of the United States, but there’s no doubt things have changed markedly at Chelsea in the six months since his injury. Todd Boehly led the club’s purchase of Roman Abramovich, and the departure of defensive kingpin Antonio Rüdiger and lack of signings means there is still an air of uncertainty as the new era begins.
“I think everyone on the outside assumes it will be difficult for us as players and staff,” says Chilwell. “But we literally know as much as you guys do. We just focus on what we do, which last season could have been a very good end to the season with the cup finals and all that. We don’t really talk about it. »
Of Rüdiger he says: “Of course he will be difficult to replace. Toni was one of the team’s most influential players last year, not just for his performances on the pitch, which were incredible week after week. Around the training ground and then the locker room before games making sure everyone is up to their standards – I have nothing but good things to say about Toni. I think Chelsea will always have a place in his heart. But it was probably a dream for him to move to Madrid, so good luck to him.
Chilwell was in regular conversation with Thomas Tuchel as he completed his rehabilitation, and Gareth Southgate was in touch to keep tabs on his progress with the World Cup on the horizon. Chilwell was forced to self-isolate at Euro 2020 after he was deemed to have been in close contact with Billy Gilmour in the run-up to the Scottish midfielder’s positive test for Covid and he did not make an appearance in England’s run to the final. He is determined to make up for lost time and claim the left-back position.
“That’s my 100% goal, of course,” he said. “Ever since I can remember I’ve dreamed of playing in a World Cup and knowing it’s just around the corner is more motivation than you might think to try and seal that spot. Not just for me, but for my family, especially after the Euro in a difficult period for me.
“If I could go to the World Cup as the number one left-back, have a good tournament as a team and we do really well and go all the way, that would be amazing. That would be the highlight no only of my career, but of my life, so over the next three or four months I’m going to do everything I can to try to make sure that’s where I belong.