Gus Poyet reveals shocking Chelsea training sessions and his best moment as a Blues fan
In the third part of a Ladbrokes exclusive, Gus Poyet looks back at his time at Chelsea in which he discusses the club’s shocking training routine, a night out to see The Lion King, the worst player for fines, how John Terry reached the top of the game and what the 2012 Champions League success meant to him.
Chelsea training had to finish at 12 because we were on school grounds and kids needed to come out for lunch!
We had a great balance at Chelsea, I really felt like there was a strong team spirit during my time at the club. We were great professionals who followed Dennis [Wise] – even as foreign players who were new to this country and the culture. We all knew that Dennis was our leader; he was our captain so we knew that we had to follow his example.
The biggest shock for me at Chelsea was the training ground. When I moved to the club we were training in Harlington. I don’t know if you know that area, but we were training on a school ground. Literally, we had to leave at 12pm because the kids would come out in the afternoon. We were training in school grounds and playing away at Milan two days later in the Champions League! I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who trained at Cobham – these were different times!
But they were good times. I have some great memories when I think back to those years. When the winter came around we all went to Spain, to Tenerife, Portugal, spending four or five days as a team, training together and getting to know more about each other. Of course we’d go out for a few drinks with each other as well, and as long as you were able to control yourself, it was always a positive experience.
End-of-season Chelsea fines covered the whole staff and partners to go to the theatre for dinner…Babayaro was the main culprit
I don’t know how many times it happens nowadays, where a group of players meet up and go out together, but I’d say we probably did it once a month. I remember one year, we’d accumulated that much money in team fines throughout the season for things like being late, not dressing the right way, and so on, that we were able to go out as a whole team. I’m talking about the backroom staff as well, and our partners, to the theatre to watch the Lion King, and then for dinner afterwards. We’d paid that much money in fines to do all of that, for so many people.
That sort of thing brought people together, though. I remember it well because I’d taken my kids to see The Lion King something like two weeks before, so when the players told me what the plan was, I said to Dennis: “Listen, I’ve already seen The Lion King, I went a couple of weeks ago. I’ll just come for dinner afterwards.” He said: “No”. He told me I had to go and see it. “But I saw it two weeks ago with my kids! I’m not going to go again!” He wasn’t having any of it. “You’re coming to see The Lion King.” And guess who won? I went to see The Lion King again.
But this is how we were as a team, Occasions like that were non-negotiable, because we were a family. We did everything together. And that is the reason we were so successful and won so many trophies together.
I don’t want to drop him in it but when it came to fines, Celestine Babayaro was the worst. We’d get told what we were expected to wear on different matchdays, so we looked professional and everybody was in the same clothes, but there would always be at least one person wearing the wrong thing. So you get off the coach and the cameras are on you, and every player steps off wearing a suit, and then there’s one player in a polo shirt – the chances are he had to pay a fine for that. And Baba will probably kill me for this but he was the worst for it – he had to pay the most in fines.
It was all controlled by the players as well; the manager wasn’t really that bothered, but if anyone was late to training, say, or late showing up on match days, they’d have to pay for it. It went into a pot and at the end of the season we went out for dinner together and did something special, and that money paid for it.
How John Terry became one of the world’s best
I would like to say two things about John Terry. First of all, he was the same person on the very first day he trained with us that we saw on the pitch every week for all of those years. He never changed. He was so driven, so motivated and so hard-working. He put himself about and made sure we all knew he was a part of things.
And secondly, what I thought he did very well when he first came to the team, was look at his team-mates, particularly in defence, and use their skills and expertise to better himself. So, when he joined us, we had totally different centre-halves in terms of their characteristics and qualities. We had Frank Leboeuf who was very, very good on the ball and could ping it out to the wings with ease, and then we had Marcel Desailly, who was an outstanding defender, a massive guy. JT was able to see them both, day in, day out, and take a lot from them, applying it to his own game – combined with the already incredible ability he possessed.
When you think of JT’s characteristics, he was always a very passionate, almost crazy, defender, who was happy to throw himself into any kind of situation. But then he was able to spread the ball, making it look so easy. He led by example and that’s why he was the club captain for many years.
Di Matteo’s Champions League win was the happiest day I’ve ever experienced as a fan
When one of your former clubs wins a trophy, it’s always a happy day for you as an ex-player, but I can comfortably say that my reaction when Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 was like nothing I’d ever felt before. With Roberto Di Matteo – my old team-mate – in charge, that was easily the happiest day I’ve ever experienced as a football fan.
I never felt so happy and overwhelmed as I did that night, because it was something so special that my friend had achieved. It had a big impact on me because Robbie was there for it, in charge of things. Yes, I was happy when we won it last year under Thomas Tuchel but it wasn’t the same, with all respect. The other one was under Robbie Di Matteo. He was the guy. I don’t know, it was almost like a little part of us was in him that night, and it made the whole thing so much more meaningful for me personally.
I remember exactly where I was. I was in my house, watching the game with my kids. I went crazy after the final whistle. Listen, I’ve had some great moments, some incredible times as a player – but as a fan, that was the best night I’ve experienced. I just ran downstairs and I didn’t really know what to do with myself, because I’d been watching the game with my kids.
It reminded me of when I was a child in Uruguay, supporting my team when they won something important. Everybody would watch the game in the city centre, and you’d stay out to celebrate. I missed that, on that night. I wish I had gone somewhere to celebrate it properly. I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what to do with myself – it was crazy.