Pre-season is almost here… at last. And what a relief it is. The summers of years ending in odd numbers are always difficult for us football nuts to bear – no Euros or World Cup to keep the eye in and the pulse racing. Roman hasn’t even been thoughtful enough to give us a marquee signing to whet our appetites, not yet anyway. There’s still time. I could count our new manager Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival from AC Milan as "marquee", but we’re getting through coaches at such a rate these days that it’s hard to get excited about them. Or maybe it’s just me.
There have been several exciting additions to the squad though. Goalkeeper Ross Turnbull joined from Middlesbrough on a free transfer in June (at last a decent young backup keeper to keep Petr Cech on his toes), while 19 year-old striker Daniel Sturridge also arrived on a free from Manchester City (because Sturridge is under 24 and turned down a new deal at City compensation is due). Sturridge looks a decent prospect but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get to play much of a part in the upcoming 2009/10 campaign. The third signing of what has so far been a sensible summer of acquisitions, Yuri Zhirkov, will probably play a big part. Zhrikov, who together with Andrei Arshavin was one of the stars of the Russian national side during Euro 2008, was signed from CSKA Moscow for a reported £18m ten days ago. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play for Chelsea.
In the build-up to pre-season we’ve been treated by the press to the John Terry Transfer Saga in much the same way as last year when Frank Lampard was the subject of the will-he-won’t-he rumours. Man City manager Mark Hughes’ pursuit of "Mr Chelsea" has had many fans worried that JT won’t be a Blues player come the start of the season proper, but so far the club has stood firm in the face of three big bids from City’s incredibly wealthy benefactors. Terry himself has remained schtum, which hasn’t helped. It’s hard to call this one without knowing all the facts, but Terry has flown out with the rest of the squad for pre-season and appears relaxed and happy in the photos on the official club website. Here’s hoping. Fingers crossed and all that.
Pre-season kicks off in the US with a four-match tour in Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Dallas. The Seattle Sounders are our first opponents in a friendly to be played at Qwest Field later tomorrow night British Summer Time, followed by games against the two Milan sides, AC and Inter, as part of the 2009 World Football Challenge. The final match of the tour is against Mexican side Club America a week on Monday. The full schedule is as follows (all times are BST):
18th July – Friendly match v. Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field, Seattle – kick-off 8 p.m.
22nd July – World Football Challenge match v. Inter Milan at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena – kick-off 4 a.m.
25th July – World Football Challenge match v. AC Milan at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore – kick-off 1 a.m.
27th July – World Football Challenge match v. Club America at Cowboy Stadium, Arlington – kick-off midnight.
All games are live on Chelsea TV and Chelsea Plus (Plus shows live TV online to viewers outside of the UK only… bummer).
The final match of pre-season is against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium on Saturday 1st August, kick-off 3 p.m.
Football’s back! There’s only so much golf and cricket a man can take during a British summer (loving both by the way; how can an Englishman not get excited about the prospect of a victory over the Aussies in the Ashes? I’ve just jinxed it, haven’t I?).
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!