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Cech, Petr


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Petr Cech

Written by Loz and last updated September 2010

petr%20cech3.gif Quite simply the best goalkeeper Chelsea have ever had, and the best goalkeeper in the world at the current time. Juventus paid £33m for Buffon, based on that precedent Cech is worth £50m!

Cech’s first club was a local Czech side called Victoria Plzen, he actually started out as a midfielder however I am talking about when he was no older than the average age of the X-Factor audience. When he was only 10 he suffered a leg break and in his return to fitness he decided being a keeper was a safer bet (ironic when you consider what that filthy f****r Hunt did to him 14 years later)

In 1999, as a 17 year old, he made his league debut for FK Chmel Blšany, a small Czech team with a ground that holds 2,300 people, the village of Blšany has a population of 800!

However his talents did not go unnoticed and Sparta Prague bought him in time for the 2001/02 season, a season where he was to shine and set a Czech national record by going 855 minutes without conceding a goal. In addition he made his Champions League debut – all this at the age of 19.

cechatblackburn373.jpg After only one season he moved on to Rennes in the French league and made as much of an impact there as he did at Sparta, playing in almost every game and helping ensure Rennes secured their Ligue 1 status.

By now the elite clubs in Europe had started to take an interest and it was no surprise that his stay at Rennes was only short lived. Chelsea came in with a £9m offer and Rennes were in no position to turn it down. Although Cech would never play for Claudio Ranieri it is worth remembering that it is the Tinkerman we have to thank for bringing him in.

When he joined Chelsea Carlo Cudicini was firmly established as Chelsea’s number one and was also a massive crowd favourite having ‘earned his stripes’ over seasons playing second fiddle to Ed De Goey. Surely Carlo would start the season as number one. A series of errors in the pre-season games in the summer of 2004 would cost Carlo that first team place and Petr started the season as Chelsea’s number one, a status that would never be in doubt again.

In that 2004/05 season not only did Cech help Chelsea to their first league title in 50 years and a League Cup, he also set a new Premiership record of 1025 consecutive minutes without conceding and a further Premiership record of keeping 21 clean sheets in a season.

2005/06 saw more of the same as Chelsea retained their Premiership title with Cech practically ever present in the Chelsea goal.

The 2006/07 season was to see an incident that will live on in the memory of Chelsea fans for many many years, personally it is an image I will never forget.

petr%20cech%20skull%20cap5.gif Chelsea played Reading at the Madjeski stadium in a premiership match on October 14th, 2006. The game was barely minutes old when Cech went down to gather a ball, a ball that Reading’s Stephen Hunt was also chasing down, a ball that Stephen C*nt had no hope in hell of winning. This didn’t deter Hunt, he went after it anyway, dropping his knee to ensure impact with Cech. The consequences were near fatal. Cech suffered a depressed fracture of the skull and underwent emergency neuro-surgery at the Royal Berskhire Hospital.

I don’t think Hunt intended to inflict that kind of damage however I do think the contact was intentional, one of those ‘shake the keeper up early’ ideas. Most people thought he would be out of football for at least a year, and some even thought his career could be over.

On January 20th, 2007, a mere three months later, Cech made his first team comeback, wearing a head guard. His comeback game was a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, a result brought about by Chelsea having no fit central defenders. After that result it was like Cech had never been away, the clean sheets started rolling in again and many people are of the opinion that Chelsea’s failure to defend their title for the 3rd consecutive year was in no small part down to the loss of Cech (and also the fact that Carlo Cudicini was injured in the same game against Reading).

2007%20fa%20cup%20win%20with%20cech2.jpg However the season was to end with joy for Cech as Chelsea lifted the FA Cup after a 1-0 extra time win over Manchester United to add to the League Cup won earlier in the season against Arsenal.

Not once after coming back from injury was there ever a hint of Cech pulling out of a challenge. His courage is quite remarkable.

Celebrating the FA Cup win at the New Wembley in May 2007 - capping a remarkable comeback from a career, if not life threatening, injury

Cech made a somewhat uncharacteristic start to the 2007/08 season. He got away with flapping at a cross in the 3-2 home win over Birmingham and then made a calamitous error gifting Reading the opener before a second half fight back (courtesy of an inspired double substitution by Jose at half time) saw Chelsea take all three points. It should be noted that this game was Cech's first return to the scene of his injury in the previous season and he was taunted by some human vermin in the Reading crowd for having the audacity to have his skull fractured. Under such conditions it is maybe understandable that he was not at his best. However normal service was to be resumed in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield with Cech pulling off a couple of fine saves and generally being a far more commanding figure again.

cech%20valencia.gif And then a most strange thing happened. Chelsea stopped scoring, started conceding and after a whole couple of weeks of that Jose Mourinho lost his job and the Chelsea balloon appeared to deflate! In this period, before and after Jose's sacking, we conceded two goals to Aston Villa, two to Manchester United and were held to 0-0 draws at home against Blackburn and Fulham. In addition to all that we drew 1-1 in the Champions League with Rosenborg, a game we should have won by a country mile. However it would be harsh to point any finger of blame at Cech for this slump - it just meant he had to get used to picking the ball out of the net more than he was accustomed to! In fact against Manchester United he was voted the Shed End man of the match despite conceding two.

So to the next Champions League game against Valencia. Away at the Mestella, with our wretched run of form and a squad allegedly at odds with the board. We were going to get humped weren't we? It looked that way when we went one down early doors and were all over the place for the first twenty minutes however we turned it round with goals from Joe Cole and Didier Drogba and Cech made a couple of vital saves to ensure we came home with a vital three points. Once again he has proved himself to be the very best keeper in the world.

cech%20against%20valencia2.jpg He followed this up a fine performance away at Bolton, in which he made key saves from Anelka, Davies and Diouf to ensure we kept a clean sheet and Kalou's first half goal was decisive. Further fine performances in lead to clean sheets against Middlesbrough, Man City and Wigan however Cech's luck ran out in early November in a Champions League tie against Schalke 04 when he picked up an injury in the 27th minute and hobbled around for the next 18 before being replaced at half time by Carlo Cudicini. He did not return to first team duty for a month, and in his first game back he kept a clean sheet against a decidedly sub standard Valencia side in what was effectively a dead rubber with Chelsea already secured top spot in the group and Valencia unable to life themselves off bottom spot.

The next round of league fixtures had thrown up what was dubbed as 'Super Sunday' - Manchester United travelled to play Liverpool and Chelsea were away at Arsenal. A win would have put us level with Arsenal and right in the mix at the top of the table, however this was to be one of those very rare occasions where you had little choice but to point the finger at Cech. He flapped appallingly at a cross in the second minute of injury time at the end of the first half and Gallas (of all people) took advantage to power a header into an open net. Arsenal won 1-0 and we were six points adrift of the top of the table. Happier tidings followed three days later when another Cech clean sheet helped Chelsea knock the bin dippers out of the Carling Cup in a 2-0 quarter final win.

Just days later, in Chelsea's 1-0 win away at Ewood Park, Cech's miserable run of luck continued when he picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Hilario who. although shaky at first, pulled off a great save to deny Roque Santa Cruz and help secure a pretty undeserved three points. Cech's injury was not as serious as was originally feared and he was back in goals for the boxing day fixture against Aston Villa, he probably wishes he wasn't. He looked short of full fitness and was massively to blame for Villa's second goal when he let a harmless shot bounce off his hands and into the net.

cech%20and%20hunt.gif Cech was rested for the next two games adding fuel to the fire of complaints that he shouldn't have been selected against Villa in the first place. He returned to keep a clean sheets against Spurs, Birmingham, Reading and Liverpool with the only blemishes being a goal conceded against Portsmouth courtesy of an offside flag which should have gone up but didn't and also some pretty schoolboy defending by Belletti and a late consolation goal for Wigan in Chelsea's 2-1 FA Cup win. Cech being far more charitable to Hunt then I would have been after Chelsea beat Reading 1-0 at the Bridge on 30 January 2008

However just as it appeared Cech's fortune was changing for the better (both in terms of form and injury) the devil popped up once more to vomit in his kettle.

On February 24th, 2008 Chelsea took on Tottenham at Wembley in the League Cup Final. The score was level at 1-1 at full time (admittedly we were fortunate to have taken the game to extra time being as we were second best for far too much of the regulation 90 minutes) then four minutes after the restart Jenas launched in a free kick from distance which should have been a bread and butter catch for Cech. For some reason he decided to punch it and managed to punch it straight into the on rushing Woodgate off whom the ball rebounded into the empty net to gift Tottenham the cup.

cech%20with%20chinstrap.gif Further bad luck struck in April when a freak training ground collision with Ben Haim left Cech requiring surgery and a total of 50 stitches to his face and chin. Amazingly it only kept him out of action for about a week (taking the number of games he had missed in the season up to 22) and when he returned he now had a head guard and a chin strap!

Cech managed to avoid further injuries for the remainder of the season as Chelsea pushed ahead in their challenge for both the Premiership and Champions League. On both counts they were to fall slightly short, finishing two points behind Manchester United in the league and being beaten on penalties, again by Manchester United, in the Champions League final in Moscow.

Unless the English players in the Chelsea side Cech had the opportunity to try and put a disappointing season behind him by representing his country at Euro 2008. Sadly for Cech this was to bring about yet another blow to his reputation. The Czech Republic were in the same group as Portugal, Turkey and Switzerland. In the final group game the Czech Republic were 2-0 up against Turkey with 15 minutes to go and seemingly cruising into the knockout stages. 15 minutes later Turkey and won 3-2, the Czech Republic were out and Cech was partially at fault for Turkey's first and massively at fault for their second as he let an easy cross slip right through his fingers. It is safe to say this was the end of a terrible year for Cech, one in which his claim to be the world's best keeper is undeniably in tatters.

cech.gif Chelsea, and therefore Cech, started the 2008/09 season under a new manager. Felipe Scolari had been appointed and would go on to singlehandedly convince us that tactical prowess and facial hair don’t mix.

On July 21st, 2008 Chelsea announced that Cech had signed a new contract bringing to an end some idle speculation that he was set for a move away from the club for a fee rumoured to be in the area of £32m. In a statement announcing the deal he said; "Chelsea has grown in my heart, not just because of my team-mates and all the people that work for the club but also because of their fantastic fans."

Cech was back to his imperious best in Chelsea’s second game of the season away at Wigan. Easily the best player on the pitch pulling off a number of quality saves to help us to a lacklustre win over a Wigan side playing well above their normal standard. He took this form into international football when he saved the Czech Republic’s blushes by pulling of a remarkable save in their 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. These two performances were probably only matched once later in the season when he excelled in he first leg Champions League tie against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Clean sheets were delivered with the regularity of babies in a scouse youth club and Cech contributed to the bringing of great joy when he pulled off great saves in the Champions League quarter final to deny Liverpool’s Kuyt and Alonso.

It wasn’t all good news for Cech though. The errors from the 2007/08 season weren’t entirely out of his system yet (although it must be said he wasn’t exactly supported by Scolari’s farcical insistence upon playing zonal defence at corners) and, in particular, Cech made some fundamental mistakes when we let a 4-0 lead over Bolton slip to 4-3 before scraping over the line. However overall Cech’s performances in 2008/09 were much improved on 2007/08 and he finished the season picking up an FA Cup winners medal as interim manager Guus Hiddink helped turn our season round.

When Scolari was sacked he named three key players as being instrumental in the club’s decision to toss his arse out. Those three were Ballack, Drogba and Cech. Scolari claimed that these three players wouldn’t accept his training methods. Scolari made reference to a disagreement he had with Cech over Cech’s choice of goalkeeping coach but Cech denied this saying he had never had a personal goalkeeping coach.

Petr-Cech1.jpg The 2009/10 season began in unusual style for Cech when he saved two penalties and helped us beat Manchester United on penalties in the Community Shield (lets be honest Cech is to penalty saves what Switzerland is to yacht design). His season took a slight downward shift in our 7th league game of the season when he was sent off against Wigan whilst conceding the penalty that handed Wigan a win and broke our 100% winning start.

Throughout the season his status as a world class goalkeeper were often on show (in particular during a stunning performance away at Wolves and also the home win over Arsenal) however there were still occasions where his command of the penalty box when defended crosses and corners could be called into question.

Cech finished the season on a particular high when he saved a penalty in the FA Cup final and added a winner’s medal to the Premiership medal he had won the week before.

2010/11 pre-season offered little joy for Cech when there was a recurrence of the calf injury he had suffered against Inter Milan in the previous season. This kept him on the sidelines for three weeks which included our comfortable Community Shield defeat at the hands of Manchester United. However he returned for the start of the Premiership season and kept four clean sheets in our opening six league games.

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