Chelsea and England defender Ben Chilwell says his club boss Thomas Tuchel helped him through one of the most difficult periods of his football career.
The full-back did not play a single minute of England’s run to the Euro 2020 finals, and had to spend time in isolation away from the rest of the squad following the group stage draw with Scotland, after he was identified as a close contact following Billy Gilmour’s positive coronavirus test.
There was a knock-on effect – Chilwell did not make an appearance in the Premier League this season until the start of October, meaning Gareth Southgate had no alternative but to leave him out of England’s squad for September’s World Cup qualifiers.
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He is now back playing regularly and has scored four goals for club and country in the past month and a half, and could start Friday’s match with Albania with Luke Shaw absent.
“These are things that are going to happen to the majority of players in their professional career where they have low moments, high moments,” he said.
“The way I try to look at it, I was disappointed that I wasn’t playing in such a massive competition in England. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.
“But the way I was trying to go into the whole thing was that it happens to a lot of people in football. I just need to make sure I’m ready, I’ll come through this stronger and better on the other side.
“I was so eager to get back playing football, it was maybe coming across that I wanted it a bit too much.
Me and the manager at Chelsea had a very honest conversation where he did say to me ‘you know, I feel like mentally at the moment you’re just, in training, you’re pushing a bit too much to try and get back in the team – we love you here, we know the qualities you possess just relax a little bit, you’re going to get back in’.
“Which for me was brilliant to hear and then it was just about being patient and making sure that I was ready so that when I was called upon to play I could do my best for the team.”
Chilwell is half a New Zealander, through his father, and he has spoken too of the impact his heritage has had on his approach to professional sport. He is particularly influenced by the All Blacks rugby union team, and their mentality.
“I’ve definitely been made aware of it by my dad,” Chilwell added.
“He’d like to tell me all the time that the All Blacks are the best team to ever play sport and the way they go about things is very proper and the way that he tried to bring me up was on a lot of their ethics and morals.
“Just doing everything right, not taking any shortcuts, being respectful, and just whenever you put your mind on something doing it properly, doing it 100 per cent or don’t do it at all.”
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