An Insider's View to Chelsea's Cobham Training Ground
To be a successful football club in any era, the need has always been for world class players with a manager to suit.
In the modern era, it remains a prerequisite, of course. But now, more than ever, the role of sports science and technology are just as important and with their state-of-the-art training ground—located in the leafy village of Cobham in the heart of the Surrey countryside—Chelsea are among the clubs leading the way.
Officially opened in 2007, Chelsea's training ground boasts a host of cutting-edge features, with the main building covered in a sedum grass roof that blends it into the local surroundings.
Biometric fingerprint-recognition technology greets the players as they enter the main building, while the surrounding moat reflects natural light into the basement where the gym resides.
Three Premier League trophies and Champions League victory in 2012—among other successes—attest to the Blues' commitment to remain among the Premier League and Europe's elite.
The club's training facility has everything and more to not only support a player of the modern age, but also to ensure they are prepped and ready to continue the club's success.
José Mourinho has returned to the club as manager this summer, with Premier League domination firmly on the Portuguese's agenda. And as you will find out from Bleacher Report's guided tour of Cobham, Chelsea have far more than some world class players up their sleeve to assist Mourinho in achieving his goal.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent, and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @garryhayes
When they're not out on the Cobham training pitches fine tuning their shooting, passing and tackling skills, you will find members of Chelsea's first-team in here building their strength and ensuring their fitness remains at its peak.
The gym has everything the modern athlete requires including resistance machines, cross trainers and weights. Not only that, but the machinery is of the highest standard and while keeping players fit, plays a vital role in their rehabilitation from injury.
The days of players simply getting by on talent alone are gone, and the state-of-the-art gym at Chelsea's Cobham base means Blues players are at their peak at all times.
As we already saw with the gym at Cobham, the swimming pools play a vital role in assisting players with their fitness and also when they are on the injury comeback trail.
Where the gym may use more traditional techniques, the swimming pools at Cobham bring things into the 21st century.
Swim half a stroke and you'll probably reach the other side of the pool at the bottom of our image. But that's because it's used for a different purpose, coming complete with a hydrotherapy underwater treadmill with depth, incline and video recording capabilities.
It was the first of its kind in the UK and the video recording allows players and fitness coaches to examine technique and movement—all visible on the screens in front of the pool. By running in the pool, it also means less tension on joints as players build up their fitness while recovering from injury.
The pool located a little further back in our image is 17 metres long and has variable floor and resistance jets.
Aside from the serious fitness business, Chelsea players have been known to relax in the pool area, playing water polo and other games after training.
After a hectic session in the gym and pushing themselves on the training pitches, most professional sportsmen enjoy a siesta to restore energy levels.
While players at other clubs may have to wait until they return home before a little rest, Chelsea's relaxation pods provide the perfect environment for the first-team.
Located close to the canteen where chefs provide top-of-the-range breakfasts and lunches to aid recovery, the players are able to relax and unwind here.
Given preseason is almost over, with José Mourinho whipping his players into shape with double training sessions, we're pretty certain these relaxation pods have seen a lot more action than they're used to in recent weeks.
We've seen how Chelsea's players keep fit inside the main building at their Cobham training ground, but it's outside on the 33 pitches where they hone their skills.
Of those 33 pitches, 22 are full-size with six nurtured to Premier League standard, replicating the playing surface at Stamford Bridge.
That gives the Blues the perfect advantage ahead of any home game as the manager is able to play out exact tactical manoeuvres on the very surface his team will be turning out on.
Not only that, but such is the technology at Cobham the Blues are able to train all year round, regardless of what the weather throws at them.
Three pitches have under-soil heating, while an artificial grass pitch is available for use in the winter.
OK, so we're over indulging ourselves slightly by discussing the media facilities at Cobham. But given everything we've seen the players have at their disposal, you can hardly blame us.
Whenever Chelsea reveal a major new signing to the press or manager José Mourinho is put through his paces ahead of a weekend Premier League fixture, the chances are it would have taken place in this room.
Chelsea's press room at Cobham comfortably houses over 40 journalists and with the interest in the club only growing, we suspect they're going to need all the room they can get.