Chelsea are already preparing for Sunday’s big FA Cup fifth-round tie against bitter rivals Manchester City, and the club’s interim boss Guus Hiddink has continued to identify the key elements needed to get players performing at their best.
According to Chelsea’s website, Hiddink has left lots of smiles on players’ face of late, and this has indeed led to a good performance ever since he took over as interim boss after Jose Mourinho was sacked.
Chelsea believes that the smiles on the players’ face will widen if they salvage something from a terrible season.
As the Blues prepare to progress to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon, Hiddink has said: “Players, even if they are high-profile, well-paid professionals as they are at this club, deep down they must play with joy. If you play with joy the best comes out of a player.
“Joy is not always laughing,’ the Dutchman emphasized. “Joy is enjoying being a professional, enjoying training and enjoying doing your job. When you feel that naturally, the performance is unconditional.
“When I see that in training I tell them to try to create the same circumstances in the game and hopefully they will feel good. Then we get a lot of resistance from the opponents and it’s about how you survive in that.
“When you see young players or kids playing, they don’t think about what’s happening in one hour, they play in the moment and then they play as they should: the execution they have learned or have been given by nature is coming out in the best way.”
Hiddink, who also as the Blues interim in 2009, led Chelsea to winning the FA Cup against Everton. At the end of his reign as the interim boss he was presented with a watch by his players, an event which he recalls and feels happy about.
“The captain and the other captains – we had a lot of captains at that time – presented it to me when we were in the hotel having dinner on the eve of the final.
“It was not just a matter of winning or losing the cup final, it was a matter of the whole team recognizing me. I was touched. This watch has a special place in my office. It’s a prized possession. It’s about the emotional value.
“The FA Cup is very important. Maybe some clubs, if they go out at the beginning, say it’s not that interesting, but once you are getting to the fifth round it has more value.
“Besides that, I have lived for many years outside England, and everyone who is committed to real football is focused on the FA Cup, and especially the final.”