The student versus the teacher
Inside Blue Sat 26 May 2018
The Championship play-off final sees a Chelsea loanee facing off against one his Blues heroes and former mentor for a place in the Premier League.
Aston Villa and Fulham meet at Wembley Stadium at 5pm on Saturday, with the winner taking the last spot remaining in the top flight for next season, and two of the centre-backs on opposing sides will be of interest to Chelsea supporters.
Our neighbours from west London may well have Tomas Kalas, on loan at Craven Cottage for a second season, in their ranks, while Blues legend and veteran defender John Terry is sure to take his place at the heart of the Villa back line.
However, while they will be facing each other from opposite sides at Wembley in the Premier League promotion decider, it wasn’t so long ago that the two shared a training pitch at Cobham, with Terry mentoring the young Czech international in the art of defending.
‘When we were doing tactical work he would tell me what to do and what not to do, and I still remember that and I’m trying to use that on the pitch,’ said Kalas. ‘I was listening to him because who else would you listen to if not John Terry?’
Getting the opportunity to learn from the Blues’ most successful captain of all time was a dream come true for Kalas, whose admiration for Terry played a big part in his decision to first sign for Chelsea from Sigma Olomouc as a teenager in 2010.
‘I always watched Chelsea and wanted to play for them,’ added the 25-year-old, who celebrated his birthday earlier this month. ‘It was because JT was my idol. He was always my role model so I was following him and there wasn’t many better central defenders. What marked him out as my star player was how he read the game, his experience, his heading – everything!’
Kalas has made over 30 league appearances for Fulham for the second consecutive season, having spent recent years gaining experience on loan, with all four of his matches for Chelsea’s senior side so far coming during the 2013/14 campaign.
After a couple of substitute appearances, against Arsenal and Galatasaray, his full debut actually came in place of his injured mentor rather than alongside him, partnering Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield as Demba Ba famously capitalised on a Steven Gerrard slip to set us on our way to a 2-0 victory over league leaders Liverpool.
‘JT was supporting me all the way but I didn’t expect to play, it just came out of nowhere. I enjoyed that game and I will remember it forever.’
Ivanovic was again alongside Kalas when he started our last Premier League game of that season, meaning the Czech missed his chance to partner Terry in defence in competitive action, but they will be on the pitch together on Saturday, even if it is on opposite sides.