Friday is the day the private working environment of Cobham opens its doors to the world via the football media.
If there is a weekend game, people want to hear or read what Carlo Ancelotti has to say about it so it is the day for TV crews and newspaper reporters to roll through the gates, just as the players are finishing their preparations away on a distant pitch.
In past days the press conference was accommodated in a student sports pavilion on rows of chairs that would not look out of place in the local school, both at Chelsea’s previous training ground at Harlington and at Cobham before the new purpose-built buildings were completed. Now it has all changed.
Think of the main first-team building at Cobham as one with a long layout of rooms and three floors. The press facilities are right at one of the ends, on ground level and with its own dedicated entrance through which the arriving journalists can pass.
They are served tea and biscuits by long-serving part-time press steward Brian who was made famous last season by Jose Mourinho on his return to the Bridge, the former manager recalling the reliable supply of custard creams that came his way on Fridays.
As press conference time approaches the reporters fill seats in the special theatre, awaiting the Ancelotti arrival from stage left, through a separate door that leads straight behind the raised desk, although sometimes the manager will throw in a surprise and enter through the same door as everyone else, as he did today.
It was not a wilful attempt to catch everyone unawares. Carlo had decided to speak to Chelsea TV first for the interview that will be broadcast in tonight’s Inside Cobham show. Another feature of Fridays at the training ground is the crew from CTV, using their ‘access all areas’ to shoot reports and interviews.
You never know quite where they will pop up next – out among the pitches while the players train, in the gym down in the building’s basement, the boot room maybe, or even in the car park catching up with one of the journos who has just heard Carlo’s words.
His appearance in front of the Chelsea TV cameras takes place in their on-site studio, just five yards away from the press conference theatre where the manager is soon back in front of camera for a second time.
The first 15 minutes or so of the press conference questioning is primarily for TV or radio broadcasters, or written media that publishes straight away. Saturday’s game being a big live televised game, Sky Sports sent down senior reporter Nick Collins who traditionally has first bite, and was straightaway enquiring about the condition of our injured players. A rough pecking order of questioners is followed, with others free to join in when they get the nod, and it is this segment that can be watched via a live stream on the Official Chelsea Website.
Then the cameras and radio mics are switched off and the newspapers have their turn. Their craft is turning the questioning in a direction that will give them a fresh story for the next morning. Although free to use the first part of the press conference, they know Carlo’s answers will be broadcast widely before the newspapers hit the shops.
Meanwhile, 100 metres down the corridor on the same floor, the players are changing and had it been a home game, would steadily be driving off home past the media area entrance. But this weekend is a trip north, and a coach is already waiting in the car park. So it is a change into club tracksuits, lunch in the canteen upstairs and then off to the airport for the flight to Manchester.
Come the morning there will be just enough time to read newspaper reports of their manager’s words from the day before boarding the same coach that made its own way north, for the journey to the ‘first real test of the season’.
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