Name: Petr Cech
Date of Birth: 20/05/1982
Height: 6′ 5″ (196cm)
Weight: 14st 6lbs (91.71kg)
Clubs: Sparta Prague, Stade Rennais
It was a decidedly mixed season for Chelsea’s double-title winning goalkeeper but he came through it with yet another medal and his place never in question.
After a typically consistent opening to the 2008/09 campaign, Cech’s form, and those in front of him, took a dip around Christmas and Luiz Felipe Scolari experimented with a set-piece zonal marking system which contributed to points being lost against Fulham and Manchester United, while we were nearly embarrassed in the FA Cup by Southend and then Ipswich.
Scolari’s exit brought about an improvement in form under Guus Hiddink and a string of clean sheets followed before another mishap with Bolton scoring three inside 20 minutes.
Cech took note, refocused and produced some of his best performances, the highlight of his season coming in the Camp Nou as Barcelona were kept at bay, important saves made against Samuel Eto’o and Alex Hleb.
Before that he had more than played his part in a memorable win at Anfield, blocking out Dirk Kuyt with some sharp reflexes as we strolled to a 3-1 Champions League success.
For the first season in three there were no major injury problems, with 35 Premier League appearances and an ever-present record in the Champions League. In total the Czech international made 54 club appearances, an improvement on 2007/08 which had been a stop-start season due to a string of injuries.
During that season under Avram Grant, Petr’s 6ft 4in frame suffered as it was afflicted by calf and hip problems, plus a nasty facial cut caused by a training ground accident.
He recovered his fitness and was in good form as we reached the Champions League Final in Moscow, where he made a string of vital saves before we were eventually beaten on penalties by Manchester United.
Earlier that season he had undergone a change in goalkeeping coach. When Silvino Louro departed with José Mourinho, it was Christophe Lollichon, Petr’s coach at his former club Rennes who came in.
Since the two last worked together, the pupil had established a name as the best keeper in the world, his reputation only enhanced by the remarkable way he had fought back to his best following an injury in October 2006 that had cast big doubts over the future of his career.
Showing the dedication and strong mind that had taken him to the top of his profession, Cech overcame a fractured skull to return just three months later.
A dreadful collision with Reading’s Stephen Hunt in October left Petr with a damaged skull and requiring immediate surgery, 30 stitches and much rest. That his season would resume so soon and end so well with two cup final wins, no-one would have predicted at the time.
Within weeks he had recorded a seven-game run for club and country without conceding a goal, all while sporting the skull protection that has become a trade mark.
A new arrival in the summer of 2004 who at £7 million, cost more than all the past goalkeepers in Chelsea history combined, Petr was bought to provide serious and healthy competition to the older Carlo Cudicini.
He immediately caught the eye with his height, incredible reaction speed and confidence in leaving his goal-line and began his Chelsea career as Mourinho’s first choice. He had to be good to keep Cudicini out.
A precocious talent, Petr built his reputation at Sparta Prague where at the age of 19 he broke the national record for the longest spell without conceding a goal.
Equally hard to beat in the Champions League, over 1,000 minutes in all competitions passed without a goal.
That earned a move to Rennes in France where midway through his second season he agreed to join Chelsea for the next campaign on a five-year contract.
At Under 21 international level he was a major factor in the crowning of the Czech Republic as 2002 European Champions while at senior level, Euro 2004 brought five clean sheets, a semi-final and a place in Uefa’s all-star squad of the tournament.
A clean-sheet laden first season at Stamford Bridge was statistically the most accomplished by any Chelsea keeper.
A run of 1,024 minutes without conceding a goal between December and March set a new English top flight record.
By the end of that season he had his first championship medal plus records for the fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets in an English top flight season, recognised with the award of the Barclays Golden Gloves for 2004/05.
Though the 2005/06 version of the Chelsea defence was never quite as watertight as the season before, Petr continued to excel and was a major force in capturing of a consecutive Premiership title.
Three years on, and one year into a contract that will keep him at the club until 2013, the focus is on regaining that silverware.