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Chelsea have fantastic players but no leaders, says Mikel

John Obi Mikel's arms flail around as he recalls teacups and tables being launched across the Chelsea changing room, reports

John Obi Mikel / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

John Obi Mikel’s arms flail around as he recalls teacups and tables being launched across the Chelsea changing room, reports

In 11 gilded years at Stamford Bridge, the Nigerian midfielder saw ten head coaches come and go but there was no doubting the club’s true leader.

Mikel revealed: “If we lost a game, we may not speak to each other for a day to show this was not good and tomorrow had to be better.

“We were just so hungry. Did we take it a bit too far? Sometimes, yes, we had to.

“There were people fighting, grabbing round the neck, John Terry smashing the table and drinks. If we were losing a game you did not want to be in the dressing room.

“There were countless times. If we were 1-0 down at half-time and had to win, he did it time in, time out.

“The manager would speak and then leave it to JT to carry on. He smashes the whole place up and then we go back out and get the win.

“What he said, we followed. What he did, we followed. We looked at him for a reaction and we followed.

“No matter what manager came in, you had to know the figurehead of the club was John Terry.”

That all seems a lifetime ago for Mikel, 31, as he leans back on a sofa in a luxury hotel opposite Middlesbrough’s Rockliffe Park training base.

Two years have passed since he left Chelsea for China but the Champions League winner made his return to English football a fortnight ago after signing a short-term deal with Boro.

The midfielder explained: “I look at my time in China as an experience — it wasn’t bad.

“Everyone was so nice but sometimes you miss home and that’s what I did. I missed home and wanted to come back.”
Now just two hours from London where girlfriend Olga and his two young children, Mia and Ava, are based, he is thriving on his new challenge in the Championship.

There has been no settling in period, though. Boro took on Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds at the Riverside yesterday, at the end of a week in which they beat promotion rivals, West Brom, but were knocked out of the FA Cup by League Two Newport County.

Going up is the aim for Boro and boss Tony Pulis brought the two-time Premier League winner to the North East to add experience and quality.

Mikel said: “I’ve been there and won many trophies and I want to try to instil that in this team.

“For me it’s about talking to the players on the pitch, encouraging the young ones, keeping a clean sheet and building from there.

“I’ve only been here two weeks but I’m really enjoying it. It feels a bit like Chelsea for me when you walk in.”

Mikel now finds himself in direct competition with former Blues team-mates, though, after Ashley Cole joined Frank Lampard’s Derby and Terry became a coach at Aston Villa.

Flashing a toothy grin, he said: “It’s not been too bad for the Chelsea old guard, hey?”

But he believes their departure from Stamford Bridge has left a void, as he analyses Maurizio Sarri’s current crop like a frustrated fan.

He said: “When I watch them now, they’re fantastic players but I don’t see leaders. During our time I could scream at Didier Drogba or Lampard.

“I was 24 or 25 years old but I could voice my opinion and it would be heard.

“Now when I watch them, there’s no one talking to each other, taking responsibility of being the leader. You need that edge and right now that’s what they’re lacking.”

Mikel has been quizzed by new team-mates on his trophy-laden years in West London, but he insists his focus is on the future and taking Boro back to the top tier after two years in the Championship.

He added: “I’m just getting to know the players. You have to watch and see who has a strong mentality, who has the same view and goal as you.

“The good thing is everyone here wants to get promoted and has a winning mentality and we want to take that a little bit higher.

“This is a Premier League club for me and that is why I am here.”

There will be no teacups flying this time, though.
•Culled from

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