It was the last day of training for the Chelsea reserve team at Cobham today, and for two champions it meant a final farewell to their colleagues before they head for pastures new next season.
Midfielder Michael Woods and Czech goalkeeper Jan Sebek will both take the next steps in their careers as their contracts expire at the end of next month, and they have not been offered terms for renewals.
It brings an end to a five-year spell at the club for Woods, who joined from Leeds along with Tom Taiwo in 2006 in a much publicised deal in which Chelsea reportedly paid a total of £5m in compensation for the two midfielders.
Mere months later, Woods made his senior debut as a late substitute in the club’s FA Cup victory over Macclesfield Town, writing his name into history amongst the five youngest players to ever done the blue shirt.
He followed it up with another appearance in the next round against Nottingham Forest but it would prove to be his last. A succession of injuries followed which kept him sidelined for the best part of a two year period.
This season just completed was the only one in which he managed to tally double figures in reserve team appearances, and a mid-season loan at Notts County didn’t get started due to further injury problems and a less than suitable manager in Paul Ince (as Conor Clifford would later discover).
Woods signed off in memorable fashion though, converting the penalty which clinched the Barclays Reserve League South title on Monday night against Blackburn Rovers.
Sebek too finishes as a winner, but was not involved in the action after going down ill ten days earlier away to Manchester City, a match in which he had to be replaced by Jamal Blackman.
His time at the club was also a less than smooth ride, as his first season in the country after joining from FK Tachov saw a serious knee injury strike in the second month of the campaign, before homesickness took its toll.
Jan was allowed to return to his homeland to convalesce and see the season out with local club Viktoria Plzen before returning to Chelsea in the summer.
Once fit and more at home, he showed that he was a competent stopper, and quickly made his way into the reserve setup.
At the end of the 2008-09 season he served as the third goalkeeper for the first team on matchdays and took part in the warm-up, and signed professional terms at the end of the year.
He served as backup first team goalkeeper twice during his Chelsea career and finished his final season with ten reserve outings and two clean sheets, both highs amongst his rivals for the gloves.
TheChels wishes Michael and Jan, as well as Bobby Devyne and Ben Sampayo – plus any other players set to leave this summer – all the best in their future endeavours and hope that they sign with a club where they can show their undoubted talents off to the world.