Ben Chilwell exclusive interview: 'We have come back in top condition and can't wait to get going'

John Percy
Ben Chilwell of Leicester City during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton FC at King Power Stadium on December 1st - Getty Images

It was over 12 weeks ago when Leicester demolished Aston Villa in the last Premier League game, but Ben Chilwell is finally back in training and just wants to get the job done.

Chilwell, the Leicester and England defender, is in the best shape of his career ahead of the restart and insists that European football remains an absolute priority as they edge closer to a return.

“Our squad has come back in top condition and the best I’ve seen in all the pre-seasons I’ve had at Leicester. We can’t wait to get going again,” says Chilwell, in an interview over Zoom.

“We’re desperate to finish in that top four and we all want Champions League football back.

“The FA Cup is also massive for us, if we beat Chelsea we’re in the semi-finals and that’s very much in our minds at the moment as well. 

“At the beginning of the season one of our aims was to reach a cup final and we got so close with the Carabao Cup [losing to Villa in the semi]. We’re buzzing about getting back out there.”

Chilwell is now back in Leicester after spending most of lockdown at the family home in Milton Keynes, enjoying his mother Sally’s culinary skills and devouring shows on Netflix including the epic ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

He has been in frequent contact with team-mates, manager Brendan Rodgers and club staff, and exercised up to five times a week after being given a highly-detailed fitness programme.  

The 23 year old returned to training with the squad last month, and on Monday it felt like a huge step forward in Leicester’s own Project Restart with a full team training session. Later this week they will play a training game at the King Power Stadium.

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates his teams fourth goal by teammate Harvey Barnes  - Getty Imahes

Chilwell has also recorded his fastest ever sprint tests and revealed he has been taking training tips from England team-mate Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund forward.

“I speak to Jadon a lot because he’s been in training for five weeks in the Bundesliga so I’ve been picking his brain on what they’ve been doing over there,” he says.

“The first few weeks for him was obviously individual training, then into groups of three or four doing non-contact, technical stuff like passing drills. 

“After that they gradually built into sessions with bigger numbers before playing games at the training ground with goalkeepers.

“I fed that back to the sports science guys at Leicester, who know their stuff anyway, and it’s pretty much the route that we’ve taken. Our training has been really sharp, intense and competitive.”

The return of the Bundesliga arguably sharpened Premier League minds over a potential return and Chilwell believes it has proved English football will recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“There’s a lot of people who have said to me ‘it’s not the same’ but the Dortmund v Bayern [Munich] game answered all those questions,” he says.

“The question was always whether football would be the same without fans, and whether players could get motivated.  The standard in that game was so high, and so competitive.”

Leicester’s last competitive game on March 9, with that 4-0 thrashing of Villa, feels like a lifetime ago for Chilwell. 

His team will return to action later this month third in the table, eight points ahead of Manchester United in fifth-place, and hoping to quickly rediscover their momentum.

Rodgers has made an impressive return to English football in his first full season in charge, transforming the mindset of Leicester as a club and a squad, with the return of European football appearing a genuine possibility.

It was revealed last week that Rodgers had contracted Covid-19 in March, yet Chilwell said there are no concerns over safety at the training ground.

Ben Chilwell's life in lockdown

“We’re getting tested twice a week after training and I’m fit and healthy. I’ve not had any of the symptoms,” he says.

“I always wanted it to start again but was never sure. There was that stage early in lockdown when nobody knew what was going to happen, but the safest thing was always the right thing.

“Hopefully over the next few weeks we can really crank it up and get ready for the games.”

The only disappointment for Chilwell over football’s return will be the absence of supporters at the King Power. 

It is a peculiar experience he is already acutely aware of, after making his first England start against Croatia in October 2018, where fans were banned after punishment from Uefa.

“It was a strange, weird night because it was a big occasion for myself, and my family and mates couldn’t even get out there.

“It felt like a training game when you’re in the youth team, with no fans, and you can hear all the players and the manager. 

“It will be very different playing Premier League games without supporters but it’s the same for every team. Our fans at the King Power always give us a boost so we’ll have to be ready for it.

“I will say though, it should be easy to motivate yourself when you’re chasing for the top four. The fans give you a push, but we’ve got such an incentive over the remaining nine games.”