When Arsenal’s repeated attempts to sign Mark Schwarzer were thwarted by Fulham in the summer of 2010, it looked then, at the age of 37, as if the Australian goalkeeper’s chances of a move to one of the Premier League’s elite were destined never to be realised.
Yet three years later, and less than three months short of his 41st birthday, the goalkeeper is on tour with Chelsea in the Asia and preparing for a season which could yet end with trophies, nine years after the only major honour of his career, the League Cup with Middlesbrough. He joined the club on a one-year deal as Petr Cech's No 2 this month but says that he did so because he believes that there will be opportunities to play.
Schwarzer made his first appearance for Chelsea in the first half of the friendly against a Malaysian select XI on Sunday. He is younger than both Brad Friedel, 42, who has signed another one-year extension at Tottenham and David James, also 42, now playing at the Icelandic club IBV, and Schwarzer says that he has been assured by Jose Mourinho that there will be a role to play this season.
Asked whether he thought that his chance of playing at an elite Premier League club had passed him by, Schwarzer said: "You know what, when I moved to Fulham I thought that was it and then the Arsenal thing popped up. So after that experience I said 'Never say never'. It's proven to be true. I still say 'Never say never'. It's not over until it's over. We'll see.
"I feel incredibly well. They say the older you get you are trying to hide your age. But I am not trying to hide my age. I am 40 years old but I feel incredibly well and I am holding my own, no problems whatsoever. I feel incredibly fit and I love playing football. As long as I am playing well enough at this level I will continue to play."
Schwarzer was out of contract this summer at Fulham and his decision to leave was made easier by the arrival at the club of the Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, ten years his junior, who signed from Roma. For the first time in his career, Schwarzer will not be a first-choice at his club but it is a change for which he says he is prepared.
He said: "That's going to be an adjustment of course but I think the amount of games Chelsea play there is going to be opportunities to play games and that's also important for me. Without a doubt, you are here to win. There are four competitions and you want to win all four if you can.
"He [Cech] is a great goalkeeper and a good guy. He has been extremely accommodating for me since I have arrived. It's been great to work alongside him. I think there is a distinct difference in our style. Hopefully I can learn from him and maybe he might learn from me too. I think we can complement each other very well."
Schwarzer is the most-capped Australian national team footballer in history, with 108, and has ambitions to play at the World Cup finals next summer, it would be his third appearance at the finals, for which the country have already qualified. He was twice a losing finalist in the Uefa Cup and Europa League competition with Middlesbrough and Fulham. How is he still going strong?
"My wife would probably tell you it's just the selfishness coming into play!" he said. "You definitely need a selfishness. It's all the same stuff. You need the dedication, you need the persistence, the sacrifices. There's no rocket science to it. I just look after myself better than I ever have in the last three or four years in particular. You're talking about diet, you're talking about training, you're talking about all sorts of areas of my life. I look after myself better than I ever have and that has helped with the longevity.
"The aim is to continue to get better. I don't want to stop getting better. If you stop getting better then it is a downward slippery slope. I would like to think that at the tender young age of 40 that must prove it is right and that I have continued to improve. Hopefully I can continue to get better again."
Being out of England during Australia's struggle in the Ashes over the last week has also been a relief for Schwarzer who said that Frank Lampard is the only other cricket fan in the Chelsea squad. "I try not to talk to him about it too much because it's not looking good for us," Schwarzer said.
"We have been going through a transitional process for quite some time. You look at the previous team and there are so many players retiring at a similar time, it's difficult for any team in the world. As they say in cricket - and it is more obvious in cricket - it goes in cycles."
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