Gullit unsure when he can play himself

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The Independent Online
Chelsea's most noted player yesterday admitted that he did not know when he would be fit to start the new season. But he added, with a grin, that he expected the manager to be patient with him.

That is hardly surprising since they are the same person. Ruud Gullit, the player, is still recovering from a weekend operation on his knee, and he said he "knew from experience'' he could not put a time on when he would be fit again.

But, Gullit, the manager, said: "The good thing is that it means I have to watch the team and do so from a different angle.''

Chelsea's pre-season has been impressive but, Gullit said: "It is only pre-season. When you start the first game it is so different.''

Gullit has brought in three new players, Roberto di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli from Italy and Frank LeBoeuf from France. All three have impressed, and Gullit added: "I'm pleased how they have adapted so quickly. They all speak English, which has helped them understand. I have everyone I wanted. These days you need 20 players at least for a good season, with players of quality."

Chelsea have sold a record number of season tickets, having had to halt sales in order to leave enough space within their restricted capacity to accommodate floating fans and members - the latter now total 30,000.

The South Stand - the former Shed - will be closed all season while a pounds 28m redevelopment proceeds. The work means Chelsea are down to a 29,700 capacity, and they have dispensation (along with Newcastle) from the Premiership requirement to reserve 3,000 seats, or 10 per cent of capacity, to away fans.

Chelsea could have tried to close the ground to away fans, as Manchester United did during last season's redevelopment, but Colin Hutchinson, the chief executive, said: "We did not want to do that. We felt you need away fans for atmosphere."