Bertrand: Loan moves made me resilient
Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand feels the time he spent away from Stamford Bridge on loan before making his first-team debut greatly aided his development as a person, as well as a player.
Bertrand, 23, joined the Blues' youth set-up from Gillingham in 2005 as a teenager, but had to wait patiently for six years before making his senior debut under Carlo Ancelotti in 2011.
His first-team involvement grew further under Andre Villas-Boas before Roberto Di Matteo really put his faith in the youngster, most notably when he handed him a Champions League debut in May's final triumph over Bayern Munich.
In what has been a real annus mirabilis for Bertrand, he was also involved with Team GB's Olympic squad during the summer, and earned a first England cap in August.
The left-sided player also found himself selected ahead of Juan Mata in new Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez's second game against Fulham on Wednesday, but things have not always been so rosy for him.
Before establishing himself in Chelsea's first-team squad he was sent out on loan to Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, Reading and Nottingham Forest, where he cut his teeth in the Football League.
Despite not immediately making the grade with the Blues, Bertrand believes his time on loan was a valuable part of his football education.
"It's been a fantastic year, a lot's changed," Bertrand told ESPN at the England Footballers Foundation Charity Cup. "It's good to realise how far I've come...It's a lot to do with hard work and there's a bit of good fortune here and there - I suppose everyone needs a little bit. I think the main thing is I've always been quite a realist so even when I was younger, just getting a career out of football first and foremost was the main goal.
"The loan moves were fantastic for me, to go out and learn from certain experiences and being able to reflect on things in my game - especially when times don't go too well. Now it's not as hard to bounce back because you've experienced these situations.
"I got my head down, played my football out on loan and finally managed to come back and thankfully impressed Ancelotti and it sort of went from there. Obviously AVB, too, and then Robbie really put his faith in me and started playing me quite a lot."
Bertrand has grown up in football with a number of familiar faces around him - eight of his 17 England team-mates in the 2008 European Under-19 Championship still play in the Premier League, including Chelsea team-mates Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses - and the former Gillingham schoolboy says it has been a big help having those players around at club and international level.
"I think that's what's made it more settling, when you do make the step up through the age groups and up to the seniors I'm surrounded by players that I've played with, or against, for a few years and we've got to know each other really well," he said."
"[When playing for England's senior side] you're aware that it's probably one of the biggest stages in world football - everyone watches England and it's a fantastic position to be in. [The Chelsea players] are more than helpful, it helps having a few of us in the same team, it makes it that bit easier to settle in."
Ryan Bertrand was speaking at the England Footballers Foundation Charity Cup at the London Soccer Dome.