John Terry has hailed the impact Guus Hiddink has had at Chelsea, who produced arguably their best performance of the season on Sunday.
The Blues were head and shoulders the best team in England last term as they won their first league title since 2010, but they have been unrecognisable this time round and are wallowing in the wrong half of the division. This form led to the departure of hugely popular manager Jose Mourinho, who was sacked in December just months after signing a new contract.
Hiddink, who replaced Luis Felipe Scolari as Blues head coach on an interim boss during the 2008/09 season, has been appointed for a second caretaker spell in charge of the club. And he oversaw their best performance of the season so far on Sunday, when goals from Oscar, Diego Costa and Willian gave the reigning champions an impressive 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.
This result lifts Chelsea six points above the relegation zone, and in what has been one of the most unpredictable campaigns since the inception of the Premier League, they are just six points off a top-half position. But it was the manner of the victory at Selhurst Park which would have pleased the fans most, and captain Terry was keen to praise Hiddink’s part in their revival.
“Guus has been great since he’s come in,” the former England star told Sky Sports. “It’s unfortunate what’s happened, we feel we’ve let everyone down, but the new man’s come in like he did last time and picked everyone up. We are where we are, but we’re slowly climbing the league table. We’ve known as a group we had to get better, we’ve done that slowly but surely.”
Mourinho accepted during his final days at Stamford Bridge that a top-four place was probably behind his side, and although Tottenham Hotspur dropped two points at Everton on Sunday, the Blues remain 13 points off the pace. But with 18 matches still to play, and the transfer window now open, there is optimism that the capital club are over the worst part of their season.
Thibaut Courtois is certainly of the opinion that he and his team-mates have plenty left to play for despite their awful start to the campaign. Speaking ahead of their FA Cup clash with Scunthorpe United this weekend, the Belgian international goalkeeper is also mindful that glory in the UEFA Champions League is also very much still on the agenda for Chelsea.
“Obviously if you win the FA Cup or the Champions League maybe it will still be a positive,” said the former Atletico Madrid loan star. “Still with the FA Cup or maybe the Champions League it could be a positive season if we end up in the top four or top six. We have to go step by step. Some teams are close together. Everything can change very fast, we just need the results.”