Branislav Ivanovic is a popular figure among Chelsea fans, and it's not difficult to understand why; solid, reliable and with an uncanny knack of popping up with vital goals, the defender is the modern manager's dream.
The 27-year-old Serbian stopper celebrates four years at Stamford Bridge this month, and whilst the majority of his time has been a positive experience with a combination of success and silverware, Ivanovic recalls a difficult start to his Blues career.
"Signing for Chelsea was a big step in my career at the time," he told the club's official website. "But my fitness wasn't so good and I picked up a hamstring injury.
"Within the club I was okay, I adapted quickly because everybody wanted to help me so I felt happy and confident. My problem was the fact I wasn't playing, so that made it difficult. It was a tough time for me, but I passed through it and it made me stronger."
After arriving from Russia in January 2008, Ivanovic has seen a number of managers come and go in west London, but under the stewardship of Portuguese tactician Andre Villas-Boas, he suggests the squad is as united as ever this season.
"This season at the club has been slightly different because obviously we have a new manager," he continued. "There are a lot of things which have changed and we are still trying to adapt, we have played brilliantly in some games but dropped a lot of points, particularly at home.
"I still believe we can improve this season and I'm sure we will do. The manager is doing a great job, he is trying to make sure everything is perfect for us, we are giving him our full support, we believe in him and we are trying to make good things happen."
Ivanovic acknowledges that there is still plenty of room for improvement this campaign, but says that the implementation of new ideas and approaches means that it is only a matter of time before Chelsea start to reap the rewards. And having recently put pen to paper on a new five-and-a-half year contract, it's clear he is determined to be a part of that.
"Signing a new contract was very important and I see it as reward for the hard work I have put in since joining the club.
"Winning trophies is what motivates me and I will do everything possible to do that every season, we know that will be very tough but I am very happy here, my first wish was to stay here and hopefully that will be for as long as possible."
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