Michael Mancienne: 'I could have rotted at Chelsea - I wanted to make a name for myself'
Michael Mancienne may never have a prominent place in the annals of Chelsea's recent history, but if proof was needed that there can be life after Stamford Bridge, he provides it. It is six years since Mancienne decided to quit the club he had joined as a nine-year-old and move to the Bundesliga with SV Hamburg, blazing a trail for the likes of Jadon Sancho (Manchester City), Reece Oxford (West Ham) and Kaylen Hinds (Arsenal), who all moved abroad during the summer after finding their paths to the first-team blocked at home. Mancienne, who made only four league appearances at Chelsea before leaving in 2011, will always cherish his time at the club, but as the defender prepares to face them for the first time in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday with Nottingham Forest, he feels his decision has been fully vindicated. “I was in the comfort zone at Chelsea and it is easy for players to rot away in that environment,” he says, sitting in the Robin Hood Suite at Forest’s City Ground. “When you’re at a big club you can easily get caught in a bubble because everything is done for you. There are so many people doing things for you that when you go out on loan you’re thrown into real life. “I was 21 when I made my debut and it was great moment. I thought it would be the time when I kicked on but there were too many players in front of me, many of them captains for their countries. Michael Mancienne fends off Arjen Robben during his spell in the Bundesliga with Hamburg Credit: Getty "The likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole were the best role models to have, and seeing people like John break into the first team obviously gave you that hope and desire to do the same thing. "But I don’t think there is one player from the academy in or around my age group that is still there. Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork and Sam Hutchinson have all left, and Liam Bridcutt is with me now at Forest. I had to make a decision because I wanted to make a name for myself and play games.” After successful loan spells at QPR and then Wolves – helping Mick McCarthy’s team to promotion from the Championship and then staying in the Premier League – he was presented with the chance to join Hamburg. Michael Mancienne in action for Wolves during his loan spell there from Chelsea Credit: AFP/Getty Images He had two years left on his contract at Chelsea but with no sign of a future in the first-team after the departure of Carlo Ancelotti, he made the jump. It was a pivotal moment. “I would recommend it to anyone, I loved it abroad and you learn a lot about yourself. It makes you stronger, being away from your family and friends,” he says. “In the first year I struggled with the language – my German teacher was a Hamburg fan so she was literally just asking me for inside info about the team, then spending only 15 minutes teaching! “I learned more from being around the boys in the dressing room and I managed to pick it up that way. It’s such a big city and the fans are really passionate about their team – if you’d lost a game you basically didn’t go out afterwards. “The big thing I noticed in Germany is that teams would rather push through a youngster with potential than make a signing. That is why their national team does so well and, maybe, why England doesn’t. I will never regret the decision to play there.” Michael Mancienne with his former Chelsea colleague John Terry, while on England duty in 2008 Credit: PA Mancienne spent three years in Germany, making 51 appearances, before he was offered the chance to work under his former England under-21s manager Stuart Pearce at Forest. He has been one of the few constants in a turbulent period for the Championship club, after the bewildering five-year regime of Fawaz Al Hasawi. Now, however, Forest are in a far healthier state. New owner Evangelos Marinakis has implemented a structure at the City Ground, a new sense of professionalism, and the days of financial mayhem, when two-day equity was frequently the norm, has been consigned to the past. The link between club and its supporters is being repaired and the long-term plans, including renovation of the stadium and training ground, should take Forest into a brighter future. Michael Mancienne is enjoying life at Nottingham Forest Credit: Action Images via Reuters Mancienne, 29, took a pay cut in the summer to sign a new contract and believes the club is now on the up. “It’s been a rollercoaster, I’m just glad the club finally feels stable now. The team has got more of an identity when we play and everything seems to be clicking into place. “The lack of stability [under the old regime] was killing the team. We weren’t getting paid on time, it affects the players who have got mortgages to pay and then you’re playing for someone who’s not respecting you. The little things added up and people don’t realise how much that damages the team. “Thankfully it’s all changing now and we’ve got no excuses. We’ve got a good manager [Mark Warburton], good ownership and the training ground is improving every single week. “Forest is a massive club and it feels like we’re going places. We beat Newcastle in the last round and obviously we are going to Chelsea as underdogs but that takes the pressure off and means we can play with a bit more freedom.”