Guildford Flames fan and Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is hoping to see his team take the Challenge Cup – but he won’t be there to see it.The 36-year-old will be otherwise engaged when his team will face Manchester United in crucial Premier League action on Sunday, ruling out a trip to Cardiff.
But that won’t stop him from keeping an eye on things from Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium as he hopes Paul Dixon’s side can deliver their first major honour in the Elite League.
“After the semi-final, my plan was to go to Cardiff and to share in this historic moment for the club and for the team,” he admits.
“But as we’ve got a crucial game with Manchester United, where we’re both fighting for fourth place, I can’t go unfortunately.
“At the very least, I’ll be on the phone trying to stay updated with the game as much as I can and hoping the Flames can go and do it.
“Going by the reaction of everybody, there’s been a lot of excitement and everyone has talked about the final since they got there.
“It makes you realise how big an occasion it actually is for the fans and for the club and would be an amazing story if Guildford won it. It would be absolutely brilliant.”
Cech first came to the UK in 2004 when he signed for Chelsea and soon discovered the Flames after being taken to the Spectrum by a friend.
He spoke of how his interest in the team increased, leading to skating sessions and friendships with the team and coaching staff.
And he’s also enjoyed how Guildford have evolved in the Elite League since joining in 2017, leading to their big day against Belfast Giants on Sunday.
He added: “I started following the Flames when they were in the EPL and I went to a game with a friend where they played Manchester Phoenix in a big game at the top of the league.
“We saw Milos Milechernik, who was playing at the time and now assistant coach and he asked me to be in a photo with the team.
“We had a friendly chat and he invited me to any training session if I wanted or to come to any game and just to let him know. From there, I followed the team.
“I’ve skated with the boys when I can to keep myself fit to improve my reflexes and that’s something I enjoy a lot as well.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the Flames a lot, especially after the last season where they came in as a rookie team and did well in finishing sixth and reached the play-offs.
“So this season, they’ve made it to the Challenge Cup Final and are still in a great position for the play-offs so it’s great to see the Flames take it step by step and constantly improving.”
As every football fan knows, Cech has had his fair share of success and experience in the big occasions, with three Premier League title,s five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League winners medal to his name.
But, if asked to enter the Flames locker room at the Viola Arena before the game and asked to impart his wisdom and experience to Paul Dixon’s men, what would he say the players?
“It’s something they should all enjoy,” he said. “It’s a different challenge and a different feeling and I believe everyone will want to win.
“When you play in any final, there is always one way to win and that is to go there and give it your best shot. You can be afraid, but play with confidence and passion, but with a cool head too.
“There is a lot of pressure on everyone in the final and I believe the team who controls their emotions better and play the right way has the best chance to go and win it.”