There has been endless debate about Chelsea's fate once Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba move on, but young defender Ryan Bertrand proved at Saturday's Champions League final that the future is bright at Stamford Bridge.
The 22-year-old left-back became the first player to make his European debut in either a European Cup or Champions League final in 30 years on Saturday as he helped Chelsea to beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Munich.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink was the last to achieve the feat when he came on as a 10th-minute substitute in the 1982 final for the injured Jimmy Rimmer.
Like Spink, Bertrand ended with a winners' medal round his neck after victory over Bayern Munich, and, like the goalkeeper, the Englishman played an important part in his side's victory.
In the 73 minutes he was on the pitch he acquitted himself well in what was only his eighth appearance for Chelsea, although he has appeared nearly 150 times in the lower leagues of English football while on loan at Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, Reading and Nottingham Forest.
"I have been out on loan to a lot of clubs and played a fair few games now, but obviously nothing compares to the scale of what happened here," Bertrand said after emerging from the victorious Chelsea dressing room.
"When the manager told me I was playing, of course I could hardly believe it, but I knew what I had to do.
"I was getting all these flashbacks too of when I was a kid, growing up in South London, in Peckham, in Bermondsey, tough places, playing against the wall with my mates.
"And I spent time at so many clubs, I wondered at times where my career was going, but I never gave up."
Bertrand was a surprise starter in the Chelsea line-up and got his chance only because Florent Malouda suffered a hamstring injury last week, resulting in the young Englishman being asked to play in an unfamiliar midfield role in front of left back Ashley Cole.
Bertrand was resolute as Bayern fired 35 attempts at the English side's goal.
He left the field to be replaced by Malouda with the match still scoreless and the Chelsea supporters singing "one Ryan Bertrand," to cap a dream debut.
"He handled himself so well, he was under huge pressure and he didn't show it," team-mate Gary Cahill said.
"I mean he's 22, and to play with the composure he did, playing out of position against Arjen Robben and the likes of Mario Gomez, one of the most experienced wingers around, was amazing."
Bertrand, however, was keen to praise others.
"Ashley Cole has been such a massive help to me too, all the way through. It was great being out there with him, he kept his eye on me," Bertrand said.
"The atmosphere was amazing, Bayern fans outnumbered the Chelsea fans and it wasn't 50/50 in there, there was more like 70 percent of them, against us, but we stuck in there together and won it. It is just incredible."
Much has been made of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's huge investment in the London side to achieve his ambition of becoming kings of Europe, but Bertrand's signing was not one expected to result in Champions League glory.
Having joined lower league English side Gillingham as a nine-year-old, he moved to Chelsea when he was 15 for an initial fee of 125,000 pounds which provoked considerable anger from Gillingham's feisty chairman Paul Scally.
That fee can rise to a maximum of 525,000 pounds after he has played 40 league games but with Bertrand's contribution in the final outweighing that of the expensive signings of Fernando Torres and unused substitute Michael Essien, the deal could prove to be one of Abramovich's finest.comments