Patrick van Aanholt’s dealings with Jose Mourinho were limited to a pair of meetings to rubber-stamp his exit from Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014.
Van Aanholt was embarking upon his second loan spell at Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem when Mourinho had returned to Chelsea, before the left-back joined Sunderland in a permanent move 12 months later.
But while the sacked Mourinho was more acquaintance than boss to van Aanholt, the ex-Chelsea defender believes he does have something to prove at his former stomping ground tomorrow.
Van Aanholt was under contract for five years at Chelsea, yet made just eight first-team appearances and had eight loan spells away from the club.
The 25-year-old is among an increasing army of players on Chelsea’s books, whose career for the club never actually progresses, other than through loan spells elsewhere.
“I feel I didn’t really get a fair chance to prove myself at Chelsea,” he said.
“I was out on loan every year. You want to prove that they made a mistake.
“I didn’t even train with Mourinho.
“When he was there, I was out on loan and when I came back in pre-season, I wasn’t with the first-team.
“I wanted to leave and they put me with the reserves.
“I had a couple of meetings with him, but that was it.
“But Chelsea are a big team. They won’t go down, that’s for sure.
“They just need to get their heads together and focus on winning games.
“It’s just a matter of time for that.”
Van Aanholt heads to his old stomping ground in a far more positive frame of mind than a month or so ago after the Dutch international had endured a wretched start to the season.
Ex-boss Dick Advocaat was eventually forced to drop his only specialist left-back for his final game in charge, after van Aanholt’s series of costly errors showed no sign of halting.
But under Sam Allardyce, van Aanholt has returned to form, with the 3-5-2 set-up suiting his strengths.
“I’ve been training very hard and I’ve managed to get back into the squad,” he said.
“When I got my chance, I grabbed it.
“I had a bad start to the season, yes, and I think everybody knows that.
“But I proved everyone wrong that I can play in the Premier League, and, lately, I’ve been doing very well.
“You can say my confidence was affected. I lost a bit of form.
“But that happens to young players and it was up to myself to get back up.
“I told myself that I deserved to play.
“The change of system has been good for me.
“I love to go forward, that’s my strength. And defensively, I’ve been solid as well in the last couple of games.”
Sunderland’s upward curve under Allardyce has hit a wall in the last two games though, with back-to-back defeats against Arsenal and Watford sending the Black Cats back into the relegation zone.
Chelsea marks the first of three successive games against Premier League heavyweights, albeit the hosts tomorrow have lost nine of their 16 outings so far this season.
“Why can’t we win at Stamford Bridge?” added van Aanholt.
“Bournemouth have done it, so why can’t we?
“Everybody is beating everybody in the Premier League this season. We can beat Chelsea.”