Eddie Newton thought he would avoid the ritual humiliation he had introduced as a player 20 years ago.
Newton was three weeks into his third spell at Stamford Bridge, this time as assistant to the interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, and the mood was good in Chelsea's Lisbon hotel ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg against Benfica last month.
It was about to get even better.
"When I was Chelsea player I helped start a tradition that any new arrival had to stand up and sing a song on their first away trip," Newton says.
"I thought I'd dodged it because we'd played at Birmingham and Man City, but word spread in Lisbon and the players demanded a song. I'd already done it twice, once as a player in the 90s and once when I returned as a youth coach 10 years later."
Team dinner concluded, Newton stood up and sang.
"Three Little Birds by Bob Marley," he says, laughing. "Don't worry 'bout a thing. Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
And it was.
The following night Chelsea beat a Benfica side who had finished ahead of Manchester United in their Champions League group. They made hard work of the second leg, on Wednesday, but a place in the semi-final does not mask the fact that things have not been all right at Chelsea this season. That is why Newton was asked by Di Matteo a month ago to return and help restore harmony.
"I sent Robbie a text congratulating him on getting the job," Newton says. "I know it wasn't in ideal circumstances after [Andre Villas-Boas] was dismissed and I know it was only for an interim period, but he was still in charge of Chelsea."
Newton was putting some of his five children to bed later that night when Di Matteo called. "He told me that he would see me at 7.30 the next morning," says Newton.
He woke at 5am and drove nearly two hours from his home in Stratford-upon-Avon to Chelsea's training ground at Cobham.
Di Matteo told him he wanted to resume the partnership that had first been fostered during their playing days at Chelsea, had been strengthened during Uefa coaching courses and then blossomed during promotion-winning campaigns at West Bromwich Albion and Milton Keynes Dons.
It should have been no surprise that Di Matteo made Newton his first appointment after he replaced Villas-Boas. Newton was working in the finance sector, advising clients on investments, when Di Matteo's name flashed on his phone. He had been out football since he and Di Matteo were dismissed at West Brom in January last year.
"Football management is a fragile occupation," he says. "You can't rely on it so I had to do other things. One minute I was discussing and analysing investment modules, the next I going back to Chelsea, discussing and analysing Napoli and Manchester City. We've had to jump in at the deep end and the games come quickly one after another, game, training, planning, travel … but it's exciting."
It is also working, as evidenced by a run of 11 games which have yielded eight wins and a draw.
How long their partnership will continue at Chelsea will hinge on the route Roman Abramovich, the owner, decides to take.
"If the club want us to stay then we'd have to see," Newton said. "It was an honour for the club to think of Robbie and for Robbie to think of me. If they want me to have an extended stay then that's something we can talk about."
A west Londoner, Newton appears to be a good foil for Di Matteo, the Swiss-raised Italian.
"We had similar opinions about certain teams, managers and we want the same style of football," Newton says. "But we go about things in different ways. Robbie's more standoffish and analytical, I'm more vocal and like to inject a bit of humour. I've always wanted to be a manager and Robbie knows that. I'm glad he allows me to express myself as an assistant."
He also appears to play the role of bad cop to Di Matteo's good cop.
"I'm constantly having to tell players that while they've not been picked, they are wanted and they are important to the future of Chelsea," Newton says. That's football and I just have to be honest."
Edward John Ikem Newton knows about football's disappointments.
Graduating through the youth teams at Chelsea, the FA Cup final in 1994 should have represented the zenith of his career, but it ended up being the nadir. He conceded a penalty, which Eric Cantona converted, and contributed to Manchester United's third goal in a 4-0 defeat at Wembley.
He said it was "a harsh experience" for a young man. "I left the pitch saying: 'No way, I can't have that. I've got to get back here.'"
The defensive midfielder was afforded another chance, scoring the FA Cup-clinching goal in 1997 against Middlesbrough. Di Matteo got the first. Redemption was sweet. "It was my career highlight," Newton says.
It was the trophy that ushered in a new era for Chelsea and precipitated household names like Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli and Didier Deschamps arriving at the club.
Newton found himself marginalised. He moved to Birmingham City just two years after scoring at Wembley and then dropped even farther down the football pyramid with undistinguished spells at Oxford, Barnet and Hayes. In 2001, at the age of 29, when a midfielder should be at the peak of his powers, he retired.
"I was told that I would end up in a wheelchair if I carried on playing," Newton says. "I had no cartilage left in my knee. It was hard to take."
He shares common ground with Di Matteo; injury in the 1993/94 season ruined his chance of playing in the World Cup where Italy reached the final. A triple leg fracture in 2000 ended his career. He retired at 30.
It would have come as little comfort but Di Matteo at least had the consolation of being named in the squad of Chelsea's greatest XI, and Claudio Ranieri, the manager then, allowed him to lead the Chelsea team out in the 2002 FA Cup final.
Newton, on the other hand, was quickly forgotten.
"It's always sad when a footballer has to retire, when football turns its back on you, especially prematurely," he says. "Many footballers can't deal with life outside the football bubble. They don't have real-life skills and it's very hard.
"They are like little children who have been thrust into an adult's world; some of them even get their house bills paid by their clubs. Their lives often fall apart, financially and emotionally. Many go through divorce, turn to alcohol or substance abuse. They can't adjust from being heroes to not playing."
Newton found the adjustment and transition from Chelsea cult hero and FA Cup-winner to the football scrap heap particularly difficult. He went through a life-changing period of introspection.
"I didn't like what my life had become, the drinking," he says. "I had to start asking myself some real hard questions. I'd lost something that I loved and I was never going to do it again."
Newton found solace in the form of religion and married Zeliha, his Turkish/Swedish wife, in 2003.
"Islam just made me more focused as a family man," he says. "It helped me to do things properly, organise my life. It gives me clarity and discipline to achieve what I want to."
He received financial help from the Professional Footballers' Association and set up a small coaching business, but his focus was always his family. "I've got beautiful kids and a fantastic wife who supports me immensely," he says. "I'm very happy. I don't ever want to take what I've got for granted. She is my backbone and picks me up when I'm down. And I get to do a job that I love."
Now he operates at Cobham Training Centre, one of the best training facilities in world football; it boasts 30 football pitches and a 56ft hydrotherapy pool. It is a far cry from the days when the Chelsea squad he was part of trained under the Heathrow flight path and changed in portable cabins.
"I used to wonder why the foreign players they were bringing in complained about the training facilities, but they were right," Newton says. "Cobham caters for excellence. It has everything to help a top footballer. There are even rooms for players to sleep in if we arrive back late from a trip."
Abramovich's millions have transformed the club beyond all recognition from Newton's days as a player but he insists the club retains some of its old charm.
"Outsiders may disagree, but the atmosphere at Chelsea is just like when I was a player," he says. "There's a lot of people who worked at the club at Harlington and who are still there. It's why every time I go away from Chelsea I get drawn back in."
Premier League, s10
@ For more on CHELSEA visit thenational.ae/sport