PETR Cech has special memories when it comes to the city of Oxford, but is fully focused on ice hockey ahead of the new season.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper, 41, signed for Oxford City Stars in June, the third ice hockey side he will have played for since retiring from football in 2019.

Cech is set to get his goaltender career with the Stars underway in the National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) Division 1 South, the third tier in Britain, on September 2.

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In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Cech discussed his reasons for choosing to sign with the Stars.

The four-time Premier League winner highlighted how he made his Chelmsford Chieftains debut at Oxpens last November, and how the Stars impressed him at the time.

He said: “I knew that Oxford was putting together a team that wants to be competitive for next season, and then I decided I’ll give it a go.

“I spoke to the coach and I like the way he sees things and does things, and that helped make the decision for me as well.

“I’m looking forward to the new season here because I played here my first game for Chelmsford.

“I happened to play another three or four games because we had the City Stars in the cup as well. I liked the way they played and how they set up.”

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Cech’s links to Oxford go beyond ice hockey though, with his first experience as a Chelsea player coming at the Kassam Stadium, while it was doctors and nurses at the John Radcliffe Hospital who helped save his football career in October 2006.

During the opening 60 seconds of a Premier League clash at Reading, Cech was involved in a collision with Stephen Hunt, leaving him with a depressed skull fracture.

He was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, before being transferred to the John Radcliffe’s specialist brain injury unit.

Emergency surgery saw Cech fitted with two metal plates in his skull, and after three months of recovery, he returned to the Chelsea team sporting the helmet that would become synonymous with his playing career.

He told the Oxford Mail: “It’s not the reason why I came here but Oxford is probably the reason why I still played football and now ice hockey, because I’m still fit and I can do it after my injury.

“I was happy that I ended up in the neurosurgery here. It helped me in a great way to get back to playing again.

“I kind of forgot about it, but it’s true that I’m kind of connected to Oxford with that experience.

“That was a great experience for me in terms of the outcome, and hopefully our season will have the same outcome.”

Two years before his head injury, Cech watched Oxford United take on Chelsea after signing for the Blues from Rennes in a £7 million move.

Asked whether he might make a return to Grenoble Road this season while with the Stars, Cech responded: “I’m here to play ice hockey and that’s the main thing.

“My first game for Chelsea in the pre-season when I joined, we actually played here at Oxford.

“I didn’t play. Carlo Cudicini and Lenny Pidgeley played, but I was sitting in the stands. It’s kind of a special memory for me.”

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