Harkness leaves Chelsea after 14 years

Tim Harkness: Has worked under 12 different managers at Chelsea

Tim Harkness: Has worked under 12 different managers at Chelsea

TIM HARKNESS is leaving his role as Chelsea’s Head of Sport Science and Psychology after 14-and-a-half years.

The South African has been one of the great survivors at Stamford Bridge, working under a dozen different managers during a period of considerable change. He joined the club in July 2009 after a chance meeting with Carlo Ancelotti’s former assistant, Bruno Dimichelis.

After that, he played a key role for many years, leading on Chelsea’s psychology provision and setting up and then managing their sport science department.

Harkness worked his last day at Chelsea today. The Blues have undergone major change behind the scenes since the takeover by private equity firm Clearlake Capital in May 2022.

This has included their performance and medical department, which has experienced a number of departures and arrivals. It is now headed up by Australian Bryce Cavanagh, who joined recently from the Football Association as Director of Performance, while Nick Chadd has come in from Benfica as Head of Performance Services.

Now the Blues have lost one of their longest-serving members of staff in Harkness. Before joining the Blues, the softly-spoken South African worked with cycling, golf and squash professionals and helped Abhinav Bindra become the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event (in the 10m air rifle in Beijing in 2008).

His association with Chelsea came about in unusual circumstances, when he was working with an athlete at a competition in Milan and met Dimichelis. The duo immediately hit it off, leading to a link-up with Ancelotti. When the Italian got the Chelsea manager’s job in June 2009, he quickly brought the pair in as well.

Harkness set up Chelsea’s sport science department, as well as their load management systems. He has been heavily involved in making load recommendations to a succession of different managers, as well as being a regular presence on the training pitch.


  • Carlo Ancelotti
  • Andre Villas Boas
  • Roberto Di Matteo
  • Rafa Benitez
  • Jose Mourinho
  • Gus Hiddink
  • Antonio Conte
  • Maurizio Sarri
  • Thomas Tuchell
  • Graham Potter
  • Frank Lampard
  • Mauricio Pochettino

He rarely does interviews and has kept a low profile during his entire time at Stamford Bridge. However, he does feature heavily in the excellent book Edge, by Ben Lyttleton, in a chapter about resilience.

In it, he reveals a useful three-point checklist for deciding whether your emotional response to a situation is accurate:

  1. Is it me, or was the event intended? There may be a difference between the impact on me and the intention of the other person. Eg, you may not have stood on my toe on purpose.
  2. Does this always happen, or is it only happening now? Eg, maybe you always step on my toe whenever you see me.
  3. Is this everything? If our whole relationship revolves around you standing on my toe, then I might be more upset.

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