Monday, 3 June 2013

Please prove me wrong once again, Jose!

You might think that after winning 11 trophies in the 10 years since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC I’d be a happy fan. There are football teams all over the world who play each week with passion and fury in their quest for glory, who never win anything.
Since 2003, we have won (yes I use that pronoun, because in a primal, personal and faintly pathetic way, I am Chelsea and they are me) 3 Premierships, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League.
Enough silverware to sate the dreams of any football fan; any, except this Chelsea fan. Yes of course I’m happy, but I’m frustrated too. You see, within those 10 years Roman Abramovich has hired and fired 9 managers, and here’s where my madness lies.
Being a lifetime follower of English football I - along with most other Chelsea fans - like to think I know more about what works in the Premiership than the owner of the club.
The Russian oligarch fell in love with the game years ago, watching Manchester United playing AC Milan, and ever since he has degenerated into a latter day Captain Ahab, desperately casting his fortune into the deep blue sea, hoping to catch that whale which he saw at Old Trafford. Never mind if the team win loads of cups and leagues, the man’s only going to be happy when we win it in style.
It’s an admirable aspiration, shared by any true Chelsea fan. Before Roman took over we were an inconsistent team capable of great performances when the players felt like it. His first manager was Claudio ‘The Tinkerman’ Ranieri, a bespectacled Italian who, as the Snapper quite brilliantly observed, had a facial expression akin to someone who had just had his bicycle stolen. Claudio built a great team that came 2nd only to Arsenal's ‘Invincibles’, who won the league unbeaten. Yet on a night of high dudgeon, at the very same time that the players were running their hearts out in a Champion's League semi final, Roman was meeting with Ranieri’s successor.
Needless to say we lost the match and gained a new manager, in the shape of Jose ‘The Special One’ Mourinho. When the charismatic Portugeezer announced soon after his arrival that Chelsea were going to win the league I shouted at the TV. I yelled at this handsome bigmouth to shut up, because he didn’t know what he was talking about. 
He didn’t know how hard the Premier League was compared to all the other leagues in Europe. He didn’t understand that in the English game, a mid-table clash of no apparent consequence between, say, Swansea and Fulham, would be played with pride, sweat and not a little skill, in front of a packed crowd who really cared about the result.
But I was wrong. We won the league and the next one the following year, and now that Mourinho seems to be coming back to Stamford Bridge, I want him to prove me wrong once more. Chelsea fans are almost universally elated at the prospect of his return, yet I cannot help but feel some caution.
The night Roman fell in love with football, Andriy Shevchenko played a blinder, yet by the time the owner bought him for Chelsea years later, the player was a spent force. Oligarchs are notorious for lacking insecurity, so unperturbed, he dragged Chelsea through Ambramovich’s Antique Roadshow, buying old stars at inflated prices, while serially pissing off managers by insisting that his jewels were placed in the crown of the team.
Jose’s a great manager, but I want him to prove that he’s not also past his best. He didn’t exactly have a glorious time at Real Madrid and while I’d never question his tactical ability, I do wonder at his hunger. The prospect of returning to a place where the fans already adore you, picking up a massive paycheck on the way, can’t fail to look attractive.
Prove my doubts wrong, Jose. I don’t mind being wrong, if it means we’re playing lovely football. I don’t even mind if we don’t win trophies, as long as we play beautiful football.
Mind you, as I write I’m not even sure Mourinho’s coming to Chelsea. Such is the capricious and self-destructive nature of my chosen football club, we might end up signing Popeye the Sailor Man as our new manager.
In fact Popeye would fit right in. Chelsea is a club that has consistently been laden full of characters, and throughout Abramovich’s reign it has been simple to award each manager a moniker. After The Tinkerman and The Special One, we had Avram ‘Eeeyore’ Grant; Luiz ‘Garfield’ Scolari; Guus ‘The Potato’ Hiddink; Carlo ‘The Eyebrow’ Ancelotti; Andre ‘Bish-Bosh’ Villas-Boas; Roberto ‘The Hood’ Di Matteo; Rafael ‘Spanish Waiter’ Benitez and now, who knows? Another Special One or a spinach-eating sailor? To be honest, I don’t care, as long as our Ahab lets him sail the ship for at least three years.
Yet once again I’m wrong. This frustrated pompous fan who claims to know more than the owner insists that we have to have a secure long-term manager to win things. Look at Fergie and … okay, don’t look at Wenger.
But why would Abramovich listen, after winning 11 trophies in 10 years? He could reasonably insist that his policy of hiring and firing managers works. All I can think of is the dynasty we might have become, had Abramovich not fired The Eyebrow, with whom we won the League and Cup Double, whilst playing wonderful football.
Without Alex Ferguson’s colossal presence at Manchester United, the race is more open, but thanks to Nick @chelseablog and Micheal O’Morain of Shed na Gaillimhe, I can finish by reminding Manchester United’s retired man-monolith what playing against Chelsea felt like:
Last Defeat in the Premiership: Chelsea. 
Last defeat in FA Cup: Chelsea. 
Last defeat in League Cup: Chelsea. 
Last defeat at Old Trafford: Chelsea. 
Last defeat in Champions League … Jose Mourinho …

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