So farewell, José, soi-disant Special One and the man who will always be remembered for his efforts to bring a little southern European style to the dour English game.Not from a footballing point of view, of course. No, it’s a dress sense thing. Who could forget the Armani (or was it Matalan) 3/4-length coat of his first season? The bristling Clooney-esque buzz cut? The casually unbuttoned shirts? The freakish ‘Val Kilmer in Top Gun’ quiff of this August? Whichever way you look at it, young José cut a dashing figure alongside such style luminaries as Surralexferrguson (padded mac and, we suspect, shirt tucked into his Y-fronts) and Arsene Wenger (who never quite lost the look of a man who’d just crawled out of bed and hastily run an iron over his crinkled features).
If history has taught us anything, it’s that sacking a manager mid-season rarely produces the results that the hierarchy are hungering for. And yet, and yet. The vigorous young scamps who are at this very moment lining up outside Roman’s palatial office with a PowerPoint presentation in one hand and a long list of “wanted” players in the other… well, many of them have their own inimitable look. There’s the affable but sadly Spurs-tainted Jürgen Klinsmann, with a nice line in rumpled casual suits; a Teutonic Mourinho in all but name. And playing style. And possibly sense of humour. Then there’s the terribly serious Frank Rijkaard, a man who may never escape the priceless image of his impromptu attempt to bolster Dutch-German relations by spraying Rude Völler with phlegm, but who favours a similarly relaxed, if probably awfully expensive, 2-piece suit look. And then there’s Guus Hiddink, of whose crinkled anorak and cheery Santa features probably the less said the better.
Our concern, in this dark hour, is not the future success of the expensively-assembled team. We have no doubt that Messrs Lampard, Terry, Ballack, Shevchenko, Drogba and Cole are old enough and ugly enough to be wondering (or perhaps dreading), on this chilly morning, whether José wants them to accompany him or not. No, what we really want to know is whether José’s successor will have the necessary panache to lead a club of Chelsea’s stature to its inevitable destiny: that of the world’s biggest football brand (TM) by 2011. Chelsea have a ten-year plan, you see. I know this because thus the Face of Kenyon spake. Can we really be expected to win the Champions League twice in 5 years if we’re being led by a man for whom the words “Levi-Strauss” mean naught save as the author of “The Elementary Structures of Kinship”? Do we really expect to put teams like Barcelona to the sword if the tactics are coming from a gent who doesn’t know his Anderson from his Sheppard or his Hardy from his Amies? What we need, fellow Chelsea fans and lovers of sartorial elegance, is someone who really understands the importance of a notch lapel. Someone who isn’t interested in a haircut unless it costs in excess of a hundred nicker. Someone who buys really, really big ties.
Roman and Mr Kenyon, or Pravda and the Ogpu to thee and me, doubtless have their reasons for dispensing with the services of the Special Coat. It doesn’t do for an owner to be upstaged by his manager, perhaps. And Roman’s predilection for – how shall we put this – clothing from the bottom barrel in the bargain basement, might be the key to the whole debacle. To this observer, it smacks of a puritan soul. Jeans from the Gap? A jumper from… shudder… Mr Byrite? And could that be a Swatch watch dangling from his wrist? Perhaps Roman tired of the vigorous Portuguese parading his elegant ensembles before all and sundry. Perhaps, somewhere in the chilly depths of that heart (some corner of which will, forever, be Siberia) he rebelled against the colourful pizzazz of his employee’s outfits? And perhaps this parting was the final expression of a deeper misunderstanding between two men; a misunderstanding that went far deeper than mere sophistry on the nature of open, attacking football and whether Andriy Shevchenko’s legs had gone before we shelled out £31m on him. Perhaps it just came down to the clothes. We may never know. Unless, of course, Pravda neglects to add a “keep your mouth shut” clause to the large remuneration package José is about to trouser. Whatever the outcome, whatever the reason, I for one wish the Special Coat well. He brought us sunshine. He brought us Drogba. And he bought us some priceless looks on Surralex’s face. I’ll miss him. And his coat.