As a little disclaimer before this rant-ette begins, would readers please be advised that the writer is aware a) of the minimal likelihood of anything “true” surfacing through a football gossip site calling itself Soccerthing or FootballForever, and b) the utter impossibility of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich reading this. Still, I live in hope.
The latest little gem doing the rounds – coming soon to a tabloid column near you – is that Roman is planning a fantasy football overhaul in January. Or possibly next summer. Who knows? Mr Grant (or, let’s face it, whichever of Klinsmann / Deschamps / Van Basten / the ghost of Brian Clough has been brought to relpace him) will be given sums measureless to man to purchase a cluster of the world’s finest players. Ronaldinho, Kaka, Francesc Fabregas, Zlatan Ibrahimovich and, possibly, Batman, will all be brought in to wipe away the unpleasant taste left by José’s departure. A new team. A new era. And we fans, like recalcitrant children distracted by the magical appearance of a balloon or a lolly, will start to gurgle and clap our pudgy hands together, and then smile beatifically as the team romps to a Champions League / Premiership double. All is forgiven. Tabula Rasa. The king is dead, etc ad nauseam.
All this is probably nonsense. Even sadder: were it to happen, it would probably work. Football fans are optimists. If they weren’t, St James’ Park would never have made it to 60,000 capacity. How we growled as Vialli was unceremoniously dumped 10 matches into his final season. With what contempt did we treat the genial Ranieri when he arrived, and how sad we were when he left. “Don’t tinker with the Tinkerman” we cried, in the weeks leading to José’s arrival. And how quickly we forgot them. Rightly so. Chelsea FC, as with any club, should be bigger than the man that chooses the team and makes the subs (and yes, in light of the rumours about Roman’s input into pitch affairs, I’m well aware of how that sounds). It’s not José FC. It never was. He brought us unprecedented success. He broke English football records with the glee of an Australian swerving his ute to hit cane toads. But he’s gone. And this brings me to my point.
I have no doubt whatsoever that there are fans who would be delighted to see some of the players named above arriving at the Bridge. Magnificent names, undoubted ability, a chance to play champagne football of the highest order. But, I’ll wager, there are many who rebel at the very idea. I count myself among them.
So Roman, if you’re reading this, and haven’t punched a hole in your Sony monitor yet, here’s my plea. Irrespective of the truth or not of all that I’ve said above, there are many of us who would like to see a measured approach to the building of your Great European Club. Because sometimes, as a club not a million miles away from N5 might be demonstrating, it can take a little time to fit the pieces into place. Some people might very well expect to be able to produce something from nothing in a matter of months. Some might feel that the time invested and the satisfaction that comes from piecing it together could contribute, in a very large part, to the feeling of achievement one gets when their plans come to fruition. Far be it for me to lecture, but we seem to have tried one way. We did tremendous things. Could it be time to try another?
Unless, of course, you can bring me Batman. The Dark Knight up front? Try being commanding in the air with a batarang stuck in your crack, Vidic.