WIN OR LOSE, UP THE BLUES
Waking up early this morning to the news that Jose Mourinho and Chelsea Football Club had parted company in gloriously unpredictable fashion I set about my ritualistic ablutions with some gusto, razor keen to understand more whilst accompanied by the hysterical chatter of Talk Sport’s breakfast crew and the incessant bleeping of my mobile phone which was being bombarded with incoming text-messages.
Congratulations incidentally must go to my dear friend Bertie, a fair-weather fan of all-conquering Tottenham Hotspur, whom as early as 6.45am had dropped me a text informing me that police had been called to West London this morning after reports of a bomb explosion. Don’t be too worried though son, he’d continued, because further investigations had revealed it was just Chelsea’s bubble bursting. Very witty, very droll; cheers Bertie.
I’d waited until I’d finished brushing my teeth before replying. Here Bertie, have you heard? A message from Bin Laden’s just been broadcast on TV to prove he’s still alive. In it he said, ‘Tottenham were sh*t on Saturday.’ British Intelligence were however quick to dismiss the broadcast saying it could have been recorded at any time in the last 15 years.
Gallows humour, proper Chels. Love it!
Taking stock of the situation as I’d calmly made my way to work, a couple of things sprang to mind. The sour look on the faces of Young Dave and Hip Hop Dan as we’d sat, surrounded by scores and scores of empty blue plastic seats and witnessed the Blues farcical performance two nights previously against the mighty Troll Children of Rosenborg and the scandalous timing of the latest twist in the ongoing melodramatic soap opera that is Chelsea Football Club.
£36 was a lot of money to pay to watch a sadly discombobulated Blues team scurry desperately around the pitch with no true sense of purpose or direction, vainly raining shot after shot in the general direction of their well organised and disciplined opponents goal in the forlorn hope that their defence would be breached sufficient times to secure victory. As the disgraceful chorus of boos from sections of so-called Chelsea supporters echoed around a pitifully half-empty Stamford Bridge, and the frustration grew, I remember thinking to myself that something would have to give as we’d got to our feet for a throaty version of ‘One Man Went to Mow’ towards the end of a forgettable match, and give it has.
I recall that rainy night in Porto back in February when, along with several other bemused Blues fans, I’d found myself in the company of Chelsea owner Mr Abramovich and his closest confidante Eugene Tenenbaum and enquired about the security of the Special One’s tenure as manager in the wake of the frenzied speculation about his future which had become increasingly nebulous following the famous disagreement over the initial appointment of Avram Grant.
With all the hallmarks of a playground spat, both protagonists had thrown all their toys out of their respective prams over the affair. Mourinho, his authority already undermined by the appointment of Frank Arnesen and the high profile signing of Andriy Schevchenko had dug his heels in over Grant’s hiring. Mr Abramovich responded by failing to support his manager by making funds available during the January transfer window to bolster Chelsea’s injury ravaged squad. The key beneficiaries of this cataclysmic falling out were Manchester United, who went on to win the Premiership. As usual, it was the honest match-attending Blues fans who were left wringing their hands in frustration at the selfish Johnny Come-Lately attitude of both parties whose egotistical self interest and lack of true-Blue heritage was to prove itself detrimental to the well-being of the football club we cherish.
‘Win or lose … up the Blues,’ oh how we’d wished the old Shed mantra from the parlous Chelsea era of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s could somehow permeate the thick skins of these Stamford Bridge novices.
Not unexpectedly, there was no answer given to our queries about Jose Mourinho’s future, but the body language spoke a thousand words. There had been nothing lost in Mr Tenebaum’s translation, but the shoulder-shrug response and characteristic Abramovich half-smile was enough for us to realise that there was only ever going to be one outcome in this war of attrition.
The whole country became seduced by the epic drama unfolding in SW6. Against the odds, buoyed by the visceral desire to win of both players and manager, Chelsea rallied. The Carling Cup was won, the Blues reached the FA Cup Final, but the dream of Champions League glory turned into a penalty shootout nightmare at Anfield. Winning the FA Cup has turned out to be Jose’s Chelsea swansong. Despite an apparent thawing of the frosty relationship between the Special One and Red Rom, the club statement issued today read: “Early this morning we announced that Chelsea and Jose Mourinho had agreed to part company by mutual consent. The key phrase here is that there was mutual agreement. Jose did not resign and he was not sacked. What is clear, though, is we had all reached a point where the relationship between the club and Jose had broken down. This was despite genuine attempts over several months by all parties to resolve certain differences. The reason the decision has been taken is that we believed the breakdown started to impact on the performance of the team and recent results supported this view. We did not want this to continue or affect the club further”.
Wherever the truth may lie, you can be sure that there will be a gagging clause somewhere in the Special One’s multi-million pound severance contract which will prevent us ever finding out.
The tributes for what Jose Mourinho achieved in three years at Stamford Bridge have come thick fast and effusive from Blues fans everywhere today. Arriving at the Club on the crest of an all-conquering wave, his verve, boundless energy and unflagging self belief, confidence and optimism coupled with a loquacious media manner immediately endeared him not only to Chelsea supporters who saw him as a messiah fashioned in the traditional Kings of the King’s Road style, but also to fans elsewhere who’d been praying for many years to the Great God of Football for an end to the dominance of ‘the’ Arsenal and Manchester United.
Sure enough the Special One delivered what he had promised and broke the red axis of evil, but he did so in a manner apparently out of step with his employer’s wishes, playing football in a style deemed unattractive. Personally, I wasn’t complaining too much and neither were the long suffering Gate 17 boys around me who’d been brought up on a meagre diet of Second Division football and sporadic Full Members Cup triumphs.
Jose, for the two Premiership titles, FA Cup and two Carling Cup’s you brought Chelsea, to say nothing of all the endearing humour that went with it … thank you.
Mr Abramovich, thank you for saving Chelsea Football Club from a fate worse than Leeds United’s. You have made our club great again. For this we are eternally grateful. It’s a great shame that you and Jose couldn’t see eye to eye on team affairs and work things out, but that’s life. It’s your football club, you must do as you see fit, however I don’t believe a word I’ve read in the papers that the Blues new temporary gaffer, an overweight puppet who looks like he has severe learning difficulties and has never played a professional game of football in his life, is actually capable of picking a team. This leads me to believe that it will be you who selects the first eleven for the game with Manchester United this coming Sunday. With this in mind please pick Joe Cole. Cheers Roman!
See you at Old Trafford
Up the Chels!
Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classic Over Land and Sea. His new book, Blue Murder, Chelsea till I die, is out now. Signed copies of both books are available to buy with free postage within the UK at www.overlandandsea.net