Listen chaps, I’m not one for telling people what to do; it’s just not my nature. As a rule I’m demure, retiring, softly-spoken and refreshingly modest (for one so brilliant). However, on this occasion I’ll have to break the habit of a lifetime and get all dictatorial on you. Allow me to explain…
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a club called Chelsea. There was even a song written about them. It was called…and I kid you not…Chelsea Chelsea.
Chelsea were the best. I don’t mean the best in the sense that they had the best name (even though they did), or the best strip (even though they did), or the best crest or location or anything like that. I mean they really were the best. How do I know…? Well, I looked at the league table.
I saw their captain lift so many shiny metal things with handles (trophies I believe they’re called) that I presumed, in my naivety, that they were rather good. I was wrong.
So bad were they in fact, so utterly horrendous, that their owner (a Russian chap well known for his frankness and approachability) imposed global superstars upon them and generally started sticking his oar in. These superstars arrived on higher wages than everyone else. Well, they were superstars, and everyone else just had to lump it.
The manager (a little known underachiever by the name of Jose) converted from his tried and tested (and ludicrously successful) 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 with a narrow diamond in order to accommodate two such superstars.
The superstars (surprise surprise) didn’t perform, things got tetchy, a threadbare squad was further decimated by an unprecedented injury crisis, Jose had to put square pegs in round holes, yet the owner refused to sanction any signings in the window because he was short of a few bob that month. There was his wife’s alimony, and his kid’s birthday, and what with the mortgage and all the bills, well, we all know what it’s like.
Of course this then lead to speculation. I don’t mean a little speculation. I mean a lot of speculation. Chelsea were the lead story every day for six months. Wherever they played opposing fans would chant; “You’re getting sacked in the summer” – and so on.
The Chelsea job was a difficult job, made to look remarkably easy. The media did all in their power to create unrest. Expectation was huge, the pressure immense, and failure unthinkable. “Did Jose buckle?” I hear you ask. Did he let the unrest affect his players…?
Those of you asking such silly questions don’t know Jose very well I take it. He was working in intolerable circumstances, pressure not only coming from outside but within, yet amazingly his side continued competing on all four fronts right up until the season’s end, exerting every last sinew of effort, often clutching victory from the jaws of defeat, never knowing when they were beaten, and generally showing an obstinacy not seen since the days of that bloke in Big Brother who kept getting nominated but kept surviving the public vote. .
The fans loved him. They’d waited a lifetime for him. For once, they were top of the pile, a side that no longer conceded last minute goals, but scored them. A side that defied the odds rather than confirming them. A side that just had an air about them. An air never before associated with Chelsea. Previously, sides had always fancied their chances against the Blues. Not any more.
More than anything, for the first time in living memory, he made Chelsea consistent. Hitherto, Chelsea had always been able to turn on the style. It wasn’t that hard. They trounced opponents 4-0 only to follow that up with a shock cup exit to the likes of Scunthorpe. That was Chelsea. That’s what Jose had to compete with upon arriving, a deeply-ingrained culture of unpredictability, and an inferiority complex.
Chelsea were special in their own way, charming even. But they didn’t dine at the top table with blue-chip clubs. Oh no, those clubs all dressed in red. Jose changed all that. He made Chelsea predictable. And boy was it special.
As a reward, he got told to keep his trap shut (akin to asking a gorilla not to nick all the bananas), to adopt a more expansive style, and to field the Russian’s trophy signings. Inevitably, it all went a bit skew-whiff, if you can call losing two games in your last sixteen and winning the FA Cup in the process skew-whiff.
So Jose departed, and was replaced by the Russian’s mate, Billy No Mark, whom no-one had ever heard of. He was less handsome than the Russian, less charismatic (even though no-one had the foggiest what sort of person the Russian was), less successful, and less revered. Some speculated these were the very attributes which got him the job.
Billy No Mark said he was appointed to improve the playing style, omitting to mention that in his native land his sides had a reputation for being dour and boring. If it was thrills they were after, surely they should have just called in Britney Spears.
Despite being in his mid-fifties, Billy No Mark didn’t have his own coaching staff, so the club head hunted personnel from other clubs whom he had never worked with. Always a good strategy.
The club went into decline. At first, the mentality instilled in the players under Jose stood them in good stead. However, the more the season entered the business-end, where a leader of fortitude and bravery was required, someone who got going as the going got tough, the more the cracks appeared, until it all went tits up and the club even failed to make top four. Some had seen the glaringly obvious from the outset and predicted it.
What possessed the Russian…? Well, he was good at business. He was good at getting his own way. Throw money at something and it usually went the way he wished. He thought he could apply the same principles to football. He was new to the game thus neglected to realise it’s not an exact science.
Yes, his money had been pivotal, but ego got the better of him, and he failed to realise the role played by the manager, without whom the trophy cabinet would have remained bare. He wanted to impose his own ideas upon the side. He didn’t want someone with his own mind. He was used to being obeyed.
Thus he appointed his mate. His mate did as he was told, so grateful was he to be in gainful employment. There was a small matter of a UEFA Coaching Badge, but they quickly got round that little side issue. Then there was the fact he couldn’t train on the Sabbath. But that didn’t matter, seeing as he never took training anyway. In fact, as became abundantly apparent, he didn’t even do team talks, preferring instead to leave them to others.
So what exactly did he do…? Well, he picked the team, or at least wrote the team down, having been told who’s playing. Good work if you can get it. Here was a man who had neither his own methodology nor his own philosophy. Rather, he could pander to any of the Russian’s whims. I Won’t Do It My Way, I’ll Do It Your Way was his mantra. Not a mantra often heard amongst the higher echelons of coaches. Things had certainly moved on since Bill Shankley’s day.
Jose held a press conference. He loved Chelsea, the club were still in his heart. He didn’t dismiss the idea of returning one day, presumably if the brief was somewhat different than before. Was he holding out an olive branch, or just teasing…? Hard to say. All we did know with absolute certainty was he was out of work, but that would change come the summer.
At Chelsea, he had the finances to compete, he had the world’s media in his thrall, and he was centre stage, in the place to be. The world’s most popular league, and the world’s most cosmopolitan city.
And that my friends, is the end of the fable. We, as fans, have a decision to make, starting at Stamford Bridge against Derby. Some will be loathe to create further unrest in the hope that their unswerving support will aid us in our quest for glory. Others have seen enough and know full well the present incumbent’s incapable of delivering anything more than a pizza.
Sorry, but some of us have been watching football long enough to know a dud when we see one. Does chanting for The Special One harm our chances…? No more I’d venture than actually sacking him. If The Special One’s ever to return to our club, however unlikely that appears, the fans’ voices need to be heard, if only as a vote of no-confidence in the way our club is being run.
Grant’s appointment was unacceptable, even for someone who’s ploughed in as much money as Roman. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner the dissenting voices start getting louder the better. We can tell the board whom we want to replace him, even if they’ll never approach him, and even if he’ll never say ‘Yes’ anyway. It may at least lead to them appointing a proper manager, someone with credentials, rather than someone who canoodles up to the owner.
For the sake of our club, Roman Abramovich has to learn to butt out of team affairs, and leave them in the care of someone qualified. Some will say Grant deserves time. Not me. I say he didn’t deserve the job in the first place. And Jose didn’t deserve to be sacked.
So; BRING BACK THE SPECIAL ONE!
Why…? It’s perfectly simple really. I love Chelsea Football Club.