With celebratory hangovers waning and the Blues season triumphantly over, many fans will have returned to the humdrum normality of day-to-day life still pinching themselves now and again to check they are awake and that the events that unfolded over the last couple of months of this campaign were not part of an elaborate dream.
On Saturday 15th May 2010, Chelsea became only the seventh Club in the history of the game to do the Double. It’s worth pointing out here that two of those teams, Preston North End and Aston Villa achieved the feat in a sepia-tinged era two centuries ago when Queen Victoria sat on the Throne. Rottenham Dropspur managed it once in black and white almost fifty years ago, leaving Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United as the only outfits to have done the double in colour … albeit a horrible shade of red. The Blues won it in High Definition.
With the Premier League title having been secured with an emphatic 8-0 victory over Wigan Athletic on the final day of what had been a gloriously unpredictable season, many had expected a similar rout of Pompey at Wembley. The Blues journey to the Cup Final had hardly been a taxing one with Watford, Preston, Cardiff, Stoke and Villa brushed aside with contemptuous ease … 16 goals scored and just 1 conceded … surely there was more to come. In the end Chelsea huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 win, though a score-line of 7-2 in the Blues favour could quite easily have been the outcome.
We love the FA Cup; it’s in our blood, a part of the rich tapestry first woven by Ossie and the original king’s of the Kings Road … as for winning the league, well that’s another matter. Bentley’s Boys won it for the first time in 1955 and then Chelsea had to wait a full half-century to repeat the feat and that, as we are often reminded by critics of our Club, was achieved with the financial backing of owner Mr Roman Abramovich and the tactical nous of coach Jose Mourinho. ‘That’s why we’re Champion’s’, was the popular chant as the Blues bludgeoned their way to back-to-back titles … but then sadly, the dream started to turn sour.
At the time of his controversial departure, Jose Mourinho, the self-styled ‘Special One’ had not only managed to divide opinion amongst the True Blue Massive but also turn our beloved Chelsea into the most vilified team in the land. ‘Everyone loves a winner’, so the saying goes, but trust me, there were plenty of match-going, old-school supporters in and around SW6 who had grown tired of Jose’s divisive self-aggrandisement by the time he left.
Don’t get me wrong, what Mourinho achieved in his short spell in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat was sensational and being at the Reebok to witness scintillating Super Frank seal the first of those back-to-back titles is etched forever at the forefront of my memory.
What a day that was. Cheers Jose!
No one can cast aspersions on Mourinho’s credentials as a football coach … but the man is at the centre of his own universe; a narcissistic and Machiavellian pantomime villain so in love with himself, I wouldn’t be surprised to read in the tabloids one day that he likes to masturbate naked in front of a mirror with his winners medals around his neck. To witness Jose cavorting across the lush green expanse of the Camp Nou after his Inter Milan side had eliminated Barcelona from this seasons Champions League competition cemented the thought many already had in their minds that Mourinho genuinely views himself to be bigger than any Club that employs him.
When Internationale and Jose were drawn to play Chelsea in the preceding round we all knew in our heart of hearts what the outcome would be. Jose would have the last laugh over Mr Abramovich and his old adversary Carlo Ancelotti when push came to shove … as it did more often than not every time a Blues player got the ball.
I wasn’t laughing though; I was gutted … and doubly so on March 21st 2010 when Chelsea threw away an early lead in the league game at Blackburn that followed. ‘Ancelottery’, cried the cynics as the Blues annoyingly drew 1-1. At that time, Carlo’s record in his past nine matches read four wins, four defeats and one draw, it was hardly a display of title-winning credentials and his charges were now four points behind Manchester United and two behind Arsenal, though with a game in hand.
Was Carlo’s dream going to implode? Avram Grant and Phil Scolari had failed in their endeavours to step out of the shadow of Mourinho, Guus Hiddink did so briefly but couldn’t be persuaded to stay. What now for the Italian? What now for Chelsea? Would any man ever be able to unshackle the Blues from the association with Mourinho as the greatest manager of them all?
With baited breath, we watched, we waited and we hoped.
Ancelotti was resolute, he accepted that Chelsea had to beat Portsmouth in their next game to revive their title aspirations, but winning at Fratton Park would represent only the start of the arduous task he was facing. The amiable farmers son from Reggiolo had a maximum of ten matches in the league and FA Cup in which to turn round the Blues season and his level of success would determine not only his future at Stamford Bridge, but also that of several key players, the direction of the club as a whole, and of course the way he is perceived by the supporters.
No pressure then! Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Stamford Bridge a winner. Victorious as both player and manager with AC Milan, the first thing that struck me about Carletto was the fact he is a genuine football man. Imbued in the great traditions of the game, was he to be the manager who would build an ‘identity’ for Chelsea crafted in the fashion so coveted by Mr Abramovich? In the final analysis, the answer has to be a resounding YES!
At the outset, Carlo had implemented his preferred diamond formation, but he’d been quick to revert to the Chelsea’s long-standing 4-3-3 after the first few signs of trouble, and whilst the faithful Blue flock may have wavered in their beliefs along the way, especially on the long journey home from Ewood Park, surely now, even the surliest of non-believers have converted to the Church of Carlo. ‘I believe in God,’ Ancelotti had said, as we wondered if divine intervention was required to assist him in his duties. ‘I pray for personal matters, not for football. I think God has better things to do.’
Maybe the Man Upstairs recognized Carlo’s humility. Maybe the Man Upstairs had grown tired of Jose’s posturing and preening. Maybe, just maybe, the Man Upstairs was a Chelsea supporter.
Chelsea plundered 34 goals in the nine games that followed the disappointing showing against Blackburn and conceded just four. The capitulation of Pompey may have been expected, but the swashbuckling manner in which Aston Villa and Stoke were put to the sword and the victories at Old Trafford and Anfield endorsed the belief that Ancelotti had enough in his locker to radically transform Chelsea’s fortunes. The Blues had scored 72 league goals in each of Jose Mourinho’s title winning campaigns … this season Carlo’s boys mustered 103 on their journey to glory.
Look at the players. Yes we all know about Frankie Boy and JT but what about the others? Under Ancelotti, Florent Malouda has been a revelation. Unshackled from his restrictive wingers chains, the Frenchman has darted back and forth across the attacking line operating virtually as a third striker behind the re-vitalised golden-booted Drog and imperious Nicolas Anelka. Did you honestly ever think you’d see Salomon Kalou score a hat-trick? Deco fleetingly back at his shimmering best? Ballack playing football without a cigar in his hand? The only true disappointment if there is one has been the inability of Joe Cole to regain and sustain his form … but then he did score that bejeweled Zola-esque goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United to set Chelsea on their way to victory against their nearest rivals for the title.
It could be argued that Chelsea should have secured the title long before the final day of the season and that’s as maybe. A pristine 100% record against United, Arsenal and Liverpool suggests it should have been easier than it was, but then Chelsea wouldn’t be Chelsea without the odd flakey result here and there. Injuries to key players like Ashley Cole and Michael Essien didn’t help matters along the way and then of course came the John Terry affair.
Each and every challenge that Carlo Ancelotti has faced during the course of this season has been dealt with diligently, with good spirit and in ever improving English. The Blues are worthy Double winners. Carlo Ancelotti has achieved more in his first season as manager than any man before him and he has also exorcised the irksome ghost of Jose Mourinho from the hallowed halls of Stamford Bridge a feat which seems to have skipped the attention of both the Premier League and his peer group.
Roy Hodgson and Harry Redknapp are both likeable fellows. Fulham exceeded their own modest expectations by reaching the final of Europe’s second tier tournament where they lost to Athletico Madrid. In the league, Hodgson steered them to a creditable 12th place finish. Roy Hodgson was voted ‘manager of the year’ by his peers. Harry Redknapp’s Spurs side finished 4th in the league guaranteeing Champions League Football at White Hart Lane next season. For his endeavours, Redknapp was named ‘manager of the year’ by the Premier League.
Question: What do Roy and Harry have in common, apart from the fact they are both English?
Answer: They both won nothing in the 2009/2010 season.
Here is a list of Chelsea’s ‘first team’ achievements this season under Carlo Ancelotti.
Community Shield winners
Premier League winners
FA Cup Winners
Didier Drogba ‘Golden Boot’
Petr Cech ‘Golden Gloves’
103 league goals scored (new Premier league record)
In each of the past three seasons Sir Alex Ferguson was named manager of the year for his title winning exploits, this following on from two consecutive victories for a certain Jose Mourinho.
So what about Signor Ancelotti?
Why have his remarkable achievements been ignored?
I can honestly say, I haven’t a clue.
One thing’s for certain though, Blues fans across the world are unified now in their support and respect for the man who brought the Double to Stamford Bridge.
All hail the new king of the Kings Road. ‘Carlo, Carlo, Carlo’.
Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classics ‘Over Land and Sea’, ‘Blue Murder … Chelsea till I die’ and ‘One Man Went to Mow’ and the co-author of ‘Chelsea here Chelsea there’. Copies are available to buy with a discount of up to 50% and free postage within the UK at www.overlandandsea.net.