Chelsea are back. Oh yes, Chelsea are back all right. Since the mid-Summer appointment of Luiz Felipe Scolari the expectations of Blues fans have been steadily growing, gaining momentum as the players we hold dear to our hearts have enthusiastically endorsed the new regime. “He understands football and he understands the lads,” gushed John Terry. “Pre-season has been good. Actually, it has been very different. Under José, we never did any running, but, with Scolari, we have had our trainers on and done 1,000 metres, which is similar to the Vialli and Ranieri style of thinking. And I feel great, I feel good. We are feeling good, we are looking good and we are preparing well.”
The globalization of the Blues brand means that Team Chelsea, no longer play tricky pre-season friendly’s against lower league opposition whose players are keen to impress against the cream of the crop. Chelsea looked slick on their tour of the far East and Russia but the mediocre opponents and reserve outfits they faced could not be viewed as an accurate barometer of how things were progressing under Big Phil.
Camaraderie, has never really been an issue for Chelsea’s players under JTs captaincy, but it was refreshing to hear the man wax lyrical about the mood in the camp. “I see something off the field, a togetherness that I’ve never seen among a group of players great set of players combined, it could be fantastic.When the chips were down – injuries, new manager, different things happening at the club – I saw the players come together, be open and speak to each other. I’ll never forget that. I think that’s taken us to another level of us being closer. With an awesome manager and great set of players combined, it could be fantastic.”
Stirring stuff indeed from captain courageous, coming as it did just a week or so before the season opener against FA Cup winners, Portmouth. A few days later Frank Lampard finally ended the lengthy speculation surrounding his future at Stamford Bridge by signing a new five year contract. “I feel for sure I’ve made 100 per cent the right decision, for myself, for my family and for Chelsea Football Club,” said Frank, who’s new £33 million five year deal makes him the highest paid 30 year old in the history of the game.
If John Terry is the heart and lungs of 21st century Chelsea, Frank Lampard is the spirit and soul. Super Frank is a model professional, a true ambassador of the game and the epitome of what representing Chelsea Football Club is all about. Mr Abramovich knows that, and that is why he sanctioned the new contract. Lampard’s financial demands may have been viewed as exorbitant, greedy even, but that’s the way the modern game has evolved. “I think it helped coming back, training at Chelsea, seeing my team-mates, seeing the manager, feeling comfortable among the lads,” Frankie said during the press announcement that followed the successful conclusion of contract negotiations. “The Man United game and what they did there was a big thing. I sat and watched that game with my family and when they removed their shirts [dedicating the victory to his mother] it was a very emotional moment. I will never forget it. I can’t speak highly enough of the lads and what they did. John as a captain creates that kind of spirit and the others follow because they are all great lads. When you go to your mum’s funeral, you don’t expect all the players to go there; you might expect a representative from the club. I had all the lads there. And that’s something that goes beyond football and shows you what real friendships are.”
It’s boys own stuff which could be scripted for a cheesy film. Eyes moistening with tears, chest swelling with pride, you read and re-read JT and Super Frank’s lines. Chelsea united under Scolari, Chelsea united. Chelsea, Chelsea Chelsea! The start of the season couldn’t come soon enough.
Not only has Luiz Felipe Scolari reinvigorated the Chelsea dressing room but he has inadvertently reunified the Blues match-going support, and this for me is single most important benefit of his hiring thus far. The sacking of Jose Mourinho and subsequent appointment of Avram Grant was divisive, mutinous almost. On many occasions, the mood inside Stamford Bridge was downright ugly. Arguments, fist-fights and derogatory chanting were common-place, but it seems that Big Phil is indeed the spoonful of sugar that’s helped all that bad medicine finally go down.
Scolari’s Chelsea destroyed Portsmouth. The Blues were fitter, faster and more creative than Pompey. New boy Deco delivered what was expected of him and John Obi Mikel was a revelation in midfield. Total football, it was almost too much to behold. 4-0 it should have been 40-0. In true Chelsea fashion, the most enthusiastic chant of the afternoon was reserved for Wayne Bridge who, whilst warming up in front of the Matthew Harding Stand, was treated to a splendid rendition of ‘Follow, follow, follow there were only two minutes to go. It was Wayne Bridge’s goal that sent us out of control and knocked the Arsenal out of Euro … two three four.’
Blink and you missed it. 3-0 up come the lemon-break. Brilliant! Hand’s were shaken, the fives were high. Bemused, we watched the spectacle unfold. Cheering and clapping. The hiatus is over, the multitude of disappointments that blighted last season forgotten. Unity on the pitch and unity in the stands, one nation under a Brazilian samba groove. Whilst Chelsea will face far sterner examinations of their capabilities this season, the portents look good. ‘Chelsea are back, Chelsea are back. Hello, hello, Chelsea are back!’
See you at the game!
Mark Worrall is the author of cult terrace classics ‘Over Land and Sea’ and ‘Blue Murder … Chelsea till I die’, his new book ‘One Man Went to Mow’ is out now. Copies are available to buy with a discount of up to 30% and free postage within the UK at http://www.overlandandsea.net/