As we prepare to play our 69th and final game against Everton on Sunday, everyone will look back on another season of ups and downs that has become almost the norm for the past 10 years. I heard that our Europa League triumph on Wednesday was our 11th trophy in 9 seasons with 10 different managers over-seeing that success. Its not a bad record if we’re honest and only the most pig-headed of fans would turn around and say its not. I was glued to twitter on Wednesday night following the game as best I could as I’m currently in Africa for 4 months due to my work commitments. however, the distance did not dampen my passion or excitement from what was, by all accounts, another highly charged and emotional final which had us all on edge right until the last minute when Ivanovic rose Salmon-esque at the back post to loop THAT header past a helpless Artur in the Benfica net.
Credit has to go to the players first and foremost because of the gruelling season they have gone through. We will play 69 matches this season, a trip to Japan and a (pointless) trip to the USA after the Everton game, not to mention the possibility of a “3rd place play-off” against Arsenal, should results go that way on Sunday. We’ve got a relatively small squad which was made more difficult in January with the Sale of Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool. Our first XI is strong with quality all over the pitch but beyond that we struggle to find any real match winners to come off the bench. This has to be a task of the new manager coming in to sort out immediately. With the future of Frank sorted for at least one more season (Which we’re all delighted about) whoever comes in must look at Essien, Lukaku & Cortuois and bring them back into the fold or move them on and replace them with real quality. I personally would like to see all 3 back at the bridge next season and given a real go of cracking the first team, especially the goalkeeper. I feel that Petr Cech has had no real quality back-up since Carlo Cudicini left and with all due respect to Ross Turnbull, He’s not a goalkeeper you would put in a top team. I sense, from Twitter & what I’ve managed to read since I’ve been out here that everyone is looking forward to next season and what it might offer.
Now I feel obliged to talk briefly about Rafa Benitez. I don’t like the bloke, I don’t really rate him as a man-manager (from what I’ve seen) and I don’t think he has done himself ANY favours over the past 6 months he’s been in charge BUT history will be written that he won a European trophy whilst managing our club and I don’t think we can rip out that particular page out just because of what he did and said in the past whilst managing another side, who at the time were our main English rivals in Europe. Factor in the fact Mourinho always had the upper hand on him when it came to the press and the affection of the neutral supporter, his frustrations were obviously going to be a broad swipe at the club. We were the “new kids on the block” so-to-speak. We were successful immediately with some of the best players in Europe wearing blue. I’ve sat through banter and abuse from friends and complete strangers (Like I’m sure we all have), Man Utd have a song of our “hollow” title successes and we all know ALOT of people dont like what the club stand for. He wasn’t to know that 7 years down the line he’d be asked to manage Chelsea. Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future and if we did, I’d certainly be out of a job because the situations I’m employed to deal with wouldn’t be there. I think, from my point of view anyway, is that as difficult as it is to say, credit where credit is due for Rafa. He was employed with the minimum pre-requisite of achieving Champions League football next season & maybe win a trophy as a bonus. Well he’s got both those boxes ticked and in turn made us the 1st club to win a Champions League trophy followed by the Europa League. I appreciate that probably 95% of people who read this will disagree with what I’ve said & probably give me a torrid time on twitter. I’ve given the bloke credit, not endorsed his appointment, management style or decisions. He’s been in charge of the club we all support and love and for that reason, petty arguments, speeches and comments all should be pushed to the back of our minds (I didn’t say forgotten about) We love having our backs to the wall don’t we?! Us against everybody else? I’d still support Chelsea if Piers Morgan himself was put in charge (Well, actually maybe not Piers Morgan but you know what I mean!)
I’m sat here wondering one last thing; For those who read this and are lucky enough to be going to our final home game this season… Can you find it in yourself to applaud Rafa if he chooses to take part in a lap of honour around the pitch?! Then think about this; how would we look if we jeered him?
Thanks for reading.
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