May arrived sooner than we knew it, which meant that the season was racing to an end, with a long barren summer ahead of us.
Guus Hiddink’s reign was coming to an end, and with the Premier League seemingly Manchester United’s to lose, Chelsea were left to focus on the FA Cup Final against Everton at the end of the month, and the Champions League where we would have to negotiate our way past Barcelona to reach the Rome final.
Fulham were beaten 3-1 by the Blues on the 2nd May as we went through the motions in the league, but all eyes were on the mid-week meeting with Barca at the Bridge.
Having battled to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp, it looked like we were in the driving seat for the second-leg. We needed to stop them scoring and bag at least one goal for ourselves and after Michael Essien scored one of the greatest ever Chelsea goals inside the first ten minutes, it was party time at Stamford Bridge.
But as we pushed for a second, various concrete penalty appeals were oddly turned down by referee Tom Henning Ovebro, and as the fury of the fans reached fever pitch, we all knew at the back of our minds that something bad was destined to happen.
In injury-time, it happened. A swing of the boot from Andres Iniesta resulted in an equaliser, and an away goal which would see the Catalan giants go through to the final.
There was still time for one more penalty to be turned down, and Didier Drogba to teach young Chelsea fans a new word, while Michael Ballack also proved he isn’t yet past it by sprinting almost the full length of the pitch to pursue the hapless referee.
But it didn’t change the fact that Chelsea were out of the Champions League. Again. And through controversial circumstances. Again.
While UEFA decided whether to hang, draw and quarter Drogba and Ballack, life went on for Chelsea and a trip to the Emirates Stadium followed the disappointing night at the Bridge. Could we bounce back from that? Of course we could.
Alex, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda and the helpful Kolo Toure – netting an own goal – helped us to an emphatic 4-1 win over Arsenal, with Nicklas Bendtner scoring the consolation for the home side. It was the perfect antidote to a sick-inducing week.
Routine wins over Blackburn and Sunderland followed as we secured third place and saw out the Premier League season.
But the big one was now at Wembley on May 30th. Three days before, Barcelona swaggered past Manchester United in Rome to take the Champions League title but we had our own final to play against Everton at the so-called home of football in London.
The sun shone, the flags were waving, and Louis Saha scored after 26 seconds.
But Everton were poor on the day and Chelsea had points to prove and a season to salvage. Drogba levelled the scores before a long-range Frank Lampard goal put the Blues ahead. With the fans singing: “We want you to stay,” in the direction of Guus Hiddink, Chelsea held on to win the FA Cup for a fifth time and secure silverware at the end of a tumultuous season which, to begin with promised plenty, then nothing, and then with Hiddink’s arrival, promised plenty again.
Although it goes without saying that the Premier League and Champions League were our top priority, the FA Cup is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. It’s quickly becoming our favourite tournament, and Wembley is almost our second home, so to win it is always a huge privilege.
Hiddink proved himself to be a winner, while the squad also underwent some transformation after the Dutchman’s arrival. Alex went from lumbering giant to dependable defender, Malouda went from a poor imitation of a footballer to a world-beating winger, while Drogba bagged some vital goals having been marginalised under Luis Felipe Scolari.
So, after 59 games, it’s all over for another season.
August cannot come soon enough.