I remember it well. June 2003, I got a phone call off a friend who lived in London saying that “some wealthy Russian Oil bloke” had brought Chelsea FC off Ken Bates for somewhere in the region of £150m. Now I didn’t really pay much attention at first, until I picked up the paper in the coming days and the news didn’t escape any back page (even the Daily mail!) for about a week afterwards. Not a lot of people would of said this Russian bloke is going to turn “that mid-table club who are nearly bankrupt” into one of the most formidable teams in world football. Critics labelled us “a toy” for a wealthy man to flex his muscles. What nobody expected (myself included) was the aggressive yet systematic approach the club undertook to create a ‘World brand’ to rival that of Manchester United, Real Madrid & Barcelona. Peter Kenyon was appointed as Chief executive and the club spent a further £150m in that first summer. Under Ranieri, we finished 2nd (up from 4th in the previous season) and got knocked out of the European Cup at the semi-final stage by a Mourinho managed Porto. Roman wasn’t satisfied though and Ranieri lost his job that summer and Jose was quickly appointed for his first stint as boss.
Roman was keen to build on that first year and sanctioned further purchases to strengthen the squad. Reports suggested that as well as attractive football, the owner was keen on making Chelsea FC known worldwide (The amount of CFC shirts I’m seeing in Africa is amazing – and for the record I’ve not seen ONE Spurs shirt!) Our first league title was delivered and the sight of the Owner with Frank Lampard and John Terry at Bolton is a fond memory of most Chelsea supporters. His passion for the game and for the club in those early years were quite obvious and even though he is not been seen as much at games in recent seasons, I’m sure this passion for the club particularly still burns strong.
Now, we can sit here and go through every single decision he has made over the years (whether right or wrong – I figure he never believes he’s wrong) but let have a look at the facts; In his first 10 years we have won 3xPremier Leagues, 4x FA Cups, 2xLeague Cups, 2xCommunity Shields, 1x European Cup, 1x Europa League. So 11 major trophies in 10 years (We’ll forget the Community Shields) Yes, we’ve had the same number of managers but we can counter the “You’ve got no stability” argument by saying, unlike other clubs that are quite content not to win anything for 8 seasons (and counting) our owner is clearly desperate to win, in some cases, no matter the cost. Yes, we’d all like stability, but are bragging rights just as important?!
The club is now moving forward into a different phase of growth. With FIFAs’ financial fair play coming in the emphasis will be more on home-grown talent with fewer additions to the squad with perhaps the same number of players leaving to keep the books balanced. I saw that we’ve spent £875m on players in 10 years and £1.5b on wages, anybody with half a brain can see that is not a sustainable business model moving into the future where extravagant spending will come under the spotlight by the wider audience (FIFA). An area of massive investment that will help us achieve this is of course our world-class training facilities at Cobham and our Academy.
When we won the European Cup last year it satisfied the owners ultimate passion. Chelsea were literally at the top of the pile for everyone to see. With the appointment of Jose, I’m sure this hunger to add further titles (both domestically and abroad) will only wet Romans appetite even further. We have young, exciting players who are being given a chance this season to impress and I feel we are in for a very good season.
Finally, let us not forget what we are. Privileged. Privileged that Mr Abramovich decided to purchase this club. Yes, some decisions the fans haven’t agreed with, both with changes to the playing staff and also executive positions on the clubs board. But we can’t dwell on the past, even our past glories need to be put to bed (but of course brought out when required), we need look forward to another 10 years and more. More success, more trophies and more memories of this club that we can pass down to our younger fans.
Here’s to another 10 successful years Mr Abramovich. Spasiba.
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