It hasn’t been easy for Chelsea bloggers this season. As a regular ranter and raver on the World Wide Web, I have found very little to write about. A trawl through the papers reveals that Chelsea are often conspicuous by their absence. The odd injury here and there to read about but precious little else. So little has been happening at the club to excite the people at Sky Sports News that days go by without CFC getting even a mention. It’s the same story on Jeff Stelling’s Soccer Saturday and Brian Woolnough’s Sunday Supplement. Even with the Rooney saga over, we still hardly ever get a mention.
And when we do get a mention we seem to be everybody seems to love us. Bloody hell, this is something I have never experienced in forty five years of being a Chelsea fan. We even get the odd, begrudging mention when the pundits are raving over the Gooners’ beautiful (albeit ineffective) football.
In a world were sensationalism takes precedence over substance, where the debate over whether Coleen had a boob job or not is more newsworthy than the recent spending review, I would say that this absence from both the front and back pages is a positive development. If you’re old enough go back forty years and try and remember when Chelsea made the headlines for any length of time for anything other than negative stories.
The first headlines I remember were about the fallout between Dave Sexton and Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson. Then came the long saga of the club being perennially on the brink of bankruptcy. When Ken Bates took over he quickly became a one man headline making machine, not least when he announced that he was putting up an electric fence around the playing area at Stamford Bridge. Then came the foreigners thing with Chelsea being blamed for every ill befalling English football and the lack of players eligible to for England. When Jose’ Mourinho finally arrived in 2004 he made Ken Bates look like a shrinking violet with the press. You don’t get a more headline grabbing introduction than when someone declares himself as The Special One on his first day at work.
Since the John Terry affair nine months ago the tabloids have only had Ashley Cole to dig their grimy nails into, but somehow they haven’t managed to come up with something sensational to keep the story on the front pages. While St. Cheryl does her best to keep the story alive, Cole has kept his head low and got on the business of being the best left back in the world by some distance.
One man should take the credit for this and his name is Carlo Ancelotti. His was never going to be an easy job. Two managers had tried to fill Mourinho’s massive shoes and failed. Then came Guus Hiddink who in a matter of months won over the hearts of the Chelsea faithful. When Carlo took over, he not only had to win over the pro-Jose’ brigade but also the newly founded Guus Hiddink Appreciation Society.
I will hold up my hand and admit that when Ancelotti took over I wasn’t quite sure whether he would be up to the task. With AC Milan, his star was fading fast and he
looked stale. Silvio Berlusconi, with no elections looming and too busy chasing nubile eighteen year olds, refused to release some of his ill gotten funds and Milan were going nowhere fast.
The first signs at Chelsea didn’t look encouraging and despite the early results I am sure I was in a majority that was not enamoured of Ancelotti’s diamond formation in which Frank Lampard looked like a kid who got lost on his first day at school. But credit to the man, within a couple of months he acknowledged the error of his ways, reverted back to the tried and trusted 4 – 3 – 3 formation and duly won the double.
There were a couple of lows during the season that not surprisingly coincided with Chelsea being in the headlines. In the Premiership the slump came around when the John Terry affair hit the front pages, while the elimination from the Champions League was preceded by the hullabaloo of Jose’s return to The Bridge. Jose’, as is his method and right, milked the event to its very last drop with the result that our players approached the game not a hundred per cent focused as they should have been when playing a top European team.
It thankfully looks like the lesson has been learned and much as we bloggers hate it, Carlo and the rest of the Chelsea hierarchy have made sure that CFC column inches have been meagre since March and when we have made the headlines it was for the right footballing reasons.
For all I know at this very minute the News of the World has one of its reporters somewhere in Pakistan working on an exclusive in which a leading Chelsea player is alleged to have shagged Bin Laden’s daughter. Or that another player is the illegitimate son of a paedophile priest (what would the NOTW pay for that kind of story?). But if the past few months have been anything to go by it does seem highly unlikely.
If nothing else Carlo Ancelotti has shown that there really is more than one way to skin a cat. Jose’ created a siege mentality to create a winning team. He made sure that everyone hated Chelsea to motivate his players, which worked for him. Carlo has gone right to the other end of the scale and with his effortless and understated charm made Chelsea’s everybody’s favourite second team, which works equally well for him.