It has long been the view held by a growing number of journalists and fans alike that Chelsea’s modus operandi, their raison d’etre, indeed their sole reason for being is to achieve success in the Champions League.
It is also a view widely held, that in order to define your football club as “big”, said club must deliver a plethora of trophies in Europe. The debate rages on as to what constitutes a “big” club, is it former success, the quality and ability of past/present players, number of supporters, attendances, tragedy, finances, history, European glory or age?
However the question that have been troubling me of late is simply this: who cares?
If indeed, our beloved Blues are now purely a soulless a vehicle with the unwavering aim of delivering the Champions League trophy to Roman’s table whilst “growing the brand” around the world then somebody better tell the fan’s that have turned out in numbers this season to watch Chelsea in the League, FA Cup and League Cup respectively.
Since that fateful night in Moscow in 2008, the Champions League has thrown more hardship, trials, tribulations and misfortune our way than many of the other clubs combined. Any fan who was present at Stamford Bridge in 2009 for the semi final against Barcelona will testify as such, and accordingly there has been a growing disillusionment with the contest as a whole amongst a number of the Chelsea support. The aim of creating a wider European legacy for the football club is clearly an ambition of the owner and by extension the playing staff, but is it really what they all want?
When Ashley Cole spoke of how winning the league was the most important thing for a club, few supporters would argue. Chelsea have delivered four league titles, three in a decade bloated with success for those of us that have seen leaner times in SW6 and one back in 1955, an historical moment for the Blues that is conveniently overlooked when discussions of “size” and “history” are aired.
The scenes at Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season in 2010 will never be forgotten by those in attendance and those watching on tv, the context of the triumph amid a campaign fraught with difficulties and setbacks made the success all the more potent, would the same passion and fervour be on display at Wembley in May after a triumph over say Bayern Munich or AC Milan?
Victory in the Champions League would certainly banish the many ghosts that linger in the corridors and minds of the Chelsea faithful, John Terry’s penalty miss, Ovrebo’s circus act, Drogba’s many, many misdemeanours and even the ghost of the Special One himself. Yet would it however deliver the same emotional punch as the sight of the Blues prising the title from Manchester United’s grip when it seemed out of reach?
Perhaps for many fan’s it does not matter. The continued quest for honours has already delivered unimaginable success to Stamford Bridge in recent years and the sight of JT and Carlo lifting the Champions League trophy would forever cement this sides place in the history books that seem to determine the credibility and perceived size of a club.
Will it silence the doubters, critics and naysayers, sharpening their knives in anticipation at another undignified Chelsea exit? The answer is no. There will always be a “bigger” club. A club with more “history.” The choice that we have to make is to simply ignore them.
Supporters of Chelsea Football Club sing “carefree” in terraces and bars, whether the side are toasting another victory or feeling the pain of defeat. With all the recent struggles of our side in Europe, our motto has never seemed so appropriate. Carefree? Always.