So thanks to an unnamed source at this website, I was called up by Russian radio to comment on the Stamford Bridge managerial merry-go-round and to give the fans’ perspective. Little did the unnamed source, the Russian radio presenter, or the Russian listening audience know that much as I love the fans’ perspective, I’m much keener on my own perspective, you know, the one from the bridge.
I suppose in that respect this column is a bit of a misnomer. It purports to be a view from the bridge, that of the everyman, as Arthur Miller might have wanted, but really it’s just one view from the bridge: mine. Arthur Miller may feel that his point has been somewhat misinterpreted, in much the same way as when cast members cheerily refer to the production as a poo from the fridge.
But who cares about Arthur Miller? The crux of the interview was this: would you take the job of Chelsea manager? Now obviously, my knee-jerk reaction was, fuck yeah. Which might have pushed the obscenity boundaries of the radio station except that fookyeh is Russian for “that’s an interesting proposition, it depends on the compensation package.” (I paraphrase but it’s pretty accurate, trust me.)
Fookyeh. And you’d have said the same thing. But I’m not sure that was the point the interviewer was seeking. The question he was really asking was “would ANYONE take the job?” ie, with an unreasonable owner who thinks nothing of ‘destroying’ a manager’s career, why would any sane man take it? Which is a legitimate question, I suppose, if coming from someone who knows nothing about football.
Our owner wants to have everything. He wants a winning team, and he wants to win over the opposition’s fans. He wants sexy football, and he wants results. And he wants it now. All in all, this is quite a lot to ask. But then, on the flip side, he’s given quite a lot to get it. I’d say over a billion pounds.
This simplification of things illustrates why Chelsea are currently something of an open target. People who know nothing about football chip in about money’s corruption of the spirit of the game, while fans of opposing teams are stage-laughing at us and preaching of class while conveniently editing their own histories.
The truth is there’s nothing new about money in football. I remember reading about Jock Thompson, the prolific centre forward and captain of West Riding, who visited Craven Bridge, scored a hat trick and won the game for his team. The fact that earlier that day negotiations had been reached that saw him transfer from one side to the other and that he’d in fact won the game for Walham Green, was incidental. That was a sketch from AG Macdonnell’s England, their England, a satirical look at English idiosyncrasies, written in 1933.
And there’s nothing new about taunting. Opposition fans will clutch onto whatever they can to knock their rivals, especially when those rivals are FA Cup and European Champions.
The game panders to romantic ideals, but underneath money, or rather business, plays an essential role. If you want prolonged success, you need to be financially savvy. That means sentimentality comes second to ruthlessness. And the fans are the most fervent exponents of that: success breeds support, failure brings rejection. Remember when the Man U fans turned on Giggs for being old? Watch how Arsenal fans abandon Wenger this season. With hindsight, Dimat was lucky. He was given a quick execution and will live on forever with his achievements unblemished. A good way to go, really. And before you react to the provocative rants of rival fans going on about class and loyalty (and worse still be tempted to join them) just remember that Winston Churchill was voted out of office in 1945. Yeah, 1945, same year that he finished saving the world. It turns out we’ve all got precedent when it comes to ignoring past achievements. As far as I can make out, Roman’s biggest mistake wasn’t choosing Rafa Benitez, but announcing him as interim manager. Why replace an interim with an interim?
And yet here we are. Rafa’s the boss until we can lure in Guardiola. In Spain they’re saying we’ll never get Guardiola, that he won’t be tempted by the money and that anyway, the last thing he wants is to work in Mourinho’s shadow, Mourinho, the only man to make him swear in an interview. But I don’t buy it. That suggests Guardiola is afraid of a challenge, that essentially, he’s insecure and cowardly. That doesn’t seem like the guy who ditched Ronaldinho and Deco, reinvented the second biggest club in Spain and who, through the courage of his convictions, led his system to win every trophy available. Guardiola sounds like someone who relishes a challenge, and what greater temptation can there be than to outshine your main rival? And let’s not overlook the fact that it would make him the highest paid manager in history. Pardon my Russian, but would Guardiola take the offer? Would you? Fookyeh.