So, the king is dead. Long live the king.
I have supported Chelsea for over forty years - and if I’m honest, it has been a bit of a confusing ride. I just about remember them winning the FA Cup in 1970 and became a fan, assuming with the confidence of youth the start of something wonderful; the beginning of a glorious journey to the very highest peaks of sporting achievement.
It really wasn’t, of course, but once you’re in you can’t get out. You can’t change clubs – or rather you can, but you don’t. Anyway, I was excited by a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup the following year – we beat Real Madrid – and then... and then it pretty much all fell apart. Within ten years Ken Bates had bought Chelsea Football Club for a pound, property developers owned the Bridge and we nearly got relegated to the old third division.
My choice hadn’t been a wise one, assuming magnificence was the objective.
Then, slowly, we fought our way back – with much of the credit going to Bates, who somehow kept the show on the road long enough for things to improve on the pitch. We won the FA Cup again in ’97 and before selling the club in 2003 we won it again and put the shiny cup in a cabinet next to our League and Cup Winners trophies. The glory days were back and when a Russian billionaire came calling in 2003, the only way was up, right?
Well, yes. And no.
Recent history at Stamford Bridge has been interesting – the scandals, the money, the mistakes, the appalling behaviour, extraordinary histrionics and sublime play. The games thrown away, stolen and gifted; the things that make football the greatest game in the world, if you like your sport mixed in with a touch of outrage and a smattering of farce. The greatest stories of all are told about one period in particular-2004 until 2007 - and about one manager: José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho. This was the man who arrived at the club and called himself ‘The Special One’ on his first day, who asked for (and got) nearly five million pounds a year in basic salary, who correctly named the Barcelona team prior to Rijkaard doing the same thing just before a Champions League match and the man who supposedly hid in a laundry basket to get into the stadium he was barred from for our quarter-final against Bayern Munich. I could go on – in fact, I will; he is also the man who called the hugely annoying Arsene Wenger ‘a voyeur’, who ‘shushed’ the hugely annoying Liverpool supporters when we won the Carling Cup and who said the following at a press conference:
"It is omelettes and eggs. No eggs - no omelettes! It depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket you have class one, two or class three eggs and some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem."
And there we have it – a wonderfully entertaining bloke and possibly the supreme manager of his time. If you are a (hugely annoying) Manchester United fan and you’re thinking that Ferguson is better, please bear in mind that Barcelona, possibly the greatest club team in living memory, are currently ten points behind Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Ten points!
So, I would want him back at the Bridge, right? Bite your hand off? Well, perhaps. There is no doubt that we would win things and clearly life would be more entertaining. But... but we were a duller team under José: We would go ahead and close out the game, so we won the points and still managed to lose the joy. I would have him as manager, of course, but I would rather have Carlo Ancelotti with Ray Wilkins as his assistant and we only recently sacked them. So therein lies the rub: We’ll probably do the wrong thing and if, by some curious alignment of the planets, we manage to do the right thing, we’ll immediately manage to screw it up. That’s just the way it is at the Bridge.
Pep Guardiola, Rafa Benítez, Joachim Loew, Fabio Capello or José Mourinho – who really knows? Whoever and however, the Chelsea Madness looks set to continue. And however it works, I’ll be there; hand over eyes and heart in mouth, hoping for glory and expecting disappointment, frustration and regret. But then this is football, after all...
José or no José? Take a ticket and wait your turn. And remember how it works: The king is dead. Long live the king.
Jeremy Drysdale writes films, books and television. He can be followed @jeremydrysdale on Twitter – if you really are that bored.
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