'If I told you any more, I would have to kill you…': Inside Roman's inner circle, Sportsmail speaks to Bobby Campbell, the former Chelsea boss who sits next to Abramovich at every home game
14:16 GMT, 3 December 2012
Bobby Campbell got on the bus from his home on the King’s Road this morning and made his way to the luxurious health club at Stamford Bridge.
The former Chelsea manager, 75, is there most days, working out and spending time talking to staff at the fitness suite as part of his daily routine.
On matchdays he has another routine, spending time with owner Roman Abramovich and his close associates before home games.
In the box: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich (right) in the stands with Bobby Campbell on his left
Friends: Campbell (left) described Abramovich as a 'wonderful' man
WHO IS BOBBY CAMPBELL
Assistant to manager John Hollins, Bobby Campbell took over as caretaker manager at the club at the back-end of the 1987-88 season when the boss was sacked.
Although he could not help in the remaining eight games as the club were relegated he helped them fly back up to the top flight the following season.
Then he led them to fifth place – a record high for the Blues at the time.
After finishing 11th in 1991 he was moved on as manager and appointed personal assistant to Ken Bates.
Campbell's record as Chelsea manager:
P163 W77 D44 L42
‘Roman is a wonderful man and I have a very good relationship with him,’ revealed Campbell just as he stepped off a big red London bus outside Stamford Bridge this morning.
‘He is a good man, but you have to remember he is Russian and there is a big cultural difference which people don’t want to accept in this country.
‘I accept him because I know the man and I respect him and like him. I have been invited to watch games with him for seven or eight years and I have learned a lot from him.
‘They are a decent bunch of lads, there is no doubt about it. They really are good people with Chelsea’s best intentions at heart.
‘I can’t tell you much more about my relationship with Roman, other than to say if I did, I would have to kill you.’
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Asked if he was part of the decision-making process behind the decision to sack Roberto Di Matteo and hire Rafael Benitez, Campbell said: ‘I’d best take the fifth amendment on that.’
Campbell has been back at Chelsea for seven or eight years, part of the inner circle of confidantes that Abramovich relies on for advice and guidance.
They met after he was introduced to Abramovich’s right-hand man Eugene Tenenbaum at the fitness centre built at the back of Stamford Bridge ‘around seven or eight years ago’.
Since then he has been a regular presence at Stamford Bridge, watching teams assembled under Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo from the comfort of Abramovich’s box.
Welcome to Chelsea: Bobby Campbell, pictured as manager of the Blues, with his signing Dave Beasant
Campbell, who led Chelsea to promotion from the old Second Division under Ken Bates in the late Eighties, insists everyone is getting it wrong about their Russian owner.
He added: ‘He wants the best for Chelsea and he has invested a lot of money in the team and the club. They are very committed and they are good men.’
It is clear that Campbell, now 75, has Abramovich’s ear after spending a lifetime in the game.
He spent the early part of his playing career with Liverpool and Portsmouth before he eventually went on to manage at Fratton Park.
He went on to manage Chelsea but Campbell couldn’t save them from relegation in 1988 when he was appointed manager.
They lost their First Division status in the play-offs during a game marred by hooliganism against Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge on May 28 1988.
A year later he won promotion back to the top flight, but eventually moved upstairs to work with Bates after he the club’s former owner brought in Ian Porterfield.
Campbell is embedded in the club’s history and first met Abramovich when he returned to England after a spell living in Florida.
He added: ‘I went to live in Florida because my son is a professional tennis player, but when I returned to England I went back to live on the King’s Road.
‘I’ve been there ever since and when I started going to the fitness centre I was introduced to Eugene Tenenbaum.
King's Road: Campbell lives in Fulham and regularly goes to the gym at Chelsea
‘He is a lovely man and we used to talk all the time. I like them because I respect them and they respect me.
‘I know Chelsea are hated – they were hated when I was manager there. Everyone hated us.
‘I brought in a wonderful man called Dennis Signy (a brilliant journalist who passed away in June 2012) to work unpaid at Chelsea as my advisor.
‘Not much has changed since – no-one like them now, but they have the wrong impression.’