Fans should be careful what they wish for… or Roman might end up giving them their old Chelsea back after all
00:24 GMT, 1 December 2012
They have a song at Stamford Bridge that brings together thousands of unhappy supporters. It bubbles up in between the boos aimed at the current patsy in the manager’s dug out.
It punctuates the painfully long and uncomfortable silences that have distinguished games at the London ground of late. The cry is: ‘We Want Our Chelsea Back’.
This chorus reverberates around the stadium.
Winter storm: Angry Chelsea supporters protest against the appointment of Rafa Benitez
Who knows Maybe Roman Abramovich sits there humming along, too, while he stares into space and ponders precisely when he is going to sack his most recent appointment.
But I have a question: Which Chelsea do the fans want back What are they actually nostalgic for
Are they singing for a return to the ‘good old days’ when you could stand in The Shed and try to make out the players somewhere in the distance beyond an old running track. The days when you could kick bits of concrete about, dash from the police truncheons and wait to hear if the Greater London Council would allow Ken Bates to turn on his electric fence
Or are they pining for the Chelsea that just preceded Abramovich, the Chelsea where nobody really knew who the owners were The one with shiny new stands and some shops, but teetering on the brink of bankruptcy with debts of around 80million
Or maybe folk are just nostalgic for those hazy, barely-remembered days when Chelsea were not only European Champions but top of the Premier League table as well. When was it now Oh, yes. About five weeks ago. A golden age, I’m sure we can all agree.
We want our Chelsea back I’m afraid it hasn’t been anyone’s Chelsea except Abramovich’s since the moment he walked through the door, beamed a billionaire’s smile at Bates and bought the club by withdrawing the equivalent of a few days’ interest from his current account. In that moment, the club was his and his alone.
Keepnig the seat warm: How long will Rafael Benitez last under trigger happy Roman Abramovich (left)
The oil tycoon hasn’t exactly said a great deal over the years, but on Day One he certainly signaled his intentions clearly enough. ‘Chelsea is a hobby,’ he said. ‘It is for fun, not an investment,’ he added. As those words spread across the land you could hear the balding heads of chairmen and directors hit their mahogany desks with a despairing thud. Abramovich instantly re-wrote the rules in the English Premier League. Out went the ‘local businessman made good’. In came the ‘global oligarchs who could do whatever they flaming well liked’.
Chelsea was – and is – just another toy for him. The yachts, the private jets, the luxury properties, the cars, are all fine, but he had himself a real-life computer game. He could buy, sell, sack and move anyone he cared to.
Right now Abramovich wants to be proved right on Fernando Torres and everyone and everything is being realigned on his personal board game to try to make that happen. To all the people singing about ‘our Chelsea’, I’m afraid it isn’t. At Chelsea, everyone pays to watch Abramovich play.
Good old days The old Shed End at Stamford Bridge was long gone before Roman arrived
Before Abramovich: Frank Sinclair (above) and Jody Morris (below) in action for Chelsea
He needs the fans only to make some noise and keep him company. He could probably sack the lot of you and tell his players to perform in an empty stadium if he had a mind.
So if you’re a fan unhappy with what is happening at Stamford Bridge, why on earth are you jeering Rafa Benitez He just answered the telephone when the Russian got bored of the last boss.
The Spaniard has done nothing wrong. He took on a task any out-of-work manager (except Pep Guardiola) would seize with both hands, if only for the inevitable pay off. Booing him for not being Roberto Di Matteo, Jose Mourinho or even Guardiola seems futile and somewhat self-defeating.
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There’s a strange echo of this scenario happening at Arsenal. They are singing ‘We Want Our Arsenal back’. Only I’m not sure how they intend that to happen.
Do they want Arsene Wenger to rewind the clock to the days before he had to compete with Russian oil moguls and Middle Eastern sheiks, when the Gunners thrived in their old stadium, as if that would cure the trophy drought
When they say ‘Our Arsenal’, does that mean they want it taken out of the hands of the major shareholder American Stan Kroenke and put in the control of Uzbekistan’s Alisher Usmanov instead Does that give Arsenal back
It’s very confusing.
Supporters at Stamford Bridge are too timid to abuse Abramovich in case he spins on his heel and actually does return Chelsea to them, which would be a disaster. So they abuse Benitez instead.
At The Emirates, fans are rightly nervous of losing Arsene Wenger. So club chief executive Ivan Gazidis gets it in the neck instead, because he earns a few quid and nobody’s really sure whose fault it is when Robin van Persie flees.
Fans can certainly complain if they wish. There is a grand tradition of football rage. But the followers of both clubs should be careful for what they wish. Nostalgia is a seductive liar.
I may need a lawyer… any ideas
The not very shy, but hopefully retiring, Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, took time out from lecturing the world last week to cast his organisation as ‘victims’.
He complained: ‘The Society of Black Lawyers, in seeking to challenge racism in football, has been accused of being “nave”, “publicity-seeking”, “unhelpful” or out to “get work”. Organisations or individuals who speak out on human rights are seldom welcomed by those whose inaction or collusion with racism is challenged.’
Actually, Herbert is wrong.
The Society Of Black Lawyers has not been accused of using football has a vehicle for shameless self-promotion. But I think he’ll find an individual called Peter Herbert has.
It is an impression bolstered somewhat by Herbert’s website, which, as the football365 website helpfully pointed out, is lovingly adorned with an array of pictures of Herbert, posing alongside the Rev Al Sharpton, or a Mercedes. Clearly, he is not averse to the limelight.
But something occurred to me. In recent weeks, I believe I have referred to Herbert as being nave, publicity seeking, unhelpful and out to get work. So is he accusing me of ‘colluding with racism’ If so it is an outrageous charge.
I should consult a good lawyer. I wonder if Herbert knows of one
Quote of the week
‘If I was going to lie to you, honestly, I
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert — or ‘Honest Paul’, as he
will now be known — strengthens the case for the use of lie detector
machines in football press conferences.
Who are you kidding, Becks
David Beckham is leaving Los Angeles and could be heading for Monaco. What on earth would attract the star footballer to the multi-millionaires’ favourite enclave Could it be the fact that his salary would top 10 million a year before tax Or, indeed, after tax, too
With overwhelming optimism, Beckham also says he has not ruled out appearing for England under Roy Hodgson. In a similar vein, I have not ruled out a night of nude wrestling with Megan Fox.
Feeling Scott-free does not mean it’s gone swimmingly
The postmortem into British Swimming’s failures in the pool at London 2012 is still under wraps, despite Michael Scott’s departure.
The performance director quit last weekend. I was happy to reveal the news on these pages after pointing out the lunacy of an arrangement where Scott was often trying to direct Team GB’s performance from Melbourne, some 10,500 miles away.
The group reviewing British Swimming’s Olympic underachievement agreed and wisely recommended Scott either move to the country that paid his 1.3million contract — or depart.
Quit: Former British swimming chief Michael Scott
Scott decided to quit. His air fares
alone would have paid for a few British coaches. When the news broke,
the share price of companies trading in dry roasted peanuts plummeted,
but hardly anyone batted an eyelid.
Except for British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes. He said: ‘We wish to pay tribute to Michael. He leaves with our sincere thanks.’
But then Sparkes would say that, since it was he who handed Scott a new four-year deal in April.
We can assume he did not consider his performance director’s regular absences an issue, only to find himself contradicted and undermined by the review body he set up.
Quite a tricky situation for a chief executive to distance himself from, I’d say. If the plan for your chosen performance director implodes, inevitably there are calls for accountability further up the chain of command.
They seem to understand this Down Under. When Australian Swimming set about an independent review, following an equally disappointing showing in the London pool, their chief executive promptly quit.
Kevin Neil, Swimming Australia CEO, said: ‘We are undertaking various reviews to set a course for a new future and it is therefore appropriate to step aside.’
So, in Australia, the man in charge decided to carry the can. In Britain, the man in charge tries to kick the can somewhere else.
British Swimming currently has no head coach, no performance director and no head of finance. There are also suggestions that Sparkes is barely on speaking terms with his No 2, Ian Mason, who is grandly titled ‘The Director of World Class Operations’, although a simple ‘Director of Operations’ should suffice for now.
It’s not exactly going swimmingly, is it
The review findings were expected at the end of October. Now the proposed release date is December 6. That cannot be a good sign. Either way, some answers are well overdue.