Timing, as they say is everything. If someone could find a football club that was worse at this special skill then they should show me the evidence. Whether it was the building of the East Stand which nearly bankrupted the club just when we were in the middle of one of our most successful phases on the pitch in the early 1970s to implementing price hikes for tickets during our current poor run of form (£70 to watch Napoli at home!) the list seems long and endless.
Just as Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was seen as the symbolic watershed incident that caused the First World War to break out, so the turning point on the pitch this season was the QPR away game. In both instances fundamental long-term problems that had been bubbling under the surface came to a head and lead to hugely negative consequences.
Chelsea had been on a decent run up until that point – but the red cards for the Chelsea players seemed to drain the energy out of the side in subsequent games despite a valiant effort on the pitch at Loftus Road (and yet again a match which contained more dubious decisions against our club). Even worse, the John Terry incident with Anton Ferdinand has overshadowed our season (no pun intended) and cast doubt on the decision making of our players.
It is also hard to fathom why we are announcing a stadium move when the club is moving backwards and struggling to fill out Stamford Bridge for our less lucrative matches. Also, why even discuss such a matter when the season is well under way which only causes unnecessary distractions? The murky wording of each statement from the club regarding the CPO not only makes the administrators sound like they do not trust the fans but increases the apathy of those regulars who love Chelsea towards those running our off-the-field affairs. To say that the club promises not to move outside a three-mile radius from Stamford Bridge before 2020 immediately only makes one think that the club actually wants to move further than three miles away from Stamford Bridge after 2020!
Although it seems the club wants to start adhering to the Financial Fair Play rules (whatever that means in this day and age) it is difficult to understand how this will possibly work when we keep spending money on average players who are unlikely to recoup their worth in shirt sales. Torres has become an embarrassment – probably not his fault (last season for instance I found it quite obnoxious of us to play him against Liverpool on his debut – he has not recovered since and there was little upside for him to be in the side against his old club) and one really has to question what the long-term aim of the club is.
And this brings us on to another dilemma – do those who run the club really understand enough about footballing matters? What are our long-term aims on the pitch? We seem to have lost our way and part of the problem is the secret shroud that seems to surround our owner who says little in public. I still have images in my mind of Bobby Campbell continuously sitting near Roman Abramovich in his box and dread that we have relied on his advice – it would be akin to my grandmother advising me which computer I should be investing in (and most likely being told to use a pen and a piece of paper instead).
I strongly feel that if the club stopped this policy of always looking for the big name signing and looked closer to home; developed our youth team and gave youngsters more of a chance in our first team then fans would accept the odd failure. (Speaking of which – why are our reserves and youth team doing so badly?) In fact, if we announced that we would not be making any major signings for the next few seasons and aimed to grow organically then moving one step backwards to go two steps forwards could be a popular decision. If we do have to sign new players then we should not be aiming for big names (look how Real Madrid failed in their hunt for trophies five years ago despite having the players such as Beckham and Zidane capable of selling thousands of shirts on their books) but should be concentrating more on men who are team players and have potential (and pace!)
The moral of the story is this – don’t try to make big plans for expanding your stadium when the club is going backwards; don’t try to find short-term solutions to long-term problems; when working at a football club have the majority of those in charge have some idea about footballing matters; and finally have a long-term strategy in place that focuses more on what we need to do to be successful on the pitch! (Oh, and don’t get rid of managers like Jose Mourinho!)