It has been a done deal apparently. All the hacks have the inside scoop. We are going to see our greatest ever manager return to Stamford Bridge and possibly bring Ronaldo with him!
Jose Mourinho is someone who has such a strong influence on me that if he started a religious cult I would probably join. His power when he speaks and the way he deflects pressure away from footballers under his tenure is simply astounding. When in charge of Chelsea it is hard to argue that he ever really signed any "stars" of the ilk of Messi or Ronaldo. It was the purest case of what could be classed as a real team that I had seen. It is doubtful in my view that Shevchenko was a signing he wanted. If there was an example of being undermined by the power of players then Real Madrid is probably the best example. Especially when in comparison you think of the calibre of players he had underneath him at Porto and Inter Milan which still brought him success.
Nevertheless, there are several reasons why I do not wish him to return. Mostly, it is because of Chelsea fans. I type this while watching the Manchester United vs Chelsea league match where it appears that we are several hundred seats short of having sold our allocation. I have many memories of the fickleness of our support. It is hard to know whether those who attend matches these days have simply been spoilt or whether we have lost a core element of fans who were there during our more difficult times.
It is easy to join in with a vociferous, energetic minority. I am sure there are many who join in with the puerile anti-Benitez chants who regret it later - we all know the power of the crowd. The pre-season against Glasgow Rangers a few season back showed that. But I remember that Rosenberg match where we drew 1-1 (from memory, statistics showed we had over twenty shots on goal - it was simply one of those games) and the team was booed off. Then I remember the game against Mourinho's Inter Milan side at home where our so-called hardcore supporters in the MHL sang anti-Jose songs once it was clear we would not go through... and yet that same section of the crowd suddenly wants him back. What if we brought him back to the Bridge and then had a run of a few matches where we underperformed? At the back of my mind I fear the same reaction will occur.
Despite not really giving much of our youth team a solid run in the side we have a fairly young squad which needs to be given a chance. Some of the football we play is a joy to watch. Benitez is not my cup of tea and has made some odd decisions (I keep remember how he moans that the squad is tired and yet we are playing two friendlies over the course of 48 hours in the US against Manchester City just after our season ends) but has also acted with a lot more strength than I would have shown under similar circumstances. If we win the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League then ultimately you have to admit that he has not done a bad job and banners with "Rafa Out" emblazoned upon them should be burnt.
Despite having family commitments which have limited my attendance of aways it has been a fluke that I managed to use Airmiles points (or "Avios" as they call it these days) to book free flights for the final to Amsterdam several months ago... and even luckier that I randomly decided to enter the UEFA draw for both Europa as well as Champions League Final tickets and was successful in the former. It is a pitiful allocation for our fans though - to receive less than 10,000 tickets for a final means that well over half the stadium's seats were intended for neutrals and corporates.
I chose for one season to sit in the East Middle Centenary Club - and never will again - the overhang from the East Upper kills the atmosphere in the row we are in; the service in the bar is terrible; you miss out on having the flexibility to try different pubs and restaurants before a match with different friends. I also selflishly assumed this would give me a good chance of getting tickets directly from the club for the final as I was in the posh seats. Instead, the criteria for receiving tickets are dependant on how many Europa League home matches you have officially attended. I have attended all of them bar one but have not used my season ticket as it is only eligible for my own seat which would have cost £120 vs Rubin Kazin. Eg. if I wish to buy a seat in the East Upper and have loyalty points credited I cannot do so even if the seats there go on general sale!
It is hard to admit but I covered all bases and in the semis even put a bet on Basle to beat us at home in case we did not make it through. This has almost certainly jinxed us and I fully expect us to lose in the final against a good Benfica side! Ah, Chelsea... Good luck you Blues!