To see Mourinho understandably leave for a second time and know that realistically he will never return is a hard moment to endure – arguably the hardest since attending my first Chelsea match in the late 1980s – especially with Chelsea having hit the peak of its success. I respect his determination and ambition. When watching Chelsea abroad, whether by accident or design I have made pilgrimages to clubs where he plied his trade. Belenenses is one - a club whose stadium has an unroofed stand which allows spectators a beautiful view over Lisbon harbour. There he failed to make it as a professional as his father did but had the drive and ambition to become a coach instead. Porto – where he has a statue commemorating how this historic club somehow won the European Cup under his tenure and is now hidden in relative obscurity. Inter Milan, where he outfoxed the big guns and won a treble. A club that ever since has crept back into its shell. This, before taking the reins at Real Madrid where player power killed him.
Whereas others build on their success by bolstering their squad, we appear to pray that our first team remains injury-free. Flashbacks to 2007 when we had to play Joe Cole up front during our Community Shield match as our main strikers were injured and our manager’s “class one, two or class three eggs” diatribe that most probably irked the owner. Then the match against Rosenborg in a barely half-full stadium with Drogba and Lampard missing, injured with only the hapless (if likeable) Shevchenko to rely upon up front.
Today, we are missing leaders in key areas of the pitch. Whereas we had a decent spine before – Drogba, Lampard, JT and Cech who you felt would fight when the going got tough – you now only have JT to rely upon who is not even guaranteed a start as he ages. Costa and Ivanovic are fighters but only in the most immature of senses. When we have to buy squad players from Barcelona you wonder why they let them leave without a fight? Players who we have let go have rarely prospered.
The most irksome aspect is seeing the majority of those players who walked the league last season and should have proceeded to the next round of the Champions League against PSG performing so badly this season. The mistakes they have made on the pitch – from Fabregas not being able to pass the ball to a fellow player to Costa missing easy chances in front of goal – are not down to tactics but individual reliability. Chelsea has somewhat naively not tried to lay the blame on the 1st XI. But the club knows it is easier to rid the club of its manager than players who cannot be sacked because financially it makes no sense when you can lose a potential transfer fee. The sooner we have performance related pay making up at least half of an individual’s wages the better.
I have to trust the manager to run the squad. It would annoy me to hear outsiders tell me how to do a job that I started nearly forty years ago. Compare Jose’s CV to Emenalo’s who somehow is our technical director. Can you really trust those in the higher echelons of power at the club we love?
Jose Mourinho was the person who I could trust and always assumed a method to his madness as it brought results. Psychologists admire him. When the team failed, he managed to divert the attention elsewhere. The physio incident was one that admittedly backfired. He was correct, however to note how many decisions have been ruled against Chelsea Football Club compared to our peers. How could Mourinho be fined for criticising referees while his peers be left unpunished for similar remarks for instance? Against Bournemouth, however one had to properly question his judgement for the first time when players who had underperformed more often than not were still selected in the side. Then you looked at the bench and wondered who he could play instead – there was a complete lack of quality.
There have been theories that players have deliberately underperformed to aid a speedier exit of the manager. If this is the case then their careers will be forever tainted. Can there also really be players in the squad who leak what is going on in our club from personality clashes down to formations externally? There has been a minority of fans who have been vexed at his diatribes against our support… and yet during our worst run in modern memory Stamford Bridge has never been more vociferous in its support for Mourinho when eight years ago it booed the team off when we drew against Rosenborg. Fans can see that the circumstances surrounding the manager are not normal.
The timing of our club’s demise could not have been in more typical Chelsea style. A season where we formally announced our plans for a new stadium which we are unlikely to fill at the current rate. Was this why we spent so little in the transfer market or was it a spiteful way of testing our cocksure manager’s ability?
It has also been a season where the hardcore fans who follow Chelsea in Europe have had to pick up their tickets from random venues in the country we visit adding stress to what is already an unhappy experience because of the way we are treated. One where players fail to acknowledge blind and faithful support after ninety minutes. A time when relations with those on the terraces are at the lowest they have been for a while as we seek the tourist Dollar. A season when FIFA has formally been found out and a club ambassador who we were so proud to be associated with in Sebastian Coe embarrassed.
We are most likely to look for such an ambassador to take charge of the club. Guardiola would seem to be the most obvious choice when his contract ends at Bayern this season so that we have an acceptable face for the media. But which manager would have the strength to take over a side that is more likely to be relegated than finish in a European place? We will still be here but at times such as this the relationship between the club and its real fans are the most stretched they have been in modern memory.