Tuesday 10 February ~

The radio reporter standing outside Stamford Bridge last night commented that fans “wanted to see the Chelsea of old”. Presumably this golden-era, “old” Chelsea is the one of three years ago rather than 30 years ago, or memories of Jose Mourinho as manager rather than Ray Wilkins as a player – he left on relegation in 1979. Nothing, of course, will ever be the same at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich bought the club and no one is keener to remind us of this fact than the current Chelsea regime, in close collusion with sections of the media.

Nowhere is the tension between “old” and “old-old” Chelsea clearer than Tony Cascarino's column in the Times. This former Chelsea “legend” (eight goals in 40 games) has been holding forth today: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager who’s lifted the World Cup and you’re only seven months into your job. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chelsea’s stars had begun to lose faith in Luiz Felipe Scolari because top players are like Roman Abramovich, the club’s owner: they demand the best.” The message is clear, Chelsea are the very pinnacle of the footballing world – the fact that it is Tony Cascarino making this point makes it particularly jarring.

Scolari is the latest victim of a new boardroom machismo. Football was obviously changed radically by Abramovich's arrival at Chelsea but the corporate business and marketing-driven language of Premier League club executives has also increased since. By sacking Scolari, Chelsea are making a statement, that their standards are higher than others – very few other clubs could (or would) sack a manager of Scolari's stature after less than seven months in charge.

Indeed very few other clubs expect success every season or feel that they need it to capture as much of the international TV market as possible. Clearly, Abramovich is in complete control at Chelsea. Despite the rumours of player revolt and a divided dressing room, many reports suggested that Chelsea's owner ignored the advice of the ceremonial chief executive and chairman, Peter Kenyon and Bruce Buck respectively, in sacking Scolari. Kenyon, invariably a man for Chelsea's dirty work, is reportedly currently on holiday in Barbados.

Abramovich and his regime have been ably assisted in creating this vision of new Chelsea. Many of this morning's papers have written off Avram Grant as a temporary managerial appointment for the club on account of his name not being big enough, or his reputation sufficiently illustrious. All the top-division records set by clubs and players are now referred to in terms of the Premier League only, and enough time has now passed for many fans not to find this irritating or strange or, indeed, to know any different.

Luckily, the past is not as easy to hide and other reminders of older incarnations of Chelsea keep cropping up, even in speculation over the next manager. One the most potentially amusing rumours is that of a temporary joint role for captain John Terry and current caretaker Ray “Butch” Wilkins. And of course, one of main reasons that Scolari was sacked was the fear, in both playing and business terms, of missing out on a Champions League place. Their quarter-final first-leg of that competition is against Juventus on February 25, the club now managed by Claudio Rainieri, sacked by Roman Abramovich, then handsomely compensated, in 2004.

Comments (6)
Comment by el gato negro 2009-02-10 14:20:08

I recently heard somewhere reporting that the goal Ryan Giggs scored at West Ham meant he had scored in 17 consecutive seasons and that he is now only three off his 100th Premier League goal. What they failed to mention was that he's scored in 18 consecutive seasons and his 100th league goal for United was against Derby in December 2007.

Comment by fbrazolin 2009-02-10 17:03:23

It was a shame.

Anybody who's concerned enough about the person in charge knows that Scolari's work takes time. His Palmeiras in 1999/2000 and Grêmio previously had almost the same results as Chelsea has by the same time.

And, in the end, just an example, Palmeiras were the champions of Libertadores da América.

Comment by Max Payne 2009-02-10 19:17:52

Hackman had to go. The football was dross. The article barely conceals the author's gloating though.

Comment by ian.64 2009-02-11 07:59:28

Well, he's right about the machismo side of it. Whatever the opinions of Scolari's time there, there's a certain boorish, arrogant aspect to the sacking of a coach who's won a bit in his time and, to some, wasn't given the time enough to do what he wanted - more a conceited show of power by a club who want to appear as if they've got the football world by the balls, which is, well...balls. He wasn't some timid, one-dimensional British manager who sounds, from the off, as if he can't even exceed the mundane limits he's set himself.

Perhaps it would help that the club and its fans - or indeed any club who've perhaps become complacent in their own beliefs that the best is all they deserve - to realise that winning every week or being treated to the best on a regular basis is not a privilege or an obligation. When the rough times come along, accept like the rest of them.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2009-02-11 12:28:38

Could we have some more comments about Ryan Giggs, please?

Comment by ian.64 2009-02-11 13:15:52

No, you can't. Now go to your room or you'll feel the back of my hand.

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