I heard some Chelsea fans on a phone in show the other day saying that Roman Abramovich had “destroyed Chelsea.”
“He needs to get out of our club and he needs to go now” said one impassioned Blues fan. I wonder how that fella feels now that Chelsea are out of the Champions League, just a few months after they won the tournament.
Of course we have to acknowledge that Abramovich actually saved Chelsea. I was one of those people lucky (if that is the word) to see evidence of the financial state the club was in when Ken Bates left the building. The club was broke and in major debt. It is highly likely that Chelsea would have gone the way of Leeds United or Sheffield Wednesday.
Chelsea Football club had major debt thanks to Bates. Only a very rich man could save them. Step up to the plate Roman Abramovich.
You have heard all the arguments about Chelsea being “a toy” to him. As may people have said, it’s his train set and he gets to play with it as he wishes. But what he has done since has been damaging to the stability of the club.
He treats employees with contempt. He gets others to do his dirty work. He has forgotten that he has a responsibility to the fans. They were there before him. They will be there when he has moved on.
I have no idea how the Chelsea supporters I went to school with, all now in their mid fifties and with families, can afford to attend games at Stamford Bridge. But they do. And many of them were there in the dark days when Chelsea struggled on the pitch. Remember Vinnie Jones, Robert Fleck, Mick Harford and Dave Beasant?
Those loyal fans deserved to experience Premier League and Champions League success. To see football as attractive as that once played by Charlie Cooke, Alan Hudson and Peter Osgood.
Those supporters deserve much better than they are getting right now. From overpaid footballers whose egos are greater than their ability. And they are due more consideration from the very rich, very impatient club owner.
I understand Roman Abramovich is “furious” that Chelsea are out of the Champions League and he already feels let down by stand in manager Rafa Benitez. What planet does the man occupy?
Benitez is a shrewd man. A wise and cunning fox. He used Abramovich, not the other way around. Benitez wanted to get himself back in the spotlight. He still craves managing Real Madrid – and there are still people in the boardroom at the Bernabéu who want him.
Name me a club that has enjoyed long term success by changing their manager every year. Abramovich made his money in dubious circumstances. Now he is spending it in an equally carefree manner.
He sacked Ray Wilkins without consulting then manager Carlo Ancelotti, while the Italian was out of the country attending the funeral of his father. The loss of Wilkins was not welcomed in the dressing room.
Then he sacked Ancelotti. Just one of many managers he hired and soon dispensed with. No matter how much or how little they achieved. His worst appointment arguably that of Felipe Scolari.
The players who made up the best squad at Chelsea loved Jose Moruinho, Guus Huddink and Ancelotti. All those managers were shown the door.
The fans continue to sing songs in support of the latest sacked manager, Roberto Di Matteo, while booing the man they call “Rafa Beneath-Us.” Most of them now want Mourinho back.
I understand that but that is a little hypocritical of them. I distinctly recall many vocal Chelsea fans bemoaning how boring it was watching their team win under Mourinho. That they, like the club owner, wanted to watch more exciting football.
Roman Abramovich and the supporters agreed on that. But now they don’t seem to agree on anything.
Abramovich has lost too many managers that he himself chose. Benitez will be the next. But now he has lost the faith of the fans. While many acknowledge that he long ago saved the club, their patience with the owner has worn very thin. Something he himself knows all about.
200 days after they won the Champions League in dramatic fashion (under a manager Abramovich never wanted or supported), Chelsea are now out of the competition and instead face life in the Europa League. They may win nothing this season. An experience that will be a new one to the younger Chelsea fans. Those who appeared during the glory years.
Older Chelsea fans know what it is like to win nothing. Once upon a time the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge was more of a shelf.
But not these days. They have got to like winning things. As did their rich Russian owner. But the Chelsea train has hit the buffers, and he is to blame.
Abramovich wanted to spend 50 million pounds on Fernando Torres. The action of a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
He told successive managers that Torres must be played, and sacked any manager who refused to start a game with the out of form Spaniard leading the attack.
Now Torres will be touted for sale at a bargain price come January. The problem for Abramovich is finding someone who will take him off his hands.
The Atletico Madrid devoted Torres would not play for Real Madrid. Barcelona would not touch him unless they lose both Villa and Messi to injury. Even then he would be way down their shopping list. No other club in the financially bankrupt La Liga can afford him.
Another English club would want a cut price deal that sees Chelsea still pay his wages. Paris Saint-Germain may be an outlet for Torres, especially if that club is the latest to bizarrely sack the talented Ancelotti.
Roman Abramovich is to blame for Chelsea being shunted into the sidings. The most expensive engine in his train set is not working. But Torres is not to blame for the fact that some rich guy did no research on the effectiveness of the goods he spent tens of millions on.
If asked to choose between Ken Bates or Roman Abramovich, I would opt for the latter to run my club. But the best type of club owner is not the one with the biggest wallet. It is the one who does the research on the manager he considers appointing, and then leaves him alone to do the job. Including buying the players and choosing the team. A supportive owner, not a destructive one. And not a megalomaniac who thinks money is all it takes to build long term footballing success.
The problem with Roman Abramovich is this. He not only wants to buy the train set. He wants to be both engine driver and station manager.