Spring brings a feeling of renewal; a fresh start. Supermarkets are advertising product discounts for a “spring clean”. The crocuses and daffodils are out – Hyde Park was looking stunning, albeit somewhat overcast today. For those of us of the Christian faith, the great season of Lent is upon us. And at the risk of being accused of attempting to steal the thunder of my dear friend, Driver on The Wing, next weekend brings not only the visit of our dear friends from Tottenham, but the possibility of temperatures in the mid to high teens.
Meanwhile, in the giddy whirl of the Premier League, Chelsea sit four points at the top of the table off the back of a fifteen game unbeaten run, having last lost at Stoke on 7th December. What a difference a year makes. This time last year, whilst the football team might have settled down under the yoke of a manager who would ultimately lead them to the second-best trophy in European football, notwithstanding failures in two domestic competitions that should have been ours for the taking, the supporters were under no such compunction. “We don’t care about ****” remained the song of the season. In spite of the Interim One’s continued protestation that he did not make remarks attributed to him whilst manager of a once successful team in the North of England, he remained (and continues to remain) a pariah not only to the Stamford Bridge faithful, but most of the club’s supporters, wherever they are.
In contrast, the Second Coming of The Special One continues to bring joy to all but the most blinkered (one supporter had the temerity to describe the performance against West Ham on 29th January as “the worst performance I have ever seen”; obviously their memory doesn’t stretch back as far as the defeat against QPR last January, or the performances against Southampton and Reading in the same month), and the feeling that not only might the “little horse” be about to put in a finish in the league comparable to a Grand National fable such as Enid Bagnold’s “National Velvet”, or Jilly Cooper’s “Jump”, but there’s a real possibility that we may enter the last eight of the Champions League as the only English club left in the competition.
Today, the former Arsenal, Spurs and England defender Campbell has created headlines by claiming had he been white, he would have been “England captain for 10 years”. This is nonsense. Campbell was passed over for the England captaincy because there were others who had better fighting qualities, or could bring something extra to the role by virtue of other characteristics. The same is true of the argument in favour of Mourinho versus anyone else. How could anyone rate a manager whose idea of a match changing substitution is sending on a defender to replace a forward in the 82nd minute? One of the Special One’s greatest characteristics is that he’s proactive, not reactive. He’s not scared to haul off the biggest names in an attempt to eke out a result. And how we can eke out results. Last Saturday’s win against Everton, so deep into injury time that unluckily for me I’d already started off for The Atlas to set up for the CST’s Special General Meeting and got told by a couple of Goggles’ mates that I’d missed “the best goal ever seen at Stamford Bridge” (like they’d know), even led to the media suggesting that “Fergie Time” was becoming “Jose Time” – without of course the looking at the watch and screaming in the ear of the fourth official.
How do you quantify a manager’s greatness? Is it purely in terms of trophies won, or can it be defined as something more – qualities of grace, humour, personality? (if the latter, then quite apart from the two European Cups he’s won, I’d certainly describe Carlo Ancelotti so) And how soon do managers earn such an appellation? Jose Mourinho is a once in a generation managerial talent. Already he lies joint 4th on the list of most successful European Cup winning managers. If the “little horse” gallops all the way to Lisbon and wins, he’d jump to joint 1st in the table alongside Bob Paisley – in spite of what anyone might think about the supporters of the club he managed, a great manager of a great team.
And there’s another thing – Lisbon. Capital of Jose’s home country, holding the final in the year of the sad passing of that other Portuguese legend, Eusebio, who was so gracious in defeat after Chelsea beat his beloved Benfica in the UEFA Cup Final last year. Our 2012 Champions League win is often described as “Written In the Stars”. I have a gut feeling that 2014 isn’t so much written in the stars as meant to be.
In January 2013, during the winter of our despair, if anyone had told our faithful support that by the first weekend in March 2014, The Special One would have returned to the club, and we’d be top of the Premier League, with two points more at this stage of the season than the double winning side of 2009/2010 (thanks to @ChelseaStats for that impressive stat), I think everyone would have been happy.
Safe Standing Survey
If you haven’t already participated, you are strongly encouraged to make your views known on the subject of Safe Standing via the survey available through all major online Chelsea fanzines and supporter websites (including this one). The survey closes on 16th March.
Chelsea Supporters Trust News
A very impressive post-match turn out last Saturday at the Chelsea Supporters Trust Special General Meeting, where guest speaker, Amanda Jacks, caseworker at the Football Supporters Federations (@FSF_FairCop), answered members’ questions on ticketing and policing issues.
Don’t forget that tickets for the CST’s end of season event at The Black Bull on Friday 9th May, “An Audience with Mickey Thomas and Joey Jones”, are now available to buy from the cfcuk stall on matchdays. Tickets are currently available to current full-voting members of the Trust until the end of March at the discounted rate of £20. Thereafter they will be on sale to non-voting CST members and general public, priced £25 (however, this will include Trust membership).
Apart from the opportunity to meet Mickey and Joey 30 years after they were a vital part of Chelsea’s 1983-1984 2nd Division winning side, the ticket price includes a delicious buffet and an acoustic set from Jason Crowley, Lol Bonavia and Paul Jeffrey of Camden’s finest, “The Beautiful Game”. There’ll also be a raffle with exciting prizes. Don’t miss what’s certain to be a brilliant night.
As usual you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.