During Man City’s presentation of the Premier League championship trophy, one TV anchor asked assembled pundits what makes Guardiola such a special manager.
The unanimous answer was Guardiola’s ability to influence multiple areas of the club and its culture.
If you’re a true Chelsea fan then those comments will have really, really hurt.
‘Our’ club is, of course, one where the manager has the minimal ability even to affect matters on the pitch. No, the Chelsea manager’s role is as narrow a one as there is in world football. And because the whole CFC operation is now about money, a vast salary is considered enough to secure loyalty to the cause.
The biggest knock on Antonio Conte is that he must have known these strictures when he signed for the club. Yes and no. Any one of you who has a certain ambition and has worked for a corporation at a high level as I have will know that any agreement is just a guideline.
Certainly, The Don will have been 100% confident that, having pulled the club so brilliantly out of Mourinho’s mess, he would be able to revisit all agreements.
That doesn’t make him naïve, it just makes him passionate about our club and his ability to make it great.
Upon finding that, no matter how amazing the achievement, there is absolutely no wiggle room in Abramovich’s Chelsea, while not being driven crazy like his predecessor, it would still have been a gutting realization.
Look no further for the way that this season has unfolded.
The thinking of the CFC hierarchy, it’s view of culture is simple: football is a numbers game controlled by the judicious application of money just like any business.
There are many ‘fans’ who go along with this, regarding a healthy percentage of wins as the one and only thing that matters.
I am definitely not among them.
Then again, CFC under Abramovich and his (initial) cash injections has clearly become the club of glory hunters, not least the investment bankers and city boys who are among the only ones able to afford house prices in SW6 (and tickets in many parts of the Bridge).
Many of these so-called fans are also in London on short contracts and thus no dyed-in-the-wool fans.
This is the true “prawn sandwich brigade” immortally coined by Roy Keane; they care only about the numbers, not the culture and certainly not the football. Supporting a football club is largely a matter of bragging rights to go along with the Porsche and trophy wife.
This kind of ‘culture’ creates almost countless horror.
To name but a few horrors, this corporate numbers game demands, well, good numbers, victory no matter what. This simply does not correspond with, for instance, the alleged desire to promote youth: when a manager is fired for coming second as Ancelotti so disgracefully was, then youth is never getting a chance; expecting it to is nothing but a pathetic wind-up.
Another horror is what happens when the manager is not regarded as the be-all and end-all by players. How can anybody with a brain not see that this allows players to ignore managers, knowing that withholding effort means the manager’s job, not theirs!
I could go on and on and on, but you know what? I find myself simply not be able to be bothered.
My five-decade dedication to the Blues has been something of a rollercoaster and I know find myself exhausted. I am one of the very few who was present at Turf Moor in 1983 when the third division beckoned.
At the back of our minds was the idea that one day, some way that wonderful rollercoaster would be able to climb Mount Olympus and put CFC at the top alongside the other greats.
But as Man City, Liverpool, formerly Man Utd (the jury is still out on the self-destructive Mourinho) and Barcelona have shown and are showing, footballing greatness is only achieved by instilling a footballing culture.
Not a corporate business culture.
When the manager speaks after the game, that should be the football club talking, not some puppet who’ll be gone any moment.
As a lifelong fan, that is simply not a situation that allows you to feel a true part of the club anymore. Most of the new fans don’t care about that anyway. Good luck to them.
But when The Don is gone, then – with a heavy heart – so am I.
Contribution by Stan Wenners