Only at Chelsea could a club find itself winning an FA Cup with an interim manager. Only at Chelsea could a club find itself in the Champions League final with an interim manager. And only at Chelsea would that same interim manager who has achieved so much, with so little, in such a short pace of time, not be guaranteed a job at the end of a season.
That’s the Chelsea way isn’t it? And it’s little wonder we never really build teams with the future in mind and enjoy the sustained domination that brings, when we don’t seem capable of keeping a manager in post for longer than a couple of years – and even that long seems optimistic now.
I’m not going to go into our chequered history with managers because that’s a rant I’ve done to death on here and I stand by what I said earlier this season about Chelsea’s lack of respect for managers being an issue that seems to be seeping through every pore at the club. Andre Villas-Boas certainly felt the brunt of that during his short spell with us this season and whilst many were happy to blame and even deride our former manager as not being up to the job, his achievements in the Primeira Liga weren’t down to sheer good fortune. If anything, AVB just didn’t ‘fit’ at Chelsea.
In fact, since Jose Mourinho, we haven’t had a manager with that same feel about him – and even his reign had an ‘it’ll never last’ feel about it if we’re honest. For the first season and maybe even half of his second, it felt like a partnership made in heaven. Not just because he gave us back-to-back titles, maybe not even because of that – it was more about the ‘feel’ of it. Here was a manager the players really responded to, supporters responded to and more importantly, a manager everyone outside of Chelsea took seriously. Unfortunately for us (rather than for him as it turned out), he probably succumbed to pressure from the press, the same sort of pressure every Chelsea manager inevitably receives and things started to sour publicly. There were also suggestions of some in-house revolt of course and given what we saw earlier this season, you’d have to think there was some truth in that now.
But anyway, whether he has been our most recent ‘best-fit’ or not, Jose Mourinho became just another on the list of the casualties also known as former Chelsea managers and Roman’s search for a replacement began. No easy task finding someone to replace our most successful manager and he certainly shied away from the charismatic with his first choice in Avram Grant – major fail on the PR front and hardly an inspired choice. Scolari was just a mistake, a ‘moment of madness’ if you like and whilst Hiddink’s spell was the perfect tonic, he was the one manager who actually agreed a part-time contract from the off.
Carlo Ancelotti then, won us the title and the FA Cup in his first season, handled anything the press tried to throw at him (although even they seemed to respect him to be honest), respected by players and supporters alike – but never really ‘loved’ and as out of order as it appeared at the time, there was always an inevitability that his time at Chelsea was purely temporary. In his appointment of Andre Villas-Boas though, particularly the move away from older, more experienced managers to a younger, fresher, newly successful Portuguese manager, we could have been forgiven for believing Roman Abramovich was thinking long-term. We’d all been saying the manager merry-go-round had to stop if we were ever going to have stability and it looked as if the penny may have finally dropped for the board.
Well, whether the appointment of AVB had been regarded as long-term at the outset, it’s fair to say that as with Luiz Felipe Scolari, Roman really had no choice but to step in and terminate that particular contract when he did – and on this occasion, just as we did with Hiddink stepping in temporarily then, we appear to have struck gold with Di Matteo – and yet, just like Hiddink’s appointment, Roberto Di Matteo’s may remain a temporary appointment a far as our list of Chelsea managers goes.
Only at Chelsea.