The news still hasn’t sunk in. I’m shell-shocked. This season has been an absolute shambles since the start, and whilst some of the blame may be at your door, nowhere near the entirety of it is, and you’re an easy fall guy. You can’t sack half a squad as easily as you can sack a manager, even if that manager is the best in the world. The fact that you’ve returned and been gotten rid of again makes it almost certain you won’t be back again as manager, which makes me so so sad.
I was seven years of age when you first joined in 2004. It was the back end of the previous season where I really caught the football bug, with that famous Quarter Final win at Highbury and Wayne Bridge’s goal. Before, I’d been interested in the game, particularly when Gianfranco Zola was still doing his thing; but with a child’s short attention span, I’d watch about 20 minutes of a match intently with my dad before returning to play with my toys.
So 2004/05 was, by chance, the first full season that I was football-obsessed. It started with Ranieri being sacked, which had confused me as we’d had our best league season in 49 years and were 2nd behind ‘the Invincibles’, then this guy joining and calling himself “a special one”. I was enthralled by the confidence of this guy, and the fact he’d won the biggest club competition with an unfancied team the year before. I watched that first game against Manchester United, hopeful of what to come, surprised that there was no Cudicini in goal, and a random young Czech keeper instead. It was a familiar name in Eidur Gudjohnsen that scored the first goal of that era, and when Andy Gray was analysing the game afterwards, having just beaten a Fergie side rather comfortably, I was so excited for the coming months and years.
The season went on, we got more and more impressive. I remember the shock of conceding a first goal after several games, and to of all people James Beattie, and after something like 12 seconds. I remember the anger of losing our first (and only) league game that season, against Man City, after Anelka dived to get a penalty, a grudge I held for ages until he ended up joining and scoring silly numbers of goals when we won the Double under Ancelotti. I remember John Terry scoring from seemingly every corner that season, Frank Lampard scoring from seemingly every shot. I remember one of the first Chelsea games I can remember going to (my dad had been taking me since I was a toddler, but alas my memory of then isn’t that great) against Scunthorpe, and seeing the mighty Jiri Jarosik’s debut. I remember the best birthday I’d ever had, my eighth, getting the day off because I felt ill in the morning, playing LMA Manager 2005 on the PS2 all day (where my Chelsea defence was rather leaky compared to the real thing), and then watching a 1-0 Chelsea win over West Brom, with Drogba scoring. And most importantly, I remember the ridiculous amounts of joy I felt when we won the League Cup, and even more so when we went on to win the League. There’s very few Chelsea moments I’ve gone as mental at as Frank Lampard rounding Jussi Jaaskelainen and slotting home, and they’re probably all from 2012. My dad managed to take me and my older sister to the game against Charlton where we lifted the title, which was an amazing day, and one I’ll never forget. I’ll gloss over the Ghost Goal debacle, as we were by far the best team in Europe that season, and it really should have been us in Istanbul that year.
The next season was just as good. Although Tiago, who was one of my favourite players in that team, left, you brought in a certain Michael Essien, so I suppose it was fine. That year was the club’s centenary, and I got my dad to buy me all the programmes from that season, which I still have and hopefully when I’m a bit older they’ll be worth loads. Anyway, winning the league again, and again with ease, was amazing. Lots of London Buses jokes. Another Semi Final defeat to Liverpool, this time at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, which I went to, and walking gutted out of the home ground of Man United hearing You’ll Never Walk Alone blaring out is one of the oddest experiences I’ve had in my life. The next year, we won both domestic cups and came a very close second to Man United in one of the best quality title races, in terms of the quality of both sides. The image of you going over to our away fans at the Emirates after the title had been lost, and the ‘chin up’ you showed, made me so proud to be a Chelsea fan.
Then the next year it all came tumbling down. The eggs/omelette stuff, then the draw to Rosenborg, and then you were gone. I was 10 and a half by that time, and the best moments of that part of my childhood had all been down to you and your Chelsea side. When I heard the news, I went to my room and cried. But that Chelsea side, your Chelsea side, carried on, even if officially it was Avram Grant’s. We got to the League Cup final and lost, to Spurs of all people. We got to the last day of the league campaign and lost out to Man United. We got to the Champions League final, finally beating Liverpool, and then lost in Moscow by a whisker (or a blade of grass). There was something missing to push us over the line. You.
Other managers came and went after Grant. Scolari, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, Di Matteo, Benitez… All tried to put their stamp on the team. But all kept that spine that you had created and strengthened; Cech, Cole, Terry, Essien, Lampard, Drogba. All kept that core 4-3-3 you made the favoured formation in British football, which was still devoted to the 4-4-2 when you joined in 2004. Ancelotti was the only to have anything near the impact you did, with the freeflowing attacking football that brought 102 goals in 38 games, finishing in an 8-0 win over Wigan. But even then, earlier that season you’d returned with your Inter Milan team, and beat us home and away with superb European performances, on your way to a historic treble. I was at that game at Stamford Bridge. There was no getting through that superb defence, and Eto’o, Milito and Sneijder up front were outstanding. Nobody expected Inter to have any chance to beat Barcelona, especially with 10 men. Then you went and beat Bayern in the final. When we did the same in 2012, whilst it was Robbie Di Matteo in charge, and a lot of that team had never played under you, the spine and the spirit from that first spell were still present in that team that finally won Old Big Ears. I have another thing to credit you with, too. When you took over at Inter, I paid much more attention to Serie A, watching as much of that side as I could. The same when you went to Real, I watched much more La Liga than I have before or since.
Then, in the dark days of Rafa Benitez, seeing the fact that you were probably leaving Real and coming back to the Premier League, it gave me hope that the hell of substituting left back for left back when desperately needing a goal would soon be over. Then you actually came back, and I’d never been so relieved. I still don’t understand how we managed to mess up winning the league that season, as we were two silly games with dropped points against Sunderland and Norwich away from doing it, but stopping Gerrard, Rodgers and Liverpool from doing it in the most hilarious of circumstances was a good consolation. We also lost in the Champions League Semis once again, and for once, it was deserved, as Simeone’s Atletico were just as good at Stamford Bridge as your Inter side a few years before.
So, you responded to being outclassed by Atletico by taking three of their key players. As well as adding a couple other players, and allowing Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard to go, and benching Petr Cech. Your old side was finally all but dismantled, with only John Terry (and Drogba signed again in a squad role), and of all people it was you to do it 10 years on. That first half of the season, we played football that Cruyff’s Barcelona would have been proud of. Then when we needed to be gritty, in the home stretch, we were able to do that too. We won the title with ease. We were superb.
Then this season happened. I don’t really understand what went on. You clearly wanted to strengthen, and had “palpable discord” with Michael Emenalo and the rest of the upper echelons of the club who disagreed with you. They let you buy Begovic to replace Cech (proven to be a very good buy), and to loan Falcao, but messed up the key target of John Stones. When you were proven right in the first few games of the season, there were panic buys. Baba Rahman was never played by you, meaning you clearly didn’t rate him, and the less said about Papy Djilobodji the better. Pedro has shown glimpses of what made him such a great player at Barcelona, but clearly hasn’t fully adjusted to life in the Premier League. The Eva Carniero fiasco was overblown by the press, but unwarranted by the press, and you clearly must regret it in hindsight. But it’s no excuse for the loss of form by almost the entire squad, and even worse more lately, their loss of desire and lack of care about the club and the fans. The fact only Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, and Courtois came over to the 3000 away fans at the King Power after the game showed what you were up against. Then the fact that the club took so long to make a decision was utterly laughable. They allowed you to prepare the squad for the Sunderland game, then after Thursday’s training day, with one training day to go, they give you the chop. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Do it straight after the Leicester game, or do it after the Sunderland game. Not that I believe they should have done it at all. Who is there available, right here right now, who could do better than Jose Mourinho? Guus Hiddink? Juande bloody Ramos? It’s a complete and utter shambles.
I’ve waffled on for a while, so I’ll finish by saying this. Jose Mourinho, you are the best manager this club has ever had. You are, in my opinion, the best manager in the world at the moment. You are, as the banner says, one of us. And yet we’ve sacked you. Again. I still can’t quite wrap my head around that. When I heard the news, I went to my room and cried (not as much as last time, but I shed a few tears). I’m almost 19, and at university, but that’s what Chelsea Football Club means to me, and what you mean to Chelsea Football Club. And I can just tell, that you’ll now go prove all the doubters wrong at your next club, probably in England, probably a title rival of Chelsea’s, and build a dynasty there, one which should have been here. And it will hurt so so much.