Frank Lampard goes around the Bolton keeper. Puts the ball into the net. “That’ll be our first title in 50 years, thank you very much”.
Corner. 86th minute. Didier Drogba loses his marker, unleashes a header more powerful than a bro-fist from The Incredible Hulk, into the net. Manuel Neuer can merely look as the scoreboard changes to 1-1. Comeback.
Ramires turns in front of Jonny Evans. Shot into the bottom corner of the far post, net bulges, from 2-0 to 2-2. Another comeback.
The average football fan might be able to notice something common in these three, and umpteen other incidents over the last decade. A little something called ‘inevitability’. If you knew your football, you knew this team won’t just take it sitting down. They’ll fight, and they’ll fight till they drop. But it wasn’t always like this, was it? Sure, the Zolas and the Poyets did their bit back in the days, but I can’t remember Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink showing the mental strength that a man from Ivory Coast did ever so often for this club. Bolo Zenden, as good a player as he was, wouldn’t be your bet for being able to score a goal in a European semi-final right after his mother’s demise. Chelsea Football Club can, very easily, divide the club’s history into two parts. Before Jose and After Jose. When Roman Abramovic brought in Mourinho, everyone knew he was good. How good, they were yet to see. Never mind the two league titles in his first two years at the club, the most priceless gift Mourinho gave the club was that of resilience. The ability to stare at challenges and take them head-on. Sure, Abramovic spent tons of money in buying players, but as a neutral, I saw him spend money on players who’ll play their hearts out for their team week in week out. Damien Duff and Micheal Essien weren’t household names when they arrived at Stamford Bridge. Nor were Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho and Didier Drogba. In these players, Mourinho found the perfect outlet for how he looked at football: A challenge. Everything was a challenge for the team. They were trying to ‘buy’ the league title. Lampard was inferior to Gerrard. John Terry was mediocre at best. They faced every one of those challenges with utmost gumption, and they triumphed.
Mourinho gave way to Avram Grant. Chelsea reached the Champions League final. Scolari was sacked for Hiddink. FA Cup. Villas Boas was sacked for Di Matteo. Oh look, the Champions League! You can slate Roman Abramovic as much as you want for axing managers at the drop of a hat (I do too). There is a prominent lack of stability at the club. At this stage, there are managers who are wary of signing for Chelsea. The fact remains, the club has won 10 trophies through Abramovic’s reign as owner. You guessed it, best return for any English side in this time frame. The players do not know who’ll be taking their training next week. The fans do not know whose name they’ll be chanting the next time they visit the stadium. Now take a look at the situation at Chelsea Football Club. Perspective is a funny thing, isn’t it?
All of this puts forth a fairly simple question. Do the players at Chelsea even need a manager? From Grant to Hiddink to Di Matteo to Benitez, the players seem to be driven by the spirit of a certain Portugese chap. He might not be sitting in the dugout writing notes or making substitutions, but he’s present in every player and every fan in the stadium. Rafa Benitez could be succeeded by Shebby Singh for all they care, Chelsea will continue to be kings of resilience … all thanks to this one man who can take a challenge better than most others masquerading as world-beaters today.