For those Chelsea fans young enough not to remember the days before Roman first showered his wealth upon us it must have come as quite a shock to be written off as title contenders this season even before a ball was kicked.
Despite a perfect pre-season, virtually the whole print and broadcast media had awarded the domestic silverware to Manchester. For the first time since 2004, Chelsea were considered very much an outside bet to win anything desirable. And no the Asia Cup, prestigious as it is, does not count!
For those of us old enough to remember Division Two football at Stamford Bridge being lumped in with the likes of Bolton and Blackburn does not matter. There were times when the epithet “underdog” would have wholly overstated our chances. So, it is not so bad being dismissed with the casual wave of the media hand and should Chelsea win any silverware this season it will be all the more enjoyable for it. But has our pride been dented by the Manchester supremacy? Does it hurt to know that there is really no point in playing 38+ games this season when the media has awarded the League and FA Cup to the Mancunian pair?
In as much as he may or may not understand, or indeed may or may not care, one can’t help thinking Mr A will be somewhat bemused by Chelsea’s new found status as also-rans. After all, he has pumped what? £700m into the club, including a whopping £50m on one player. He might just feel that in return he should still have a toy that can hold its’ own in Hamleys rather than something you might find in an Argos sale.
But Mr A and others need not fret. We are exactly where we want to be. We are a team in transition but one that is gelling. Players who appeared not to realise they were on the same side are now playing a cohesive game. Our young manager, while untested at this level, is showing signs that he can make the grade. I do confess to often being mystified by his substitutions, but then last season it was the same with Carlo – so maybe it is my lack of tactical awareness rather than theirs.
So young Chelsea fans, we may not have the bragging rights over the Manchester teams just yet. But be patient – it is a long season. I can’t help thinking Mancini will be unable to manage those rich as croesus egos and City will fall away. As they do, some kind of implosion will inevitably take place, demonstrating that it takes more than money to buy success. Of course one would be mad to write off Fergie and Man Utd. If I had to bet it would be a Chelsea and Man Utd (or Man Utd and Chelsea) who occupy the first and second spots come the end of the season. In any event, normal service will have been resumed, the media will conveniently forget their early season dismissal of us, and our underdog status will be but a distant memory.
By Mario Dunn