A European Deja-Blue
In the spring of 2012, when Chelsea turned dashed dreams into reality, we had a theme tune. Having so nearly battled back from a seemingly impossible deficit of 3-1, Stamford Bridge decided to have a sing-song.
April 9th, 2014
At half time in the 30 added minutes against Napoli at The Bridge, a bright spark sat towards the back of one of the stands rapped on the window of the DJ booths and made a request: “Play Bob Marley!”
And the rest is history.
40,000 people swayed together as they sang Three Little Birds: “Don’t worry about a thing – because every little thing is gonna be all right.”
A great moment – only contrived to the ultra-cynical. And that cover version became the soundtrack as Chelsea were sung all the way to a night where the Blues lifted the trophy in Munich.
Two years on, in very similar circumstances, and Chelsea have another song – but this time they’ve written their own.
The same deficit, some of the same opposition (Cavani, Lavezzi), the same herculean feat required.
The tune, the ubiquitous Sloop John B of the modern chant, wasn’t the most imaginative. But the words said it all.
“We’ve done this before, we’ve done this before – Champions of Europe, we’ve done this before.”
Two years on, the belief is back.
As in 2012, Chelsea are not the best side in Europe.
But if trophies are handed out for being the side with the most belief, the most unswerving desire – and the experience of Napoli, Benfica, Barceona and finally Munich proves they sometimes are – then, whisper it: this may just be Chelsea’s year.
No team in Europe has more resilience than Chelsea.
Two visits to the Champions League final under interim managers prove that.
The first, in 2008, came when the team was picking itself: not in the metaphorical sense, when players with character are immovable from the team sheet; but in the literal sense – actually writing the XI down and handing it to Avram Grant.
The second in 2012 came under a man who rightly shares the credit for the tactical gambit that saw off Barca, Bayern, and half of west London’s fingernails – but was essentially stitched together out of the same self-belief.
And so to 2014…
Chelsea do have that leader in the dugout now.
He’s won it twice, with Porto and Inter, and he is desperate to win it again with Chelsea.
And the Chelsea of today do have something to fight against: a season of transition where, despite showing great promise, it hasn’t quite come off.
Plus, as with Didier Drogba in 2012, there are those for whom it may be the last opportunity – pick any two or three from John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech.
On Friday, they join the greats of European football in UEFA’s glass bowls: Real Madrid; Barcelona or Atletico; Bayern Munich or Manchester United.
A semi-final lies between The Blues and Lisbon – of all places, given where the manager’s own journey begun.
Time to start believing again?
We’ve done this before….