Something very odd seems to be happening to this club founded on bickering and squabbles: happiness is breaking out.
October 31st, 2013
When Gus Mears’ dog bit Fred Parker, most might have expected an ASBO (had such things existed in 1905). We got a football club, and the bitter struggle of the procreation seemed to leave its mark as firmly as the unnamed pooch. The club can look back on a history where ‘malcontent’ is consistently water-marked on alternate pages.
But that all seems to be changing.
Tuesday night at the Emirates launched a new chapter for a club whose support tend to take pessimism to a higher altitude than even the most silver-lined clouds: 9,000 singing, delighted travellers – doing ‘the bouncy’, and mocking an Emirates atmosphere as thin as the froth on a 99p capuccino.
Chelsea has become a club barely recognisable from that of 365 days earlier.
The chaos, intrigue, threats and allegations – all gone. The axeman sharpening his blade for the least popular beheading in the club’s 108-year history – forgotten, for now, if not actually forgiven.
Chelsea is often compared to a circus, and few could question the likeness. The six months it took to transform from Roberto Di Matteo’s European Cup win to Rafael Benitez’ ‘interim’ debut against Manchester City, must set a record when it comes to the spinning-bow-tie mismanagement of a club’s fanbase. But just one year on…
On Tuesday night Cesar Azpilicueta, unlikely cup-tie hero, set into words something that encapsulated the turnaround.
“When he needs me I try to do my best in every position,” said the fullback. “The most important thing is the team.
“If he needs me at left back or a right winger, I will try to do my best and a job for the team.”
Though few in the stands will ever have the dilemma of a place at left-back or right-wing, the subtext could have been spoken by any of the 9,000 at the Emirates: Mourinho can do what he likes at Chelsea, because he has the trust.
The trust of the players is in no doubt: even Fernando Torres, not the easiest man to please, credited him last week for possibly his best run of form since signing for the Blues.
The trust of the fans has probably never been more emphatically demonstrated at any club, as Mourinho’s name is sung on repeat from more or less the first minute of each game.
And the trust of the Board, or at least the one man who matters, seems to be as solid as can ever be expected – given the exploding clown car reality of Chelsea’s decision-making process.
At the depths of the Benitez nadir, supporters sang something that touched more than a nerve with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy: “We want our Chelsea back.”
But it hasn’t arrived.
In its place is something very unusual: harmony, contentment, satisfaction.
Who knows how long this bizarre honeymoon state can last. But wouldn’t it be great if this really was the new normal?
Because, for the first time in living memory: we’re all Happy Ones – at least for the time being.