By Tommie Collins
Chelsea Football Club over the last few years have had a nasty habit of sacking managers at a whim, but their latest sacking of fans favourite and club legend Frank Lampard seems very harsh.
This is especially the case when fans of other clubs leave you messages such as “madness”, “brutal” and “out of order”, it’s at this point you realise that the club make such decisions without even thinking about fan opinion – the ruthless truth being that football is now sadly but a business.
Looking back in time, another excellent manager in the making, Eddie Mcreadie, left the club in 1977 and fans were also seething back then, and to be honest the club didn’t recover until the arrival of probably our best manager (not the most successful) John Neal in May 1981.
Things didn’t start well for Neal. We nearly got relegated to the then Third Division until a Clive Walker goal at Bolton Wanderers gave us a 1-0 win to save us the heartache. Then to his credit, then Chairman Ken Bates backed Neal in the summer of ‘83 with some superb signings bringing in Pat Nevin, Joe McLaughlin and Nigel Spackman, all relative unknowns at the time, whilst also adding Welsh Goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kerry Dixon.
Neal had an eye for talent and the 1983/84 season was the beginning of our revival and, for some of a certain age, probably our best season ever culminating in gaining promotion to the 1st Division. Sadly Neal had to step aside in the summer of 1985 due to illness and again the club took a long time to recover – oh what might have been.
The arrival of Glenn Hoddle revitalised the club but he left to take the England job in 1996 – since then our managers have rarely lasted more than a few seasons, with Ranieri nearly completing four.
Chelsea fans thought they got the real deal when 18 months ago we appointed Frank Lampard. Enough was enough of the managerial merry go round, and this was the appointment where we could settle down and surely give a club legend, who had been learning his trade at Derby County, that word which does not resonate in a Chelsea boardroom – time.
I’d really like to get into that boardroom and find out what they really want from a manager say season by season. There’s the League Cup, FA Cup, possibly a European trophy and the Premier League, whilst not forgetting the all-important Top 4. There’s not much to go around is there!
Some fans want to win trophies, with some thinking this is a must or they’ll desert the club, whilst some want to see entertaining football. Others want runs in the European competitions, whilst some are content just to support the club whatever they achieve.
Therefore in his first season in charge, Frank Lampard achieves a top 4 finish and an FA Cup final without being able to sign players, he then gets handed a lot of money, splashes the cash and come December we’re top of the Premier League and still in Europe.
A month later we’re ninth, some of his big money singings have been poor to say the least but we’re still in Europe and the FA Cup with a manager who’s still learning the job, so what exactly do the board want?
Whilst manager of Derby County, he took Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori on loan and in his first season at Chelsea had to play youngsters due to the transfer ban imposed on the club. This is what the fans wanted to see, academy players coming through the system and thriving; Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Callum Hudson–Odoi.
Things haven’t since turned out well for Fikayo Tomori after such a promising start. He recently joined AC Milan on loan but Mason Mount has excelled under Lampard and was handed the captaincy on Sunday against Luton Town in the FA Cup. Maybe Lampard was being sentimental in giving Mount the armband, maybe he knew his time was up.
Personally I want someone who identifies with the club, Jose Mourinho did the first time and Antonio Conte did briefly. Fans disliked Rafa Benitez because of his Liverpool links and things he’d said, Maurizio Sarri was just Sarri, no charisma no interest in gaining a rapport with the fans. However, Frank was our man.
Who can forget how he celebrated at Tottenham. Jurgen Klopp has entrenched and endeared himself with the Liverpool way. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a Manchester United legend and currently the club seem happy with him. Mikel Arteta was toast before Christmas but has since turned things around to a degree, whilst Pep Guardiola is still comfortable at the Etihad despite failing to win the UEFA Champions League.
Now confirmed as our new manager is former Mainz, Borussia Dortmund and PSG coach Thomas Tuchel who according to some reports won’t take orders from above and is a control freak – that augurs well for the future, although I wish him all the best.
Fans are fickle and no manager, player, boardroom member is bigger than the club so fans will move on. At the end of the day there’ll be a split – some will not accept Tuchel due to their loyalty to Lampard, whilst others won’t accept him as he possibly won’t buy into the club. Some won’t care as long as he wins those coveted trophies – but what if he doesn’t?
It’s just a shame that currently fans aren’t allowed in the ground as things could be hostile towards our beloved board members.
I wish the board would be open and honest with us the fans, being clear as to the bare minimum he has to achieve. I wonder if, say, in another 18-months, we still haven’t lifted the Premier League or Champions League, which Tuchel has failed to do thus far – what fate then awaits him?
I think we all know by now.