If there was any sight that summed up the last 12 months for Chelsea, it was last Saturday night. Having sat in the technical area and attempted to bark instructions at his team-mates, John Terry then managed to quickly don his P.E. kit in time to get a hand on the trophy and give internet meme-smiths enough material to last them years. Or about ten days, in web-years.
Having contributed nothing to the two hour bunfight in Munich, and after trying to wrestle the self-destruct button into the back of his sports car without its husband finding out in the Camp Nou, England's Brave JT held that big prestigious egg cup above his head, and danced around like someone who'd actually contributed. It's like giving a cow a medal because you found an amazing cheese sandwich in a drawer.
It all seemed so unlikely three months ago, taking the reigns at the club following yet another sacking, they were dwindling in the league, had barely scraped a draw against Birmingham in the FA Cup, and had a snarling Napoli about to visit the Bridge with both the scent of blood and a first leg lead on their breath. The fresh dawn that their latest new manager was supposed to bring had come to nothing.
Andre Villas-Boas, for all he looked like a cartoon Xabi Alonso who'd recently bought a house from Three Bears and awoke to find all his porridge missing, was brought in with the future in mind. That's “the future” by the way. As in the long term, the far-flung, the eventual, down the pike, where Star Trek is set. Not 8 months into a 3 year contract. I've got library books that I've had longer than that, and they'll probably cost me just as much to replace.
Last summer, Chelsea were a squad of top-class players, most of whom were either circling the footballing plughole of 30, or had long since disappeared down the drain for various form and fitness reasons. The likes of Ballack and Carvalho vanished long ago and were never, if we’re honest, properly replaced, and those who remained were still taking to the field in an antiquated 4-3-3 system that's long been figured out by other teams.
So in comes the new manager, with new ideas, and new players. The results aren't immediately great and, worst of all, the big names are getting upset that they're not the centre of attention anymore. What's that Agents Mulder and Scully? John Terry recovered from a potentially season ending injury a mere two days after they changed manager? No I don't find that strange at all, stop calling me.
For Chelsea to win the Champions League is a tremendous achievement, but this is success built around a squad on its absolute last legs who, by some combination of will power, motivation and blind relentless fortune (Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and A GERMAN missed penalties against them) managed to accomplish something incredible.
But, all their problems, all their looming pitfalls, and all the bad things that are going to happen in that future I talked about earlier, haven't gone away. Roberto Di Matteo has made himself an outstanding candidate for the job, he's done what Mourinho failed to do in his 3 years there and what Arsene Wenger, the very beacon of success through stability, still hasn't done in nearly two decades, but that doesn't mean he's building a dynasty.
Chelsea need another ambitious young thing with big ideas now, but more importantly they need to evacuate the dressing room of any player who thinks they're too good for the bench. Just look at Alex Ferguson, when David Beckham thought his Brylcream contract was more important than the club, Old Whisky Nose went at his face with the business end of a Puma King.
Abramovich might decide to keep his stars happy and appoint Di Matteo, who is our 1.40 favourite. But that's like filling a fire extinguisher with rum: it might look alright in the short-term, I mean you've at least got a fire extinguisher and it's probably a lot more fun than the last one, but sooner or later, whooooosh. Fried Lampard, Ashley Charcoal, Petr Check The Gas Is Off.