Read the title.
Read it again.
Got your head around it? Okay, great. This isn't a joke.
So most of you will remember the poll a week or so ago here on WAGNH, asking about priorities. After Ron Gourlay made it pretty clear that the club's top priority is a top four spot, while a Cup trophy on the side wouldn't be bad. I, like most other people, voted a Top Four finish as top priority, followed by the FA Cup and Europa League respectively. However, after some thinking, I've changed my mind. Top four is suddenly lowest of priorities for me. Sounds odd, right? Well here's why...
Think about our old guard. John Terry, Mr Chelsea himself. Frank Lampard, the man still running around and leading the club at 34. Didier Drogba, 9 cup final goals in 9 cup finals, the one who brought us that trophy. Petr Cech, always there to be relied on. Ashley Cole, hated by many, and yet he never stopped. They weren't the only ones, too, guys like Kalou, Essien, Malouda, and even Mikel, who've had that Chelsea engrained in them. Think about these players - what do they all have in common? A lasting love for Chelsea, a love that will never wane, a love that will always last, a love that pushed them beyond everything - beyond sex allegations and racial comments, beyond malaria and diving taunts, beyond comments about their family, beyond hatred from all but Chelsea fans - to die fighting for this club. A love that made them push, so hard, with every muscle, to fight as a unit - these men are Chelsea FC.
This love was not made over night, it was cast by years of hardships, of torment, of fighting together. Remember Moscow? So do JT and Drogba. Remember Ovrebo? So do our legends. I could sit here all day listing the adversities our players faced, but it's almost too painful for me. Besides, there's no point, you all know what I'm referring to. These players were formed, sculpted, bred and fashioned at Stamford Bridge, and it's there that their brotherhood grew.
One thing I've always loved about sport is the brotherhood. I've found, having played for a number of teams across a few sports growing up, that the clubs where I performed best, and felt most attached to, where the ones where I was close to my team-mates, and there was a real feeling of brotherhood in our sheds. Whether we knew eachother outside of sports or not, we would go out every weekend, fighting and dying for our team-mates, for our brothers, and it was through that that we identified eachother.
Similarly, with our beloved Chelsea, it's the hardships they've faced which led to such a strong sense of brotherhood in the camp. I don't think I even have to search for proof, to convince you that JT, Drogs and Lamps are the closest of team-mates. It's through this bond that they pushed for eachother, until eventually they overcame obstacles, winning the Big Eared Trophy together.
But, as it is with life, the good things never last. While Javier Zanetti continues to run around for Inter Milan, the same cannot be said for our legends. Already, Drogba has moved on. Malouda and Essien haven't been heard of this season, and are certain to be moved on in the Summer. Frank may be going with them, while JT is facing less and less time on the pitch. There's a ready made replacement for Cech, too, to replace him at any time.
However, losing our star players doesn't mean we have to lose our club. It's up to the club - the manager, the owner, the board, the director, and, most importantly, the players - to create new legends, the next breed who will fight and die for this club. Again, however, this isn't as easy as it sounds, such bonds don't grow over night. These players need to face hard times, and overcome these hard times, together. They need to face adversity, and overcome it. They need to fall together, then help each other up. They need ups and downs, highs and lows, failures and successes.
Already they are being tested through these hard times, battling hard for a top four finish and two cups, and they're punching above their weight, showing character beyond their years. Oscar's winner against Sparta, Hazard's goal against United, or his winner against Prague in the second leg; Mata's goal in a dull game vs Norwich, or Moses in the dying minutes against Shakhtar.
That's not all that's required, however. These players need more to identify with, and that's where finishing outside the Top Four comes in. It's not ideal, of course, and it's not a situation I'd endorse under normal circumstances, but this is different. This is no normal circumstance. How many teams have gone through such a sudden transition season, with an overturn of players at such a rate? Our players have to be moulded into not only football players, but Chelsea players. I don't want Mata or Hazard to leave the club in a couple of years, and I doubt any of you do, either.
And that's why they need something to unite them, a common adversity which they fight through together. Finishing outside the top four and not qualifying for the Champions League will be the first time Chelsea has failed to qualify for Europe's biggest competition since 2001/02 - a whole 11 years ago - and the first time in the Roman Era. How devastating would that be for us as Chelsea supporters? And yet, at the same time, how hard would we have to strive to get out of such dire conditions? With, hopefully, a trusty, full time, manager at the helm, one who can lead the club and give these young players an identity, these are exactly the conditions that club legends are made from. Legends aren't made in lands of fairies and ponies, they rise from the dark times and fight their way out.
That's how John Terry became a legend. It's how Frank Lampard became a legend. It's how Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech became legends. And it's how Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, David Luiz, Mikel, Moses, Lukaku, and the rest of our squad, will one day become Chelsea legends.
By working together. By fighting together. By falling and failing together, then rising up together, helping each other up. That's how bonds are created.