I'm a long time reader of WAGNH, but this is my first post. Kevin's point with regards to Lukaku got me thinking. As a 21-year-old, Roman Abramovich has owned and invested in the club I love for almost half my life.
I decided to jot down some of my memories from his time at Chelsea. Before I knew it, my list had spanned pages and pages, good memories and bad.
Where would we be today if Roman Abramovich hadn't spotted Stamford Bridge from the window of his helicopter, and instead invested in Manchester United or Tottenham? Well, we probably wouldn't have appointed nine managers, and we definitely wouldn't have won 11 major trophies. But to go beyond the numbers, we would have missed out on so many of the great memories, several of which will last a lifetime in the minds of all Chelsea fans.
The great thing about Roman, for all the criticism that he gets, is that he is, at heart, a fan. You only need to witness him jumping from his seat when we score to realise that he sees Chelsea Football Club as so much more than just a business investment. If I had £10bn at my disposal, I think I'd act similarly.
Thanks to him, we've been able to witness some of the game's best talents pull on a blue shirt and fight for our cause. With the return of the Special One, arguably there's no better time to support Chelsea.
I would describe this fanpost as a stream of consciousness. My recollection of all that has made Roman's decade at Chelsea such an incredible time to be a fan. I'm looking forward to reading the stories others have about their time as a supporter in the 'Roman era'. I still get chills down my spine when I recall some of our more famous wins, and I'm sure many of you feel the same.
"I'm a Chelsea fan. Pre-Abramovich"
This was my response when anyone in my first year of high school questioned my allegiance. I felt it necessary to make this distinction to avoid the "glory hunter" jibes of my classmates. (even though, being 2003, our real glory under Roman wasn't to start until the following season)
And it was true. I'd taken to Chelsea as soon as I started taking an interest in football, aged about 6. Encouraged by my dad to be different to my childhood friends, all of whom supported Man United, there was only one club for me. Chelsea were the epitome of style in their blue strips, and with the "sexy football" advocate Ruud Gullit at the helm. Best of all, there was Zola.
The little maestro captured my imagination with his infectious playing style, producing tricks, flicks and free kicks that bamboozled opponents. There was never any doubt about which player I would try to emulate in the playground. I still recall jumping for joy after his winner against Stuttgart in the Cup Winner's Cup final and marveling as his free kick helped us to a 3-1 win against Barcelona. (unfortunately our lead was overturned at the Nou Camp)
All good things must come to an end, and in 2002-03, Franco announced he would leave Chelsea. By then, I'd grown attached to other players in the squad as well, and I was delighted when Jesper Gronkjaer's famous goal ensured that Chelsea - my Chelsea - would play Champions League football the following year.
I had no idea how massive that goal was, how much it would alter the future of the club I supported.
The early days
While my love affair with Chelsea started before Roman, it was consummated with him at the club.
Dad woke my up early in the school holidays to tell me a Russian had bought Chelsea. He'd read it in the newspaper. I didn't know what to think.
It soon became clear that this Russian was ridiculously rich. Chelsea were linked with new players every day. (some things never change!) My 11-year-old mind whirred - who would we sign? Henry, Vieira, Owen? Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Raul? Erm...Glen Johnson. But before long, we had almost an entirely new team.
Those early games were magic! Just getting used to all the new faces as they picked up the points that took us to our highest league position in half a century. Only Arsenal's "invincibles" came between us and a league title.
They weren't even that invincible! Wayne Bridge's late winner at Highbury knocked them out of the Champions League - was there any sweeter way to progress to the semi finals?
I was convinced we would win the competition, but alas, we imploded in Monaco. Still - second place in the league and Champions League semi finalists! Not bad for a team who still hadn't discovered it's true identity, and whose players still had some gelling to do.
About that time, I signed an online petition begging our owner not to sack Claudio Ranieri. The Italian was a true gentleman, but his departure was inevitable, and our last day win over Leeds marked the end of the first of Roman's nine managers.
11 days later, a certain Portuguese coach won the trophy that would become our holy grail.
The Special One
The next three seasons were special!
You all know the story. Jose turned us from Ranieri's team of nearly-men into a formidable unit, a force to be reckoned with. The players fought tooth and nail for each other and for the shirt. Some of our performances made me burst with pride. Everyone hated us. We didn't care. No one liked playing us - and with good reason!
I could write a book about the memories our years under Jose evoke. Lamps rounding Jaaskelainen to give us our first league title in 50 years! Carvalho slamming past Van der Sar to make it back to back in the most emphatic style! JT's header that flashed past Victor Valdes to ensure
good defeated evil Chelsea beat Barcelona! Didier's poked finish in extra time to win the first FA Cup at the new Wembley!
Of course, in football, as in life, there's joy and there's sorrow. While we experienced much more of the former, there were tinges of the latter. Most notably a duo of semi final defeats at Anfield. What was worst of all, neither of them felt deserved. The Luis Garcia "ghost goal" is well documented. In 2007, it was a penalty shootout. Rafa Benitez sat calmly on the pitch. Our players' calmness deserted them. Kuyt slotted the decisive kick. I went to bed holding back the tears.
Nonetheless, those emotions didn't last long. Surely with a manager as talented as Jose backed up by Roman's wallet, we'd be in with a shout in all competitions in 2007-8.
Then on a Tuesday night in September, the sky fell down. The next few weeks I felt like mourning. Jose was gone, and I didn't think he'd ever come back.
Hurt in Moscow
That season, fate had to be taking the piss. Another Champions League semi final against our favourite Scousers. But this time, instead of the tactical mastermind of Mourinho, our boss was a charlatan, a fraud. A snake oil salesman who convinced Roman to dismiss the manager the fans adored.
You can safely assume I'm not in the Avram Grant fan club, if there is such a thing! But of course, third time lucky, we beat Liverpool. The Champions League final v Manchester United in Moscow! Where better to lift our first European Cup than the city where Roman Abramovich had lived?
No one needs reminded what happened that night. Didier lost his head. He would have taken a penalty. None of us knew fate would have a lot more in store for him as well.
"Come on JT, just score!" I begged the TV. He didn't. My worst moment as a Chelsea fan.
We finished that season as runners up in three competitions. That really hurt! Still, I had to take a step back and consider how far we'd come in Roman's five seasons at the club - from being overjoyed with finishing in the Champions League places, to being gutted that we didn't win the competition.
New managers, near misses and successes
The new season heralded another new manager -
Gene Hackman Big Phil Scolari, who impressed with his style of football early on. It soon emerged that Phil had little in the way of a plan B, and teams began to find us out. Guus Hiddink came in and steadied the ship, winning an FA Cup in the process.
Once again though, there was a cloud among this silver lining - more heartbreak in the Champions League semis. Tom Henning Ovrebo put in the worst refereeing performance I'd ever seen. The villains, with their tiki taka football and holier than thou mentality had beaten our fiercely dedicated warriors. Deep down, I wondered if we were destined never to lift the cup with the big ears.
If anyone could overcome the curse, surely it was Carlo Ancelotti? The very fact that Carlo had one the competition twice was a major reason Roman went after him in the first place. But he couldn't deliver the holy grail either.
Instead, he got us playing excellent football domestically, leading us to our only league and FA Cup double. Evidently that wasn't enough for Roman, who showed him the door after a trophyless year the following season.
I felt slightly ashamed by Roman. There are few nicer men, or better coaches, than Carlo in world football, and I was embarrassed by the manner of his dismissal. It felt unbefitting for a man who gave us so much joy in the double season.
The revolving door at Stamford Bridge started spinning faster. AVB's 3 year plan lasted 7 months.The team seemed to lack any sense of coherence at this stage. AVB had tried to phase out players who were leaders under Jose, before new leaders were ready to emerge.
Worried about our position in the top 4, and 3-1 down to Napoli in the Champions League, our season was in tatters. Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Robbie Di Matteo.
That night in Munich
19/05/2012 is a date that is permanently tattooed deep in the minds of most Chelsea fans, and will remain so until their dying day, and I'm no exception. It's difficult to put my feelings about that occasion into words.
The word "heroic" could be used to describe our performance in every round of the competition. The "Old Guard" combining to overturn our Napoli deficit. Grabbing an unlikely away win in Lisbon and protecting it at the Bridge. Then it was Barcelona. Hardly any 'experts' thought we had a hope of winning. On paper, they were right. Thank God football isn't played on paper.
Drogba's first leg goal put us in with a shout. Could it be our time? Hope seemed to be ripped from our grasp upon JT's idiotic sending off. Surely the swarming Barca would overrun our depleted defence and hammer us? 10 men defended like lions. Ramires scored a goal that was the very essence of 'jogo bonito'. We defended and defended and defended. And then...Torres.....Aoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow!
We weren't short of heroes in the final either. No one in a blue shirt gave up, even when, I admit, Bayern's goal had me thinking we were in for a valiant defeat. Drogba's header was majestic.
Down to penalties - our fifth taker just needed to put the ball in the net to see us crowned European Champions. Where had I heard that before?
I tried to imagine what must have been going through Didier's head as he strode towards the penalty spot. Our semi final defeats to Liverpool? The "fucking disgrace" of the 2009 semi? His slap on Vidic, and the missed opportunity to be a hero four years earlier? That this would be his last kick for the club where he'd become a superstar?
Whatever he was thinking, Didier was coolness personified. He was never going to miss! I found myself jumping on the sofa and rolling around on the floor in a delirious state.
After so many near misses, we'd won the trophy Roman and the fans valued above all others. That night was perfect.
After such a triumph, last season was always destined to be a bit of an anti climax. We were treated to some glorious play by the Mazacar triumvirate. Roman ruthlessly dismissed our Champions League winning manager and installed the deeply disliked Benitez. And we ended up with another trophy in the cabinet. Not the one we would have chosen, but a trophy nonetheless. Number 11 of the Abramovich era.
I hope this post conveys my view of our 10 years under the ownership of Roman Abramovich. I hope it has done justice to the happy memories I have as a Chelsea fan that Roman was responsible for.
So, what of the future? What will we be looking back on in Roman's 20th year at the club?
As I mentioned, I wasn't sure if we'd ever see Jose Mourinho managing Chelsea again. I kept telling myself he wasn't returning, even as the rumours of his second coming grew and grew. When the club confirmed it, I couldn't stop smiling for a week.
Although our high turnover of managers in the last decade hasn't put a stop to our success, I'd like to see Jose remain here for at least the duration of his contract. After those four years, he may want to move on. But I'd love to see him stay and build a dynasty at Chelsea as Sir Alex Ferguson did at United.
Perhaps Roman's best legacy is the upgrades he has made to our training facilities and the money he has invested in youth development. This is now starting to bear fruit with the best generation of young players at the club in a long time. Over the next decade, I'm hopeful that several academy products will develop into first team players. Exciting as it is to make expensive new signings, there's little better than seeing someone the club have trained from a talented kid into a world class player.
Finally, I'd like to say thanks again to Roman for an incredible 10 years as a Chelsea fan. Here's to the next decade of success, great football and creating more wonderful memories!
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!