We often joke that Chelsea are the enemies of football, killing it one pragmatic game, one big-money transfer, one failed youth prospect, one controversy, and one managerial sound bite at a time. Some observers actually believe this to be true, of course, but beyond the media narratives and the Internet hot takes, there lies an actual overarching mentality that permeates the club from top to bottom. Winning. Winning at all cost. Winning today. Winning tomorrow. Winning everything.
It wasn’t always like that. Chelsea of the swinging ’60s and ’70s were Hollywood on King’s Road, with celebrities packed into the stands and entertaining football offered on the pitch. But it was quite shallow in retrospect, as glamour tends to be, with just three cups added to the trophy cabinet. Even as far back as the 1910s, Chelsea were associated with big crowds, big stars, and stylish football but without any actual hardware to show for it. A general decline in our fortunes during the late ’70s and early ’80s brought out a seedier element, though Chelsea were hardly alone in that regard. Bruised and battered, England eventually emerged from the hooligan era, the creation of the Premier League signalling the start of a massive, international football revolution.
On King’s Road, the good times were also back and while consistent success still eluded the Blues, stylish football featuring world famous football stars did not. Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola, and Gianluca Vialli were just a few of the big names who made SW6 their home. A few cup successes and improved league results brought worldwide attention, and, most importantly, big money. Everything changed in 2003.
Abramovich’s millions would have not been as effective, however, without someone to properly translate them into points and trophies. That someone of course is Jose Mourinho. Since The Special One’s arrival in 2004, Chelsea have collected 13 trophies, including four Premier League titles, a matching number of FA Cups, while tasting European glory once each in the Champions League and the Europa League. In the last eleven years, we’ve won just about as many trophies as in the first 100 of the club’s existence. Only Manchester United come close to matching our consistency of success in the 21st century. When a new signing comes in these days, he does so with the express desire of winning trophies.
The owner obviously demands tangible returns for his investment in the club, but investments alone do not guarantee results. There needs to be a willingness to never settle for second best. Ends justify the means, whether that involves a revolving door on the manager’s office, or repeated outrageous spending on the transfer market. Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea lasted a little over three years, but in that time he set the tone that lasted for the next decade. He also set the standard for his own career, one that has seen him collect and then promptly throw into the crowd over 20 winner’s medals, including eight domestic league titles in a dozen or so years. At one point, he had gone 150 league games unbeaten at his home grounds. He has lost just one Premier League match ever at Stamford Bridge.
For Mourinho, winning starts on the training ground, in the dressing room, and probably while he’s sleeping, too. For Chelsea, it starts in the academy, with director Neil Bath espousing a similar emphasis on winning as the first-team manager. The vast majority of the youth will never get to make their senior Chelsea debut, but they will be set up for a productive career thanks to our world class facilities, coaches, and the winning mentality they teach from day one. Development is the primary aim, both on and off the pitch, and for us, that ideally consists of learning to deal with the pressures and the expectations of success as well.
When Mourinho returned in 2013, he spent the next twelve months talking about little horses and unhatched eggs and, for lack of a better term, balls. And we don’t mean the ones you kick around. The training wheels were taken off last summer, and we romped to the title. The re-building was a success, the next generation of Chelsea players had been instilled with the winning mentality needed for consistent success. There had never been any doubt about John Terry’s desire to win, and now there’s no doubt about Eden Hazard’s or Branislav Ivanovic’s mindset either.
Last season, Chelsea were crowned Champions of England for the fifth time in our history and fourth time in the last eleven seasons. Three of those titles have come under Mourinho. We added a League Cup trophy to the cabinet as well (our fifth), while the U19 side won the youth equivalent of the Champions League and the U18 side won the FA Youth Cup for the fourth time in six years. Recently, even Chelsea LFC joined the festivities by winning the first ever Women’s FA Cup final to be held at Wembley Stadium.
An incredibly successful season then, even by recent standards. Now, we must continue the habit.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits