I have never been to Stamford Bridge, let alone London or Europe for that matter. I follow Chelsea from all the way across the world in India, occasionally defying sleep and a healthy lifestyle but nevertheless I follow the club avidly. From an ‘outsider’s perspective’, I notice a palpable discord in the reactions between the fans at the stadium and us, internet warriors, to Jose Mourinho’s second unceremonious exit from Chelsea.
The Stamford Bridge faithful were clear in their verdict of the sacking, squarely blaming under-performing players, jeering Fabregas and Costa in particular when the team sheet was announced. Oscar and Matic similarly received mixed to negative reactions.Captain John Terry received no reaction lending a surreal and strange atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. It grew stranger. As Chelsea scored twice inside the first 13 minutes, the chants for Mourinho only grew louder. “Where were you when we were shit?” sang the crowd in a direct verbal assault on the players.
On the internet however, Jose Mourinho has descended to a figure of derision. An overwhelming majority, while still extending support for the man, have increasingly questioned his decisions. Support for the Special One has been dwindling since the summer when the club’s transfer strategy was questioned and at the start of the season, when he launched an inexplicable attack on the club’s doctor – Eva Carneiro – for a seemingly minor incident on the opening day of the season. On the pitch, things looked similarly bleak. A home win over 10-man Arsenal remains Chelsea’s single significant win in the Premier League this season and If it wasn’t for the emergence of Willian Beckham, Chelsea would probably be out of the Champions League as well.
The defeat at Leicester ultimately signalled the end for Mourinho. But the sacking was just the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg that started taking shape two years ago with the sale of Juan Mata – the first flash point decision by Mourinho that polarised the Chelsea fan base. Other players like Bertrand, De Bruyne, Lukaku, David Luiz and Cech have all left the club in the intervening two years and generally succeeded elsewhere. Of all the signings that have replaced them, can you call anyone apart from Matic, Zouma and Costa a raging success? Even Costa’s success comes with an asterisk.
In 2013, when he triumphantly returned to the club, the Special One promised “to make the most of Chelsea’s attacking riches”. In his first interview back, he specifically mentioned Oscar, Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku noting how young the squad was this time around. Fans were romanticised by the idea of a long and fruitful second stint at the club where these players would go on to reach their undeniable potenial. With the exception of Hazard however, none of them realised their full potential here.
The Stamford Bridge faithful should let go of the idea of Jose Mourinho. The same way they should have let go of the idea of Roberto di Matteo in 2013. This is ofcourse much harder because it is Mourinho. He reserves a special connection with the club but bringing him back was an ill-fated attempt to revive an old love affair.
It saddens me that it ended this way, abruptly and unceremoniously but now that the romance is finally dead, we have to embrace the change, as we have for the last ten years at the club. To me, the idea that Mourinho is absolved of all blame and that it is solely the players’ fault does not make sense. Isn’t that Mourinho’s mandate? That he can handle players and unify squads? More importantly, they were his players, carefully handpicked over the last two years. If he ended up with rotten apples, then maybe, he should have stored them better.
Jose Mourinho is a club legend and will always remain the man who took Chelsea to the heights they enjoy today but now that he is gone, for the second time, I don’t feel as devastated as I did back in 2007. No one is above the club. Not even Jose Mourinho.
At another turbulent time at the club, the appointment of Guus Hiddink is welcome. Even Didier Drogba and Eddie Newton are back.The club will slowly try and resurrect their shattered identity in the world of football and it needs the support of the fans to do that. Us internet warriors have no voice at the games but if you are at the Bridge and you are booing a Chelsea player, then you are booing a player picked by Jose Mourinho himself. It’s time to let him go.