A Chelsea fan's verdict on a season that promised a new era but delivered embarassment


It has been a season to forget for Chelsea fans, so we got our resident Blues supporter Matt Somerford to write about what it has been like to follow the worst Premier League title defence ever.

Chelsea's Diego Costa
(Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA)

This was supposed to be the season that Roman Abramovich's cash-driven project became something even more significant.

It was supposed to be the season that the weaving drama of life under the Russian billionaire settled into something more sophisticated than a modern-day football franchise.

The ingredients were there. Abramovich's billions, Jose Mourinho's single-minded desire to prove he could build a dynasty, a group of players that had just walked the title and an academy steadily built and overflowing with talent.

We dreamed ... a Chelsea era was upon us.

Jose Mourinho
(John Walton/PA)

It was an irresistible mix, a defining point in Abramovich's decade-long reign that had brought unprecedented success but as many quick fixes along the way. No Chelsea fan would change that for the world, but it appeared after the adolescence the club were ready to settle down and shed that franchise tag that Manchester City and Paris St Germain have also wandered into.

Four months into the season, the dream was gone.

Mourinho was sacked, the players were being labelled as traitors and the perfect storm had descended into a fog of distrust.

Where did it all go wrong and how did it happen so quickly?

The obvious starting point was the opening-day fiasco involving club doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn, and while that did not fully explain away the season to follow it did lurk heavily in the background as Mourinho's mood soured with each day.

Eva Carneiro
(Matt Dunham/AP/PA)

Mourinho's arrogance can be entertaining in victory, but as the home defeats stacked up his swagger morphed into that ugly petulance that some Chelsea fans, certainly this one, grew tired of first time round.

There was the six-minute rant after losing to Southampton, getting sent to the stands at West Ham - where he was goaded by Danny Dyer - and then, finally, he broke at Leicester when declaring he had been betrayed by his players.

Perhaps Mourinho was right, but the choking atmosphere that he had been front and centre of since that opening day against Swansea was a world away from the wide-eyed expectation that Chelsea fans held in the summer.

His exit was the pin-prick for all the emotion of the season to spill out. The scenes at Stamford Bridge in the game after he departed were toxic.

Chelsea fans
(John Walton/PA)

Players held up as heroes only a couple of months earlier were declared traitors. The club's hierachy were in the dock too, none more than Michael Emenalo who, rightly or wrongly, has become the point of anger for many Blues fan.

The over-riding feeling for me, however, was that we've been here before. There would be no era. This was just the latest fall in that weaving drama I thought was going to be left behind.

When Robert Di Matteo was sacked a couple of months after winning the Champions League, the fans howled with the same sort of derision. It happened when Rafael Benitez was brought in and when club legend Frank Lampard was allowed to go.

The debilitating sense was that, for all the money in the world, Chelsea would never break free from that cycle of controversy and trophies.

Chelsea's Diego Costa
(Steven Governo/AP/PA)

There will be many fans around England who have very little sympathy with the plight of a Chelsea fan. That's fair enough, too, because why would you care for a club that has been catapulted into the top level of the game by one man's money?

But as a fan you don't want your club's identity to be cast on the money they have in the bank. It won't stop you enjoying the success it brings - and Chelsea fans will forever be in Mr Abramovich's debt - but lurking behind every victory parade there is a knowledge that one day the owner will leave. What then?

What will the identity of Chelsea be?

For me, that lingering concern drives that "toxic" atmosphere among the fans at Chelsea when things go wrong.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
(Matt Dunham/AP/PA)

There is an urgency among fans for something tangible and long-lasting to be built that would outlast Abramovich when he does go.

A thriving academy helps soothe some of those concerns, as do the plans for a new stadium, and the club deserves huge credit for a lot of what they have done to raise the profile. But arguably the most important factor in the mind of Chelsea fans is creating an identity that permeates the club to the extent that new signings realise as soon as they step inside the doors.

Chelsea had the chance to do that at the start of the season. They had Mourinho willing to undertake the sort of head-teacher role that Sir Alex Ferguson executed for two decades at Manchester United.

They had an academy of players who were learning their craft alongside each other and one day ready to graduate with a sense of the club.

Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek, left, celebrates after he scored
(Alastair Grant/AP/PA)

But now it all seems skin deep. The academy players have hardly got a look in - most are on loan all around Europe - Mourinho is gone, a host of players are likely to follow him and, most depressingly, so too might John Terry.

The club can't be made accountable for a number of things that went on this season - they can't kick the ball for the players - but Terry's exit would be the final hammer blow to a wretched season for Chelsea fans.

Few would blame him for turning down a one-year contract, which was delayed so late in the season to suggest his significance as a part of the Chelsea identity was not rated as highly as it is among the fans.

Terry's best days are almost certainly behind him and letting him go might make sense if he was any other 35-year-old defender.

John Terry
(Adam Davy/PA)

But Terry has spent two decades at the club. For all his controversies he embodies what fans - from all clubs - hold dear. A one-club man, a leader, one of us. The characteristics that are the foundations of a club, not a franchise.

The type of person who teaches new signings what it means to play for Chelsea and make the club more meaningful than a vehicle for riches and silverware.

Should he leave, it will be final blow for Chelsea fans in a bad season. A season that began promising an unprecedented era of success, but finishing in the end of an era.