Making History, Not Reliving It -- a decade of Roman's rule at Chelsea

Posted by Mark Worrall

Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea from Ken Bates in 2003GettyImagesRoman Abramovich bought Chelsea from Ken Bates in 2003

In 80 million pounds of debt and with financial meltdown a matter of weeks away, in July 2003 Chelsea Football Club were saved from almost certain penury by Roman Abramovich, a reclusive young billionaire that few people outside his native Russia had heard of. ‘Making History, Not Reliving It’ recounts the first decade of Roman's rule in London and is written by Chelsea supporters Mark Worrall, Kelvin Barker and David Johnstone.

Extract

As the age-old saying goes: ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, and, for the Chelsea Massive, the past ten years have been a blink-and-you-miss- it, trophy-laden rollercoaster ride that has exceeded even the wildest hallucinogen-infused dreams of the Children of the Revolution – that merry band of Blues brothers and sisters reared on an alarming diet of dwindling crowds, rainy Rotherham away-days, and Kenneth William Bates’ electric fence.

Ah, the psychology of time. In football as in life, the anticipation phase seems to last forever. The milestones to be achieved seem like millstones, but as goals are reached, and history is made along the way, so we enter a period of retrospection and, without new glories, the memories of past triumphs recede swiftly – unless of course you are a delusional supporter of Liverpool (and, at the time of writing, for the past eight years, Arsenal – and, for that matter, since the year of my birth, Tottenham Hotspur) in which case reliving history has become an irksome ritual – a match-day freak-show that leaves its exponents open to generous and well-deserved ridicule.

Is it really a decade since Mr. Roman Abramovich, the billionaire from nowhere, bought Chelsea Football Club? Yes it is. I remember waking up to the news on the morning of July 2nd 2003 and thinking to myself, ‘Blimey, Captain Birdseye’s played a blinder here. 140 million quid! Even after the debt’s been serviced, old Greybeard will be trousering a king’s ransom.’ To me, that was what Batesy was all about. Chasing a pound note. I loved and hated the old rogue in equal measures. Loved him because with all due deference he’d saved Chelsea from the brink of extinction, hated him because he had almost taken us back there. Loved him for the genius master-stroke appointment of Glenn Hoddle as player-manager, hated him for his lack of respect of the Club’s traditions and its die-hard supporters, including the noble and dearly missed Matthew Harding.

As the day unfolded, the who, what, where, why and how questions started, and I recall hearing the now sadly deceased former Sports Minister, then Labour MP for Newham North West, Tony Banks, voicing his concern in a BBC interview. “A sale has been arranged to an individual we know nothing about,” said Mr Banks, with an air of genuine ‘loyal- supporter’ concern. “I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea. Until that question is answered, then I'm afraid the jury is out.”

I tipped my hat to Tony Banks. He was right. The thing was, though, there were plenty of the True Blue persuasion (the jury) who would argue that Ken Bates was not a ‘fit and proper person’ and therefore it mattered not-a-jot if Mr. Abramovich, a youthful 36-year-old businessman who’d apparently started out on the road to riches selling plastic ducks, was ‘fit and proper’ himself. What really mattered was the sincerity of the Russian’s press statement issued at the time of his phenomenal acquisition. "We are delighted to agree this deal to acquire what is already one of the top clubs in Europe,” he’d said. “We have the resources and ambition to achieve even more given the huge potential of this great club.”

It only took a matter of weeks for Mr. Abramovich to capably demonstrate the mind-boggling financial extent he was prepared to go to in order to realise his ambitions for Chelsea Football Club, and even if at times his motivation may appear single-minded, few would argue that he has not amply rewarded long-standing supporters for their loyalty, patience and suffering with a myriad of journeys to glory.

If this extract has whetted your appetite, 'Making History, Not Reliving It' published by Gate 17 is available to buy in paperback and eBook formats including Amazon Kindle and iTunes - for further information visit www.gate17.co.uk

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