It was another good weekend for ruthless Russian autocrats. On Sunday, just hours before Vladimir Putin shed crocodile tears outside the Kremlin, Roman Abramovich was giving Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas his marching orders. Putin did emerge the winner of Russia’s presidential election — though his dodgy tactics might be on a par with Diego “Hand of God” Maradona. But Roman’s empire is crumbling, with his long overdue project to rejuvenate an ageing squad faltering after just eight months.
It is a truth universally acknowledged in football that you can’t win trophies if you change your manager even more frequently than David Beckham changes his hairstyle. Yet “Axeman” Abramovich continues on his (not so) merry way, hiring and firing managers, squandering millions of pounds and driving football pundits into an apoplexy. André Villas-Boas’s card was marked on Saturday, when his faltering team crashed to a seventh defeat of the season at West Brom. They now lie fifth in the Premier League, with a Champions League spot for next season looking increasingly remote.
On last night’s MoTD2, mild-mannered Lee Dixon was so angry he looked as though he wanted to punch someone’s lights out. (Please, let it be the insufferably annoying Colin Murray.) His beef wasn’t so much with Abramovich, as with the senior members of the Chelsea squad who are widely believed to have hastened AVB’s early bath. The condemnation has been widespread, though, with everyone from Luiz Felipe Scolari to League Managers’ Association boss Richard Bevan lining up to have a pop at Chelsea and their capricious owner.
According to Bevan, Chelsea’s managerial merry-go-round constitutes an “embarrassment” to the Premier League. But with John Terry still facing criminal charges over alleged racism and that muppet David Luiz turning Chelsea’s defence into a laughing-stock, fans might actually welcome the distraction of another new manager.
Of course it might not be a “new” manager this time round, because José Mourinho is widely tipped to return to the job he left so abruptly in September 2007. Saviour, “special one” and all-round pain in the arse, José delivered trophies and negative headlines in almost equal measure during those heady days of 2005-07.
Amongst other perceived “crimes”, Mourinho failed to deliver the brand of stylish football that Abramovich craved. But right now I’m guessing most Chelsea fans would take those trademark grinding victories over the humiliation of being turned over by the likes of QPR and West Brom.
He may have pissed off members of the Frank Lampard Fan Club, but I liked young AVB’s gingery beard, trademark black mac and unflinching honesty in the face of relentless speculation about his future. He had class, which is why I was sad to see him on the wrong end of that familiar “You’re getting sacked in the morning” chant from supporters and rival fans.
The Sun isn’t much good for in-depth analysis, but it did sprinkle a little subbing magic over the whole sorry affair with this headline — “Villas-Boas had no chants”. It got me thinking that when it comes to the annual Chelsea boardroom bloodbath the perfect soundtrack would be Queen’s Greatest Hits.
After the fans have finished murdering a chorus of “We Will
Rock Sack You”, they could move straight on to “Another One Bites the Dust”. But as interim coach Roberto Di Matteo takes charge, one Queen song they won’t be singing at Stamford Bridge this season is “We Are the Champions”.