The Far East Stand Fri 11 Aug 2017
In August 1993, Blackburn Rovers arrived at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the Premier League season and left with all three points after coming from behind to hand Chelsea a 2-1 defeat.
Almost exactly five years later in August 1998, the Blues travelled to Highfield Road for the season-opener and returned empty-handed after another 2-1 loss, this time at the hands of Coventry City.
As we prepare to kick off our 2017/18 campaign against Burnley this weekend, those two matches remain significant markers in Chelsea’s modern history. The loss to Blackburn is the last time we lost our league opener at the Bridge while the defeat at Coventry is the last time we were beaten at all on opening day.
This week, our former conquerors met in the opening round of the newly renamed Carabao Cup with Blackburn securing a 3-1 away win over Coventry.
However, what was more noteworthy is where our two former Premier League adversaries now find themselves in 2017. For while the Blues enjoyed a hugely successful campaign in 2016/17 under Antonio Conte, the opposite was true for both Rovers and the Sky Blues.
Blackburn were actually the team in the ascendancy in 1993, with Kenny Dalglish building a formidable side which finished runners-up that season before lifting the title a year later.
However, that meant little last season as they dropped into English football’s third tier for the first time since 1980.
Coventry had a rather less glamourous presence in the Premier League as they routinely finished mid-table or below, although they proudly maintained their top-flight status for 34 consecutive seasons.
But they never did recover from relegation in 2000/01, languishing in the Championship for a decade before dropping to League One in 2012 and then falling to the fourth tier last season for the first time since 1959 after a dismal campaign in which they finished 11 points adrift of safety.
Looking at what has happened to those once-proud clubs should give us reason to be grateful for what we have witnessed at the Bridge over the past two decades.
While Blackburn were unable to build on their 1995 league success, we have continued to taste glory, lifting the Premier League trophy five times and celebrating success in the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup.
Players and managers may have come and gone but I don’t think we can disagree on the fact that the foundations of the club are as strong as they have ever been.
We now have a state-of-the-art training facility in operation at Cobham which has seen the club build successful teams not only at first-team level but also for the youth and ladies competitions.
Planning is also under way for a magnificent new stadium in west London to accommodate our growing supporter base.
And as the recent Tour of the Champions made clear, our international following has continued to expand with more and more young fans declaring their allegiance to the Blues.
Blackburn and Coventry may be cautionary tales in how we should never take our present status for granted. However, while there may be successes and setbacks to come in the new season, it’s hard not to feel that we still have a bright future ahead as Chelsea fans.