An extraordinary season
SEB COE Thu 19 May 2016
Chelsea fan, Olympic gold medalist, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and chairman of Team GB, Seb Coe, assesses a funny old campaign at Stamford Bridge...
Here we are at the end of what has been a tough season for us Chelsea fans.
Occasionally though I think it’s quite good for a generation of fans that has only ever seen success and trophies to realise that actually for a lot of us out there, we went a long time thinking this year would have been quite a reasonable year under some circumstances we’ve been through.
It’s been an extraordinary season, particularly for the neutral, and there are many of those unattached to clubs, who have seen a different side to the game. You have to say this has been a really good season and a fillip for the game. This has to be good.
If it wasn’t Chelsea winning it, we’d wish it on one of the so-called smaller clubs like Leicester City.
Everybody talks about the 5000/1 odds of them winning the league title, but what odds would you have got on just before Christmas a relegation-threatened v top-of-the-table clash involving Chelsea and Leicester with the roles reversed?
Most Chelsea fans still feel a debt of gratitude to Claudio Ranieri, he got us to the Champions League semi-finals and we played some exciting football under him.
If it wasn’t Leicester we were talking about it could have been West Ham, or for a large chunk of the season Stoke or Watford.
It’s been an intriguing year and it’s shown the Premier League, in terms of strength in depth, is by a distance the best in the world. The top teams here went to places like Watford knowing they had a tough game coming, there are no gimmes.
Despite our own difficulties, the season hasn’t been without its high points.
I think the resilience to turn it around against Spurs at home was a real highlight of the campaign, for all sorts of reasons. I was in the ground and at 2-0 like many of us I was preparing myself for the worst few months ahead.
I thought Eden Hazard’s goal at Liverpool was absolutely world-class. I’m struggling to remember, outside of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, a better goal in the past few years. It was stunning, and the Hazard of old. That’s got to be good for us and Belgium in the coming Euros.
A few of the players have really stepped up, for example I voted for Willian as Player of the Year – he really put in a shift every time he played.
I’m also very excited at the introduction of some of the younger players who have been brought up in the Chelsea way through the Academy. Some of those players, even in 10 or 15 minutes, in Premier League appearances showed incredible poise, so I think the future clearly looks good.
The ambition of Mr Abramovich to create a world class Academy I think will pay off unquestionably in a great way. Look at the performances of our youth teams, and our Ladies team as well, and there are real positives. Outstanding young talent is emerging in the men’s and women’s games.
So on Sunday the season drew to a close, and the fans gave the players a good send-off, as well as congratulating Leicester on their incredible achievement.
I wasn’t at the game, as I was in Rio to see some track and field test events ahead of the Olympics, but my family were there watching.
On the topic of this summer’s Olympics, I think Rio will be a good games and have a spirit that will surprise a lot of people. I know how difficult organising a Games is, and it doesn’t matter where it is, it’s the toughest piece of project management for any city - a tough and at times lonely journey, as I know well from London 2012.
I will be slightly emotional at the opening ceremony but also very relieved at not having to worry about whether the cauldron works or whether 710,000 volunteers can find the right exits or that athletes can arrive on time, successfully shepherd our visitors and athletes or the transport stand up to all the pressures.
I will still be chairman of the British Olympic Association so the performance of Team GB is of paramount importance, and as president of the IAAF I hope it will be a great showcase for our sport.
After that I will look forward to the football season restarting once more, and a bright 2016/17 season, hopefully following a successful European Championships for all our national sides competing.
Antonio Conte is clearly a coach of great pedigree. By all accounts he is a strong guy, no-nonsense, and players will respond to that.
When I was an athlete I liked to know my coaches were uncompromising and tough, their ambition has got to be to get the best out of you at all times.
Chelsea fans want to see good football and I think we will get that, with our team taking the game to the opposition.
Enjoy the summer, and let’s hope for a renewed Chelsea challenge next season. Keep the faith, as Gary Staker, the club’s player liaison officer always tell me.