2009 & 2015 to 2016
The first of Guus Hiddink's two periods in charge began in mid-February 2009 when he was charged with saving the Blues’ season after it had stuttered under Luiz Felipe Scolari, and he took England by storm.
The Dutchman was in the middle of a contract with the Russian national team, but the lure of the Premier League and a good relationship with Roman Abramovich meant a three-month contract with the Blues was also signed, and he quickly set about rejuvenating a struggling side.The then 62-year-old immediately reinstalled the troubled Didier Drogba to the line-up, and the Ivorian quickly repaid the faith, scoring four in Hiddink’s first six matches, including vital strikes against Juventus and Portsmouth.
His first five matches were won, and indeed over 22 games under Hiddink we lost just once as he led us to a third-placed Premier League finish.It was in the cup competitions that he really showed his worth though, guiding us to a 3-1 win at Anfield in the Champions League, and into the FA Cup final with a Wembley win over Arsenal in the semis, Drogba again netting the winner.
The temporary coach had improved matters by moving Frank Lampard further forward to aid his link to Drogba, with two other midfielders deeper, and he masterminded a 0-0 draw against the free scoring Barcelona in the Camp Nou, before the ill-fated second leg back at Stamford Bridge, where we outplayed the eventual champions for 90 minutes, only to come undone by an injury-time Andres Iniesta strike, several penalty appeals going unanswered in the process.
After the game, even the usually serene Hiddink was at a loss to explain some of the refereeing decisions. Clutching a DVD of the game, having already watched the key replays, he said: ‘Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, the referee can make mistakes...but if you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it is the worst I have seen. At this moment I have to think a lot if I have seen worse.’
Strong, but considered words, an embodiment of what he had brought to the club, and in the end Hiddink was rewarded with silverware, the FA Cup lifted after a comeback against Everton in his final game. Celebrations were long, but as promised beforehand, Hiddink left quietly with the party still in full flow, the fans’ rendition of ‘Guus Hiddink, we want you to stay’ no doubt still ringing in his ears as he did so. The players bought him a watch as a show of their appreciation.
He had long been revered across Europe, having lifted the European Cup with PSV in 1988 before taking on club roles across the continent with Fenerbahçe, Valencia and Real Madrid and then international duties with Holland, South Korea and Australia. After Chelsea he took over the Turkish national side and then returned to Russia to manage club side Anzhi Makhachkala. His second spell in charge of The Netherlands followed before in December 2015 Hiddink answered the Chelsea call once more.
The Blues were only two points above the relegation zone when Jose Mourinho was dismissed but as he had done six years earlier, Hiddink quickly steadied the ship and we remained unbeaten until a Champions League meeting with Paris St-Germain in February 2016. Prior to that we had won away at Arsenal and drawn home and away with Manchester United.
Paris St-Germain did complete our elimination from Europe and a defeat away at Everton in the FA Cup ensured there was to be no Wembley finale as there had been in 2009. We finished the Premier League mid-table, with a dramatic recovery to maintain our long unbeaten run at home to Tottenham the outstanding moment in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Hiddink indicated he would play a role behind the scenes at Chelsea in the future as he once again left the manager’s role to a younger man, with the thanks from Blues followers everywhere ringing in his ears.