Blog

Never go back

Claudio Ranieri slipped to defeat on his return to Stamford Bridge with Fulham on Sunday – but that’s nothing new when it comes to ex-Chelsea bosses coming back to SW6 in the Premier League.

The Italian spent four years in the blue half of west London between 2000 and 2004, leading us to an FA Cup final and a highest league finish of 2nd. Now he is just the latest addition to a statistic which just keeps on building and building, as no former Blues manager has returned to Stamford Bridge and won a Premier League game with another club.

The record for members of this group now reads a rather disappointing: Played 14, won zero, drawn five, lost nine.

Some may be surprised that the number of matches is so low, considering the illustrious names who have graced the Stamford Bridge dugout during the modern era. But we actually had to wait until the turn of the century for the first of our former managers to return to west London for a Premier League fixture.

Glenn Hoddle was that man, with his stock having dropped to an all-time low after the ignominious end to his England tenure, a job he had taken shortly after starting the modernisation process at Chelsea.

He led us to a first FA Cup final in 24 years, signed such legendary figures as Ruud Gullit and Mark Hughes – but he couldn’t guide either Southampton or Spurs to a league win at his old stomping ground.

Four times Hoddle returned and though he managed to record a 1-1 draw with each club, his Spurs side was also beaten 4-0 and 4-2. The former of those matches included Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s famous ‘perfect’ hat-trick, while the Dutchman also rounded off the scoring in the latter. Surprisingly, Hoddle has not been seen since in the Premier League.

One manager who will wish he didn’t bother coming back to SW6 was Avram Grant, who of course led the club to our first-ever Champions League final in 2008. Most Blues fans will recall that the Israeli was in charge of Portsmouth when we beat them in the FA Cup final to seal the second part of our domestic Double in 2010, but he’d also brought them back to the Bridge six months earlier, when they almost stole a 1-1 draw before Frank Lampard’s late penalty secured the victory.

However, few Blues fans will forget his second, and final, return to the club in the Premier League. It came at the end of April in 2011, with Grant in charge of a West Ham side who would ultimately drop into the Championship at the end of that season. They were trailing 1-0 to a goal from former Hammers star Lampard when the moment Chelsea supporters had been long been waiting for finally arrived; record signing Fernando Torres opened his account for the club. A Florent Malouda thunderbolt just added to Grant’s woes, too.

Andre Villas-Boas was the next ex-Chelsea boss to come back to the club, a year or so after his brief reign in west London had ended. Of course, his replacement, Roberto Di Matteo, led us to the Champions League, but this May meeting between the sides in 2013 was vital in the race to seal a return to the competition the following season.

Twice we led, through Brazilian aces Oscar and Ramires, but on both occasions we were pegged back by sublime equalisers as the spoils were shared.

Our manager at the end of that campaign was Rafael Benitez and while the Spaniard won at Stamford Bridge with Liverpool, that was prior to his short stint in the Blues dugout. Since then he has returned just once for a Premier League game and though his Newcastle side took an early lead through Dwight Gayle, a brace from Eden Hazard either side of a goal from Alvaro Morata saw us record a 3-1 win this time last year.

Next we come to Ranieri, whose first Premier League game back at the Bridge finished in a 1-1 draw as Danny Drinkwater and Cesc Fabregas traded goals. It was the final day of the 2015/16 campaign and, of course, the Italian’s Leicester City side had already been crowned as the most unlikely Premier League champions of all time – so we suspect he could probably handle being held to a draw.

A few months later, however, Chelsea were on our way to stealing back our title from the Foxes and goals from Diego Costa, Hazard and Victor Moses gave us a 3-0 win at the start of our best-ever winning run in the top flight.

Another game as part of that sequence came against Manchester United, who had recently appointed Jose Mourinho as their manager, and we produced one of the most devastating attacking displays of the Antonio Conte era to beat them 4-0. Pedro put us in front in the opening minute and Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard were also on target before N’Golo Kante scored his first goal for the Blues.

Last season’s meeting between the sides at Stamford Bridge finished with the Blues taking three points once again, this time courtesy of a wonderful header by Alvaro Morata, and in October we kept the unbeaten streak going against our former managers thanks to Ross Barkley’s last-gasp equaliser in a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Unless newly managerless Southampton appoint an ex-Chelsea boss, we’ll next have a chance to extend the record when Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United visit the Bridge on 12 January.

MORE FROM CHELSEA