Today’s game against Leicester City will be the third time in four Premier League fixtures this term in which the man in the opposition dugout has links with Chelsea. We look back at a few of those who were friends before becoming foes…
First it was Frank Lampard, who fell to a maiden defeat against the club where he holds legendary status as our all-time leading scorer and former head coach. Then it was Antonio Conte, a Premier League title winner during his two years at the Bridge, but now at the helm of fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Now we welcome Brendan Rodgers, a man who despite not having much involvement at first-team level with Chelsea, enjoyed a spell in charge of our Under-18s and reserve team before embarking on a senior coaching career, which has now taken him to Leicester.
A run such as this – three managers out of four having a Blues connection – is a little out of the ordinary, but there have been a fair few Chelsea alumni who we’ve come up against in the opposition dugout throughout the Premier League era.
More often than not it is an ex-player rather than a former manager – not many tick both boxes like Lampard, although Ruud Gullit did just that. The Dutchman famously led us to the FA Cup in 1997 as our player-manager, before being unceremoniously sacked less than a year later. He returned with Newcastle United.
The majority of the former players come from Gullit’s famously cosmopolitan squad of the late 1990s, which wasn’t a surprise to any of those involved in the set-up at that time, as it was said to be full of deep thinkers when it came to football. In fact, only a few of them haven’t become coaches at some level.
Gustavo Poyet and Roberto Di Matteo were two midfielders from that team who came back. Poyet famously became the first manager to record a Premier League win over Jose Mourinho – more on him later – at Stamford Bridge when he led his Sunderland side to a famous victory in April 2014.
Di Matteo’s solitary return here was, however, an occasion he’d rather forget, seeing as it was a 6-0 drubbing during his time at West Brom, who he had just led to promotion. To be fair, Robbie had rather happier memories of his short time in charge of Chelsea after that, of course…
Three of their team-mates have also found themselves up against us – and, in Mark Hughes’ case, more than just about anyone else. Sparky was a battering ram of a centre-forward in his Chelsea days, but he found us almost impossible to crack as a manager as he lost 19 of his 27 matches in the opposition dugout.
Steve Clarke, meanwhile, was a stalwart defender who was at the club for our most recent relegation to the second tier, before winning silverware at the end of his time here – and then coming back to lift even more trophies as Mourinho’s assistant. Few deserved it more – and few Chelsea fans could begrudge him a victory over us during his time as West Brom manager.
Then there’s Gianfranco Zola, who added to his on-field achievements as a Blue by winning silverware as a coach under Maurizio Sarri. In between times he took charge of four games for West Ham United against us, with Clarke alongside him as assistant manager.
The late, great Ray Wilkins was our youngest-ever captain and later a trophy-winning coach here, but he had less success when he faced his old club while at QPR. Terry Venables, another young skipper at the Bridge, was moderately more successful when he was back up against his old club, including while at Leeds United. And Venables’ team-mate from the Sixties, George Graham, took us on with Arsenal, Leeds and Tottenham – he’s one of the few who boasts a winning record against us.
And let’s not forget Scott Parker, a PFA Young Player of the Year at Chelsea who we met during his time in charge at Fulham, and could well face again this season with Bournemouth.
Of our former managers, Carlo Ancelotti and his Everton side were absolutely tonked on his return to Stamford Bridge shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world, just under a decade on from winning the Double at Stamford Bridge. Carletto has also been back a couple of times since with Real Madrid.
Mourinho fully embraced the battle of meeting the club where he won three Premier League titles, although he had mixed success when taking us on during his spells in charge of Manchester United and Tottenham.
A member of his coaching staff at Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas, joins him among the extensive ex-Blues and Spurs bosses, as he followed his brief stint as our manager with a slightly longer spell in north London. Glenn Hoddle is another who managed both, as well as playing for the two teams; while his best days as a player were undoubtedly at the Lane, his time as Chelsea boss was far more successful than at Tottenham, as he started the revolution in west London.
Mourinho’s predecessor at Stamford Bridge was Claudio Ranieri, who couldn’t quite get us over the line for silverware despite a few near misses – but one of his returns to Chelsea was as a Premier League title winner after he led Leicester City to one of the most famous triumphs of all time. The ovation he got at the Bridge for that final game of the 2015/16 season illustrated how highly thought of he remains here.
Two former Chelsea managers who perhaps wouldn’t win any popularity contests at Stamford Bridge, Rafa Benitez and Avram Grant, also took us on with other clubs. We faced Rafa with Liverpool, Newcastle and Everton, while Avram lost all four meetings with Portsmouth and West Ham.
There’s a few others to tick off, three of whom were assistants at the Bridge. Peter Shreeves was here under Hoddle and he came up against us as Sheffield Wednesday boss; Bobby Gould worked with Sir Geoff Hurst in the Eighties, and was back against us with Coventry City; and Paul Clement won the Double as one of Ancelotti’s assistants in 2010, before losing two games against us in charge of Swansea City.
Lastly, Stewart Houston and Chris Hutchings, unheralded players in the 1970s and 80s respectively, also took us on while leading Arsenal and Bradford City respectively.