On this day 15 years ago Stamford Bridge celebrated the team being handed silverware for having won the Premier League title, and first championship in half-a-century. It was a memorable day for so many reasons...
‘Everyone at Chelsea is aware of what winning the Premiership means to you fans, so let me tell you this: we don’t intend this to be a once-every-50-years event!’Bruce Buck, Chelsea Chairman
For 90 minutes, the 42,605 supporters inside Stamford Bridge waited. It certainly wasn’t a lot to ask. They had already been holding out for this moment for quite some time, so what difference would another hour-and-a-half make?
For many, it was something they couldn’t have even imagined in their wildest dreams. And then, finally, it happened – at the 94th time of asking, Claude Makelele ended his Chelsea goal drought to kick-start the mother of all title celebrations.
Let’s be quite blunt about this: the first 89 minutes of this match did not matter in the slightest. Those who had come to west London for this lunchtime kick-off were there to see John Terry and co lift the Premier League title for the first time. That they also witnessed Maka’s magic moment was simply an added bonus.
Any fears that the events up at Anfield – sandwiched between sealing top spot up at the Reebok Stadium and the forthcoming title celebrations – may have brought a ghostly air to proceedings quickly evaporated as chants of ‘Campeones’ reverberated down the Fulham Road and continued from the opening whistle until the stunned silence which preceded the collector’s item of a Makelele goal.
Let’s gloss over the questionable nature of the penalty award, with Jonathan Fortune’s challenge on Frank Lampard involving minimal contact and, perhaps more pertinently, occurring outside of the box.
The look of trepidation etched across his face suggested there was far more at stake than simply starting the party. Firstly, the Frenchman was going against the orders of his manager.
‘I was writing diagrams for if there was a penalty in the last minute and we were 2-0 up, then Claude Makelele would take it,’ said Jose Mourinho after the game.
What’s more, Maka’s pride was at stake. His inability to hit the proverbial barn door had been the butt of many a training ground joke throughout the campaign, and even the matchday programme regularly poked fun at him.
Neil ‘Spy’ Barnett had written just a month earlier: ‘It seems time to risk a little wager here or there. I put this suggestion to Claude Makelele, inquiring as to whether a match-by-match few quid on him for last goal might not be a worthy shout.
‘He might, after all, be given a penalty when we are winning, and notch his first goal of the century! Didier Drogba, listening in, nearly died laughing. “No! He took a penalty today at the end of training,” he explained, “and he missed”.
‘Did he miss, or was it saved? Didier held his arms wide. “He missed!”
‘Last week in training on a small pitch, Maka blasted a volley high over the bar from three yards with the goal gaping. Didier’s scream must have been heard at Gatwick Airport. Maybe it’s not worth the risk after all.’
Spy was, no doubt, ready to trot out that final sentence as Makelele struck his spot-kick tamely to the right of Stephan Andersen, who barely had to even dive to reach it. However, the previously immaculate goalkeeper could only parry it straight back to the penalty taker.
This time, Maka made no mistake, scuffing a left-footed effort straight into the ground and over the despairing lunge of the goalkeeper. For years we have heard Andy Townsend inform exasperated viewers of ITV’s football coverage that a player has ‘hit that one too well, Clive’. Finally, someone took heed of his advice.
The other 10 men on the pitch sprinted to celebrate with the man of the moment, joined by substitutes, non-playing squad members and even staff. Mourinho was midway through a sprint down the touchline when he thought better of it. The real celebrations were still to come as the final whistle was blown moments later.
For Roy Bentley and the 12 other surviving members of Chelsea’s first-ever title-winning side in 1955, it must have felt like a dream come true as they headed out onto the pitch to receive the trophy they had never formally been presented with at the Bridge.
‘We’re sorry it’s taken 50 years,’ came the belated apology from the stadium announcer, but the reaction of Bentley and Co suggested it was worth the wait.
Then, after each member of the backroom and playing staff had been individually announced to the crowd – perhaps, most poignantly, Steve Clarke, who had played his part in Chelsea’s rise from Division Two all the way to European glory before returning in a coaching capacity – John Terry was finally able to get his hands on the trophy every Chelsea fan had been dreaming of.
As the celebrations continued into the afternoon, including Robert Huth commandeering a groundsman’s buggy to tear around the pitch with several million pounds worth of team-mates in tow, already the manager was plotting his next success.
‘I told them to enjoy the day because tomorrow is another day,’ said the first overseas manager to lift the title in his debut campaign. ‘My nature is not to be happy but to want more. This is the beginning of a process; this is not the end. This is my first season and I am already thinking about next year.’
Before that, however, the Blues still had a guard of honour to receive at Old Trafford, followed by a shot at creating top-flight history.
You can watch a full recap of the 2004/05 season in Premier League Years on the 5th Stand app.