In this momentous period, Chelsea legend Pat Nevin writes about the club ownership and the two wins clocked up on the road in the past week…
It has been one of the most important weeks in the history of Chelsea Football Club, one that has upset and worried many of our fans whether they have been following the club for 70 years or 70 days.With the war in Ukraine still raging on, the position of Roman Abramovich at the club became a matter of great focus. In his statement announcing he would sell the club, he said he was doing this ‘with the club’s best interests at heart’. I agree with him and unless Russia makes an abrupt u-turn, which appears unlikely, there seems to be no way back in the foreseeable future. In this world, football is getting ever more important, but at heart there are still much bigger considerations.I have had a few Chelsea fans questioning my stance even though it echoes the current owner’s outlook about the need for him to sell, though importantly not his desire to sell. I welcome those points of view from upset fans. Fortunately that is what happens in a democracy, you are allowed to have varying viewpoints and you can debate them.There is anger and there is disappointment, but it must be in proportion and maybe in time that understanding will come to pass as this huge change for the Blues settles in. It is all very raw right now. Thomas Tuchel seemed disappointed after the Burnley game about some chanting at what was an inappropriate moment. By the way, I think Thomas’s dealings with the media in general this past week have been pretty close to impeccable in what was a very difficult situation, none of his own making obviously.
In terms of the football itself, it has been another very good week, with the fantastic win at Luton under extraordinary circumstances following Roman’s announcement right before the game. The match at Burnley, well the second half at least, saw the Blues back at something approaching their very best.The timing could hardly have been better, with the crunch time regarding Champions League qualification looming. Right now, there is clear blue water between ourselves and the challengers and with this upcoming run of winnable Premier league games, I reckon we could be plain sailing if we can see off Norwich on Thursday night, then Newcastle, Brentford and Southampton over the next four weeks.The thinking might be that the club is more valuable, and the list of prospective owners will be bigger if we are set fair for the Champions League next season. There is some truth in that but in all honesty, Chelsea Football Club is an exceptionally valuable prize if you are a wealthy individual, a consortium or whatever, whether or not the club finishes in the top four this time round.
So, what is in our favour?We just happen to be world and European champions, which isn’t a bad start to the sales pitch. There is the quality of the squad in situ, the world-class manager and his team, the structure of the club up at Cobham, and the nothing less than extraordinary youth development also based at Cobham that can claim to be the best in the world right at this moment.Consider the activity to get a hold of Newcastle United because it is a Premier League club and then compare that with what you already have in place at Stamford Bridge. I think we all know there will be no lack of interested parties over the coming days and weeks.There is also no debt, as Roman Abramovich has written it off. This is quickly overlooked but makes a huge difference to any prospective buyer and of course the club has been trying to work on something closer to an even financial keel over recent years, following the original huge sums pumped in.There is the small fact that Chelsea is in west central London, a hugely desirable place for football folk and there is an impressive legacy and history at the club, with the best parts of it undeniably over the past 19 years. There is fine older history, but the modern football story is of a hugely successful, world-class entity in its field.
Then there is the fan base, even if a few are a bit miffed with me just now (I’ll cope). The ground itself is sold out for every single game and there is little doubt that if it was twice the size, it could be filled every week just the same. The passionate support in the UK has been joined over the past few decades by legions of foreign fans, some of whom can only dream of getting to the Bridge on a regular basis. They are there in their millions and the new owners will see that as a hugely important part of the deal.I could go on, but it is beginning to sound like I am writing an estate agent’s sales pitch here. The point is that for all the fear of change, this club will survive, and it is in better shape than most other clubs you could care to mention.It may well be that the new owner(s) are not as generous to the club as Roman Abramovich has been. To be fair, there are very, very few on the planet who would be, or indeed could afford to be that generous. The fan base knows this at heart, but no club has the god-given right to always have the best financial situation all the time. The real fans will stick with the club through thick and thin. That is what being a true fan is all about.
Roman Abramovich may well have one last vital service to perform for the club that is as important as any other he has performed in his time in charge. He has to choose the best people to be the new custodians.I have helped run a football club myself in the past and was always acutely aware that ownership is actually custodianship. Nobody really owns a football club in the long term, other than the fans. You just try to take care of it as best you can before handing it on. Roman has done an incredible job, I hope he gets the last bit right. To be fair, he is a Chelsea fan and always will be, so I have high hopes.In that he is not looking to gain personal profit, it certainly does give him more leeway to get the right deal as opposed to simply the biggest deal. Though having said that, he will want to get as much as possible to hand on to the charity helping those suffering in Ukraine.And that is where our thoughts have to end. Football is important to many of us, some of us have spent a lifetime inside the game, but in the end it is a glorious irrelevance. What is happening in Ukraine is not irrelevant to anyone in any way.