Our former winger Pat Nevin celebrated a part of his own Chelsea story at the weekend, and before telling tales from that special occasion in SW6 he looks forward to the next chapter in our history…
First things first, I am so glad the Chelsea fans chose Thiago Silva as Player of the Season. It may have been a difficult period, but he has been a shining light of professionalism and of brilliance on the field. You Blues fans know your stuff!
The other day I was asked to put my team of the season together for the entire Premier League and waited for the abuse when I argued Thiago Silva should be in the discussion. In fact, there were no claims that I was just being Chelsea biased. Most people who know anything about the game accept that he is still a world-class defender, and classier on the ball than any other centre-back in the business.
The other not unimportant news was of course Mauricio Pochettino being named as the new boss starting next month. I mean, wow, I didn’t see that one coming out of a clear blue sky! I am never sure if irony comes across that well in print, but obviously it was expected and for many of us, it was hoped for as well. Poch has a superb pedigree and among all the many things in his favour, it is the fact he has a good record and indeed a love for developing young players that might just come in handiest with our current roster!
Most commentators have talked about trimming the squad and this will undoubtedly be top of the in-tray for the new man in the hotseat. It will not, however, be an easy task, particularly when you consider the contracts in place and also the fact many of these players haven’t had a lot of games lately. There is quality, however, and those that will not be going forward with us will find new clubs soon enough, if everyone is honest and fairly reasonable.
Poch will want to get a balanced squad and one that reflects his ideas on the game. There is no doubt in my mind he will already have some strong thoughts on who he wants and who he doesn’t, just by looking at the last few games and the research he has undoubtedly already done. He will also be desperate to get in a few new faces, maybe even ones that he knows and trusts, but also one or two he has been watching in the recent period since he has had a break from actual team management.
With the raw talent he has available - that he will believe he can mould and sculpt into top players and a top team - I personally think it is a mouthwatering opportunity for him. It might take a while, no one is expecting miracles from day one after the season we have had, but good solid progress is a must not just from the club and the fans’ point of view, but also for the standards he sets himself.
A trip down memory lane...
That is all in the future but if you will indulge me, I would like to talk a little about the past. At the weekend there was a reunion for the Chelsea players from the 1983/84 season and it turned out to be a brilliant night at Stamford Bridge, well Under the Bridge below the East Stand. I was part of that team who won the league in the second tier, scoring loads of goals, getting to the top flight, and then quickly becoming a team who were battling for the top places in the top league.
Nearly 400 fans crammed into the room for what was an unforgettable trip down memory lane. I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the special moments that happened but suffice to say, Chelsea fans who were there had a joyous end to the season, they deserved that.
I got the job of emcee, and as usual I didn’t prepare a word. These players had plenty to say and usually a very funny way of saying it, so filling the time wasn’t going to be a problem. Mickey Thomas made us laugh effortlessly while Colin Pates and John Bumstead carried on with the surreal humour that I loved every day in the home dressing room all those years ago.
Rather wonderfully, the larger-than-life former owner of the club Ken Bates was there as the special guest. Ken, never short of a sharp word and harsh criticism when he thought it was due, was on top form. Considering he is in his 92nd year he was little short of a phenomenon. I will admit that as I interviewed him I was initially ready to whip that microphone away from him if he strayed into dangerous territory. I needn’t have worried. The only territory he had to steel himself for was his rarely seen overemotional side. My memories of Ken are almost all good, but this memory of him will live long in the mind. Once again, thank you Mr.Chairman for saving the club when you did.
I decided to get Kerry Dixon and David Speedie on stage at the same time. As a partnership up front that season 40 years ago, they were dynamite together. They didn’t disappoint and even if they hadn’t answered a single question I asked, it would have been worth it just for the picture opportunity of them both together again. I admit I was happy to be in the frame too – well, I did add a few goals myself during that campaign! Between the three of us we scored over 60…not bad for a trio thrown together at the start of the season.
I got that picture of us from my Twitter feed and now it is downloaded, I will make sure I never lose it. Even so it wasn’t the most poignant moment of the night and there were many of those. We remembered our old manager John Neal, his assistant Ian McNeil and everyone individually who helped at the club back then, including Thresa and Jane who still work for us!
There was however a truly glorious moment when a feud that had lasted almost four decades was finally put to bed. Our legendary winger Paul Canoville and David Speedie finally made up their differences. There was forgiveness and bravery with the honest apologies that were needed being made, man to man, beforehand. Those two together finally was without doubt the best moment of the night. It was unforgettable…as was that team for those who witnessed it.