Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I remember when all this were fields..

So Chelsea have sacked Big Phil.

Let me re-phrase that. World Cup Winner Luiz Felipe Scolari has been sacked as manager of new money Chelsea. After seven months.

Let's go back ten years. Actually, we really don't have to go back that far but back in the late 90's, could you really envision a state of affairs where Chelsea were attracting a world cup winning manager, never mind sacking him after only seven months? Now I'm not suggesting Chelsea have got eyes bigger than their belly but what. the. fuck.

Since being saved from financial oblivion by Roman Abramovich in 2003, Chelsea have spent an obscene amount of money tempting top players (and coaches) to West London on bumper salaries.

They won the Championship for only the second time in their history in 2005, exactly fifty years since the only previous time, and retained the title in 2006. It's no secret that Chelsea would not be where they are today without Abramovich's billions but it takes time to build, or rebuild a winning team.

I remember going to Old Trafford during the barren years of the 80's when Ron Atkinson was sacked as manager of Manchester United and replaced by Alex Ferguson. Three years after Ferguson took over, United looked no closer to winning the Championship than they had anytime since their last win in 1967, despite a second place finish that flattered to deceive in 1988.

During the 89-90 season, the crowd at Old Trafford were getting restless and started demanding that the manager be sacked. I'm not ashamed to admit I joined in on occasion. The team actually managed to win the FA Cup that season, the first trophy of the Ferguson era, and many still claim today that it is the only reason Ferguson kept his job. Another trophy followed the following season, this time the (now defunct) European Cup Winners Cup.

1992 saw another second place finish, but this time it was much closer than the 88 season. Leeds United won the Championship in 1992 spurred on by the signing of an unknown Frenchman who had an immediate effect on the team (more on him later).

United were showing progress, but were still lacking the holy grail of a league Championship. On November 26th 1992 the then Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson contacted Manchester United to ask about the availability of defender Denis Irwin. Refusing their advance, manager Alex Ferguson responded with a question about their mercurial Frenchman. The deal was done and the rest is history.

Manchester United won their first league Championship for 26 years in 1993. They retained the title in 1994 and another 8 league Championships have arrived in the 16 years since.

I don't mind admitting I was wrong. All of this, and a lot more when you take into account the two European Champions League victories and many FA cup & League Cup wins have come under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson who was knighted after the historic treble of 1999.

The signing of Eric Cantona in November 1992 was the final piece of the jigsaw for the first Championship winning team but the faith held in Alex Ferguson has been repaid many times over as he has continuously built Championship winning team after Championship winning team. Not least the kids of 1996 including a certain David Beckham.

The big question is whether today Alex Ferguson would've been given almost four years in a job before winning his first trophy, or 6 years before clinching the league Championship.

The sacking of Phil Scolari is a sign of the times. A world cup winning manager with Brazil in 2002, deemed a failure because his team languish in fourth place with four months of the season remaining.

Chelsea fans (or Roman Abramovich) may argue that he wasn't the man to return them to their rightful place. I agree. Luiz Felipe Scolari was never the man to return Chelsea to their rightful place. A place they occupied in the early 90's. A place outside of the Premier League and outside of the English and European elite. He was far too good for a second rate team that won the lottery.

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