In the last ten years we’ve got through more managers than Joey Barton has betting slips. I’d come to regard most of them in the same manner as fairground goldfish: there is great novelty in winning them, and a sense of accomplishment and jubilation, but don’t get too attached. Because they will only be around for five minutes and then you’ll end up flushing them down the toilet. In most cases a month later you will have forgotten all about them, or tried to.
So after an abysmal start to the season, in which we lost nine of sixteen games, we waved goodbye to our manager (again) in December 2015. Let’s face it with a sigh of relief by that point. Guus had to come and bail us out (again) and all of the conjecture and press f*ckwittery started (again) with regard to who on earth we’d convince to try and steady a ship that threatened to resemble the sodding Mary Celeste by the time the whole Premier League circus began again. If it didn’t sink. At the beginning of April 2016 it was confirmed that some bloke called Antonio Conte had agreed to take over our nuthouse in August, when he was done managing his Italy side through the European Championships. Cue frantic googling.
“I am very excited about the prospect of working at Chelsea Football Club,” he said. “I am proud to be the coach of the national team of my country and only a role as attractive as manager of Chelsea could follow that… I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the club and the day-to-day challenge of competing in the Premier League… Chelsea and English football are watched wherever you go, the fans are passionate and my ambition is to have more success to follow the victories I enjoyed in Italy.”
God love him, said I. (I was very cynical last summer) But does this poor, but admittedly very pretty chump know what he’s walking into?
A clusterf*ck is what. Stropping, under-performing players, alleged mutiny, a sudden, inexplicable and just bizarre slump and worst of all, a poisonous, bitter atmosphere that was partly the legacy of the outgoing manager and partly a result of all the infighting that had frankly made it less than enjoyable to follow Chelsea more than the results had. We’d finished mid-way down the table, there would be no European football, and rumours were rife of pretty much everyone wanting to jump ship. If they weren’t, to quote an over-used press pleb cliche: “fighting for their futures.” Add our trigger-happy treatment of managers in the last decade, and I suspect few in the profession would have envied the job that Antonio Conte now had on his hands...
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