I certainly didn’t anticipate writing this. Not this year at least. Perhaps down the line. One day. Maybe. Yet what the past seven days have strikingly highlighted is nothing can be taken for granted.
Not peace. Not compassion. Not contrition. It can all be snatched. Ultimately, this is why what happens to Chelsea Football Club post-Roman Abramovich feels a little trivial at this moment in time. Perhaps even completely unimportant.
Yet for you – yes, you – the next owner of Chelsea Football Club, it is important to appreciate what you’re taking on, accept the emotional responsibility and moral obligation you have to supporters.
It is they, not Abramovich, that you are indebted to. It is they who helped save Stamford Bridge. They who travelled home and away in the fallow years of the 1970s and 1980s. They who ensured there was a club for the Russian to purchase from Ken Bates back in 2003.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has confirmed he has decided to sell the club in a statement
Abramovich’s decision transformed Chelsea overnight and the rampant success that has followed over the previous 19 years has understandably been savoured by supporters. The Blues have won it all and in the process have become one of the world’s biggest football clubs and brands.
This is what you are taking on from Abramovich and it will be a challenge. Many will expect further successes, more trophies, a continued stream of big-name signings. But I am a little more restrained in my outlook. Or perhaps it is just fatalism.
The Abramovich era worked because he wasn’t focused on making money. He wanted to win no matter the cost.
Your approach is likely to be very different. Supporters will largely accept that. Money will be invested and a return expected. That’s business. But failing to build on what’s gone before is something anyone with an emotional attachment to the club will almost certainly not accept.
And I’m not simply talking about the men’s first team. I’m talking about the club in its entirety and that includes the women’s side, the academy, the Chelsea Foundation, and the charity work fighting anti-Semitism and racism.
Abramovich – for his faults and alleged closeness to Vladimir Putin, which he vehemently denies – ensured almost every part of Chelsea was given the same care and attention. The only thing he chose not to do was to rebuild Stamford Bridge. Now there is a project to make your own.
Yes, it will cost a fortune but if you want to leave a legacy akin to that of the Russian, there is your opportunity. But make sure to consult with the Chelsea Pitch Owners and supporters as it is they who will continue to fill its seats long after you have moved on.
Of course, many will hope you can maintain the same on-pitch standards Chelsea supporters have become accustomed to over the past two decades. The desire to win, to be the very best at home and in Europe, can’t dissipate following Abramovich’s sale, especially as he will be leaving the club debt-free.
Crucial to ensuring that success continues will be keeping Thomas Tuchel at the club and giving him the support required to deliver further trophies. The German has spoken about how much he has enjoyed the working environment at Chelsea, how he is left alone to handle the day-to-day business of the first team.
So quite simply, don’t interfere. Let him coach and ensure there is a strong and co-operative structure around him and the players. And if you’re not willing to bankroll transfers – again, very few will expect you to – then implement a well-run and smart recruitment department that is in sync with the club’s excellent academy.
Chelsea, even on a stricter budget, can remain one of the very best teams in Europe if the dots are joined up. They didn’t have to be under Abramovich, but they must be under your watch.
Finally, one last request. And it’s a big one admittedly: allow yourself to fall in love with the club. Only then will you truly comprehend what you have bought. Only then will you gain a genuine appreciation of how supporters feel. Only then will you feel what it means to be Chelsea’s owner in the same way as Abramovich.