Since I started supporting Chelsea when I was four, I have witnessed different movements in the Chelsea squad; almost like generations changing. It is undoubtedly obvious that the Stamford Bridge outlet has grown as a club over nearly two decades and this boils down to their shuffling and reformation which I call it ‘the four stages’.
The first stage is the late 90’s; to be precise 1997-2001. The crowds would gather at Stamford Bridge and cheer the Chelsea squad, a team consisting of players like: Gianfranco Zola and Gustavo Poyet providing attacking flair with Tore Andre Flo as the super sub, with the midfield trio of Roberto Di Matteo, Dennis Wise, Didier Deschamps. Then there was the defensive stars of Dan Petrescu, Celestine Babayaro, Frank Lebouef, Graham Le Saux, Albert Ferrer and the rock Marcel Desailly. This was all under the influence of player-manager Italian star Gianluca Vialli.
During this era, the Blues finished an average position of fifth in the Premier League, which guaranteed them a place in the Uefa Cup. During this four year stage, Chelsea collected a lot of silverware which included the League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Super Cup and two FA Cups, including a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough thanks to a very early Roberto Di Matteo goal – a game that lives long in my memory.
The next stage is a three-year period from 2001-04 after the millennium when the club was managed by Italian Claudio Ranieri. He had some excellent players as his disposal such as forwards Eidur Gudjohnsen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mikael Forssell, then in midfield Jesper Gronkjaer, Emmanuel Petit and Mario Stanic with William Gallas and Mario Melchiot at the back with Carlo Cudicini in goal. Although they didn’t win any honours, a Russian billionaire named Roman Abramovich saw promise and bought the club in 2003; a time when Chelsea had an average league finish of third.
The third stage (2004-07) is arguably their most successful, under the influence of former FC Porto manager Jose Mourinho. With his introduction be brought his former players Ricardo Carvalho and Renato Paulo Ferreira with him, plus had star players Arjen Robben, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele as well as Njitap Geremi, Mateja Kezman, Juan Sebastian Veron, Adrian Mutu and the ever improving Joe Cole. Under Mourinho’s fantastic management, Chelsea won their first Premier League title in 50 years.
This honour was then repeated a season after, along with winning the FA Cup and two Carling Cups which included a memorable 3-2 win over Liverpool with Mateja ‘flop’ Kezman grabbing the winner.
Chelsea was deemed the best team in England, with an average finish of first for three years.
The final stage is from 2007 to the present, Chelsea have struggled for consistency, and their progression has been affected by various managers coming and going. The likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink have both covered the number one job in London. As well as various managerial changes famous faces of Michael Ballack, Anderson Deco and a certain record signing Andriy Shevchenko, who was once Europe’s best striker have all played for the Blues and now moved on.
However, at the moment, another Champions League winning in charge at the Bridge, it is former AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti. He is has a host of stars which includes Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Fernando Torres. After winning their first ever double (Premier League and FA Cup) double last season meant Chelsea have finished an average of second in the last four seasons.
So what next for the Blues? Their number one priority is to win the UEFA Champions League and the managerial appointments are arguably made to do that. Moving forward, will the club build the side around record signing of £50m rated Fernando Torres, or will more star players leave to make way for others?