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Too many cooks spoiling Chelsea broth

TEAMtalk guest Tom Reed reckons there are too many people with a say on the running of Chelsea to give any manager a fair chance of success.

Last Updated: 12/04/13 at 15:29 Post Comment

Roman Abramovich: Head honcho at Stamford Bridge

Roman Abramovich: Head honcho at Stamford Bridge

Against West Brom on Saturday Rafa Benitez did his utmost not to focus on the placards calling for his head, while at the same time reporters from around the world sat scribbling into notebooks trying to get to grips with the 'Chelsea problem'.

Some argued that the Spaniard had been made a pariah unfairly and solely because of his time at Liverpool, whilst others pointed to the trigger-happy excesses of the Chelsea board.

The biggest problem at Chelsea, however, is not the manager, but the power struggle.

Just who is making the decisions at Chelsea Football Club? Is it Roman Abramovich, who has slathered the Blues with a billion pounds of expenditure? Is it the supporters, whose 'twelfth man' position seems to extend to hounding out coaches who they take an express disliking to?

Is it the managers, of whom Chelsea have gone through 10 in as many years, or is it the players who have contributed to what is known as the most troublesome dressing room in Premier League football?

Consider also the advisors and agents who pressed for the modest acquisition of the likes of Khalid Bouhlarouz, Ben Zahar, Tal Ben Haim yet also the eye-popping £80million purchases of Andrey Shevchenko and Fernando Torres?

It could be that all parties are having an input, creating a situation more akin to a late medieval court than a football club.

At the head of the body politic sits Abramovich, Tsar by the grace of god, the man whose wealth saved Chelsea from slipping to mid table and catapulted them into the Champions League.

This is a man orphaned by the age of four, who went from hawking rubber ducks on the streets of Moscow to owning a controlling interest in the multi-billion dollar Sibneft oil company in the space of six years in the 90s.

A man so prodigious in his talents that he was, according to the Observer's Duncan Castles (23/09/07), able to progress from novice football club chairman in 2003 to dishing out tactical instructions to Michael Essien after a Champions League game in 2007.

Not that Abramovich wields his power without delegation.

Below him are a set of advisors spreading out like arteries to disseminate the Russian's ideas (and cash), plus the venous network of coaching staff, scouts and players whose job is to oxygenate the club with true footballing expertise.

It seems strange that Abramovich, with his shrewd insight into the Russian Oil industry, would need to court advice from so many people for the relatively straightforward matter of running a football club.

The Russian's trusted advisors include chief executive Ron Gourlay, chairman Bruce Buck, technical director Michael Emenalo, P.A Marina Granovskaia, director Eugene Tenenbaum and business asssociate Eugene Shvidler. Not to mention 'super agents' like Vlado Lemic and Pini Zahavi.

Quite what this does to the psyche of Chelsea managers who, when trying to communicate with their chairman have to queue behind a host of courtiers with barely any football credentials, is open to question.

Indeed with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson lauded throughout football for his 360 degree influence at Old Trafford, and up-and-coming coaches educated in the top-to-bottom business of team building, the regime at Chelsea for top-level incumbents must come as some shock.

What would Brian Clough have made of the situation at Stamford Bridge? The Nottingham Forest legend, known for signing players behind his chairman's back before handing him the bill, would have no doubt boiled in his green jumper like microwave pea soup if told to consult the likes of Michael Emenalo over transfer policy.

Not that the problematic posturing of Abramovich's court ends with the coaching staff.

Chelsea's supporters, intoxicated with the illusory entitlement of Roman's millions have taken their 'twelfth man' status to new extremes. We have seen a fan base which, taken in by notions of fan ownership (the norm overseas but not so at Chelsea) believe that they can drive out Rafa Benitez on the basis that he replaced a club legend in Roberto Di Matteo.

Never mind that Di Matteo was fired by Abramovich, and Benitez allegedly recommended by that man Emenalo.

What we are seeing is the old, backs to-the-wall 'shed head' mentality in action. The more Benitez protests at the futility of his position, the more they come at him.

Chelsea fans are as loyal as they come and it is they who face the day to day backlash of events at the Bridge, but, by deferring to Abramovich and scapegoating Benitez they have reinforced the vicious circle. They clamour for the return of the Special One, ignoring Jose Mourinho's humiliation when dealing with the Chelsea hierarchy first time round.

Simultaneously, the rising spectre of John Terry looms over anyone brave enough to take on Chelsea.

By some accounts Terry is being groomed for the manager's job at Stamford Bridge, despite not having the requisite coaching badges or any experience away from west London.

Just how this will translate to Terry having a working relationship with the Blues' new manager or the next (whom he might have to replace) is unclear.

Sadly there has been very little in the way of a clear vision for Chelsea since Matthew Harding's influence was negated by Ken Bates.

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