Football: Stamford Bridge faithful accuse both Gullit and the club of greed

Nick Harris samples fans' views of recent events in the west London soap opera
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The Independent Online
NO MATTER what happens in the remainder of Chelsea's season, a cross-section of supporters at a post-Ruud Gullit Stamford Bridge last night agreed on one thing: his departure was undignified and the motives for it have not been wholly explained by money.

"Whatever his wage demands, they should still have sat down and talked about it," said Roger Papworth, a season ticket holder. "For it to have happened like it did is terrible, especially when he turned round the fortunes of the club." The Dutchman's demand of pounds 2m per season after tax had been far too high, he added, but said: "I'd still have tried to negotiate with the chap."

Others were disappointed, but not surprised, by the dismissal. "I think maybe he was being a bit greedy," said Rob Atkinson. "He didn't help matters popping off to Holland for his [Dutch FA] training badge all the time when he was being paid to be here." Mr Atkinson, a season ticket holder for seven years and at the game with his teenage son, was more concerned at the ticket price increases of up to 48 per cent for next season which were announced on Monday. "I'm disgusted," he said, adding that two tickets will cost him pounds 900 next season if he chooses to renew. "For the first time in seven years I'm not sure if we'll buy them next year."

Another fan, Jackie Cracknell, said she was disappointed both about Gullit's departure and the price increases. "They do this to Gullit and then a few days later they tell us our season tickets are going up 40 per cent," she said. "You can't imagine any other Premiership club doing this."

Another fan said: "The way Chelsea have handled things was poor." He added: "Gullit leaving is sad, but that's it. It's happened and now we've got to get on with it." Ticket price increases, he said, would not stop him coming. "They've got you over a barrel. I'm a committed supporter and it's one of the main things I enjoy."

In last night's match programme, Ken Bates insisted that Gullit's dismissal simply came down to finance. "Did we want a non-playing coach at pounds 3.7m a year or the opportunity post-Bosman to acquire two or three world-class players? Colin Hutchinson [Chelsea's managing director] chose the latter."