James Lawton: Even the West Ham gang of three showed more class than Abramovich
The temptation to rage was limited. Abramovich had, after all, long ago stripped away any mystery over hisintentions and still less his style
Tuesday 24 May 2011
It says a lot about Chelsea that in a very close run thing they were finally outclassed by the ownership of West Ham United. For quite a time it was just too hard to call but on the last lap the Hammers had it in a photo-finish.
The Gang of Three (co-chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan and the flagrant, sorry, fragrant, chief executive Karren Brady) had achieved the moral high ground over the Gang of One when they asked their hosts Wigan Athletic for a room in which to fire their manager Avram Grant.
Roman Abramovich ordered his minions just to go do it in a corridor of Goodison Park and that little bit more quickly demolish any faint speculation that Carlo Ancelotti, a football man of charm and distinction whose brief sojourn at Stamford Bridge was marked by the Double and second place in a league reputed to be the strongest in the world, might be given the extra season which in anywhere but a football madhouse would have been more or less automatic.
Of course that was a ridiculous notion implying the possibility of a sense of dignity and fair-mindedness and some basic understanding of how a rational, successful football club operates.
Yet if the reaction has to be one of still more disgust for Abramovich's final act of contempt, a confirmation of the accumulating disrespect for Ancelotti highlighted already by the crude sacking of Ray Wilkins, the temptation to rage was somewhat limited.
Abramovich had, after all, long ago stripped away any mystery over his intentions and still less his style, and to the extent that when Ancelotti was appointed two years ago it was reasonable to ask why a man of such background, achievement, and natural grace had been sought out for what had become ritual humiliation.
Abramovich, having dumped Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and failed to persuade Guus Hiddink to stay, could have got some malleable young front man at a fraction of the price. But then maybe Abramovich's most damaging flaw is not some monumental ignorance of the dynamics of winning but that essential contempt for anyone in football required to take his roubles.
If Mourinho returns, will he be given a measure of new respect? If Hiddink finally says yes, how long before he too is someone to be tossed aside?
Porto's brilliant young coach, Andre Villas-Boas, is favourite in the book of one leading betting firm but how likely is it that he will be invited to outline his plans and then tick off each of his priorities?
Now there are suggestions of a rapprochement between Mourinho and Abramovich – and that maybe Hiddink might relent in his determination to be his own man, which for so many years has been his most striking work credential.
It is at least good for the bookmakers drawing up formidable lists of candidates and the odds against them. Yet their meaning for all practical purposes could be rolled up into a ball and booted down the Fulham Road, one betting man drolly likening the Chelsea situation to the first call of the cuckoo in spring.
Everyone knows the plot with the possible exception of Roman Abramovich. The bookmakers take their bets. The agents rub their hands. It is what happens in the spring at the second richest football club in the world.
The trouble is that it has hardly anything to do with football. Mostly, it was as we saw it at the dog day of Chelsea's season. It is about the devastating combination of too much money and too little class.
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