'We didn't buy title'

The Premiership: As Chelsea stand on threshold of glory, Kenyon salutes work of players and coach while Mourinho slams 'ridiculous' fixture schedule
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chelsea moved to within two points of winning their first championship for 50 years by beating their closest neighbours Fulham 3-1 yesterday, but still their manager Jose Mourinho would not smile. Instead, he complained about the "absolutely ridiculous" schedule which obliged his team to play on Saturday lunchtime after meeting Arsenal on Wednesday night. It is the one aspect of English football he has failed to come to terms with.

Chelsea moved to within two points of winning their first championship for 50 years by beating their closest neighbours Fulham 3-1 yesterday, but still their manager Jose Mourinho would not smile. Instead, he complained about the "absolutely ridiculous" schedule which obliged his team to play on Saturday lunchtime after meeting Arsenal on Wednesday night. It is the one aspect of English football he has failed to come to terms with.

"It's too much," Mourinho said. "There are certain rules of biology and physiology. So I think this result was incredible and magnificent because of the players' character. We deserve to be playing better and giving very good performances at home, but I think our fans understand."

The ovation at the end of the game as Chelsea's players undertook what was effectively a lap of honour suggested that was the case. Most of them will now be rooting for Tottenham to avoid defeat at Arsenal tomorrow night, making the title mathematically certain. Mourinho, with typical perversity, wants Arsenal to win, so that Chelsea can secure it off their own bat at Bolton next Saturday.

Whatever the day of reckoning, it will be only the second time in 13 seasons of the Premiership that the title has not been gone to either Manchester United (eight times) or Arsenal (three). On the previous occasion, in 1995, Blackburn Rovers were accused of buying the title with Jack Walker's money and the same jibe will be directed at Chelsea. Since the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought out Ken Bates in the summer of 2003, the outlay on transfers has been in excess of £200m.

But the chief executive Peter Kenyon, also brought in at considerable cost, is keen to deny suggestions that the success has simply been bought by Roman Abramovich's roubles. "I think it would be unjust to Jose and the players to say we've won this on the back of money," he insisted yesterday. "We took some real pain and grief in reducing the squad size. This has been about a group of players who have come together and every result they've got, they've earned. Whatever they get this season is not about money, it's about a lot of players who have improved. The old players we've got are better than they were 12 months ago and that is about their personal development and coaching. It was never the plan just to sign everyone and anyone, but I can understand why people thought that."

As for the decision - controversial at the time - to dispense with Claudio Ranieri at the end of last season, Kenyon said: "We clearly felt that was the right thing to do and it's nice to see the results starting to come. I think Jose's arrival has been great for Chelsea and good for English football."

Controversy has often stalked Duncan Ferguson but few outside Merseyside would describe the Scot as good for English football. He followed up Everton's midweek winner against Manchester United with a vital equaliser yesterday in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. With Liverpool losing at Crystal Palace, Everton are four points clear of their neighbours in the race for a Champions' League place.

Comments