Chelsea in blue heaven as 50-year wait ends 250 miles from home

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At the periphery of Chelsea's dressing-room celebrations on Saturday evening, one stage removed from the bare-chested hugs but not spared the flying champagne, Roman Abramovich took in his first Premiership champions party. Surrounded by the famous footballers that his £340m investment had acquired, and taken aback by the force of the festivities, this unremarkable little man in blazer and jeans still managed to look like the least important person in the room.

At the periphery of Chelsea's dressing-room celebrations on Saturday evening, one stage removed from the bare-chested hugs but not spared the flying champagne, Roman Abramovich took in his first Premiership champions party. Surrounded by the famous footballers that his £340m investment had acquired, and taken aback by the force of the festivities, this unremarkable little man in blazer and jeans still managed to look like the least important person in the room.

Someone from Chelsea's back-room staff passed him a mobile phone. On the other end of the line was Gianfranco Zola, who had just stepped off the pitch after Cagliari's draw with Reggina and wanted to congratulate the emperor of Stamford Bridge. "Thank you, thank you," said Abramovich, "see you next season".

It was a beguiling moment: the Russian billionaire standing amid Chelsea's triumphant squad while taking the plaudits from the greatest player ever to have worn the club's shirt. Try telling Chelsea's supporters that money cannot buy you life's dreams.

They did it 250 miles from home, but Chelsea did not let the unfamiliar surroundings spoil their greatest moment in 50 years. When they had emptied the sponsors' champagne bottles and flung their shirts into the crowd, they carried on the celebrations in the dressing-rooms. And then, outside the stadium, with the Chelsea bus surrounded by their own enraptured support, the braver members of the squad flipped open the lid to the sun-roof and continued the party on the roof of the coach.

The Abramovich Chelsea project ranks as one of the most unusual to have been undertaken in the history of English football, but the reaction of his players to their first Premiership title felt perfectly natural. As the crowd that surrounded the team bus refused to disperse, John Terry and Frank Lampard finally emerged from the open hatch to lead the singing. And if you wanted to know how much it meant to them, then you needed look no further than the Chelsea captain's careful efforts to capture the whole episode on his camcorder.

There is so much we would like to know about the secretive individuals who have powered Chelsea's rise to pre-eminence in English football. There are a great many questions about the origins of the money that has found its way into Stamford Bridge. But only the most marble-hearted observer would have begrudged Terry and Lampard that spontaneous moment of joy with their supporters. The sight of those two lions of Chelsea's championship season singing along with their fans remade so many of the connections between players and supporters in football that have been broken over the 50 years since the club's last title.

A few minutes earlier, Terry had climbed the stairs of the Reebok Stadium to share his feelings on a tumultuous moment for his club. At just 24, he seems to have lived two lives already: the feckless youth with a talent for attracting trouble and now the courageous, thoughtful captain of the best team in the country. Terry was, he admitted, "emotional" and he could barely hide the fact that not being able to cut loose with the celebrations would require huge self-restraint.

"I just want to break down and I probably will when I get back to my hotel room on my own, when I sit back and watch it on TV," he said. "It will mean an awful lot to my family and friends but more importantly it will to my players, to the people I train and work with and play with every day and every week. We've made a lot of sacrifices this year, trained hard and worked hard, and it's paid off on the pitch.

"I've not had a chat with the manager," Terry continued. "I can just remember grabbing him and screaming for about five minutes. I looked round and 'Lamps' was doing the same. I couldn't have said what I felt about him at the time. I've worked so hard with him."

In his bag, Terry said he had his match shirt, No 35 from the campaign, and one of a complete set that he has collected from the season. They are all destined to be framed forever on the wall of his home - "I'll have to overlap them a bit to fit them all in" - as a testament to what the Chelsea captain described as the "pure, sheer hard work" that has taken his team to the title. Whatever happens tomorrow at Anfield, he has promised to organise a title celebration that will do full justice to the scale of his team-mates' achievement.

And after that, the world. It is further proof of Terry's great development that he did not mind at all when he was reminded that to consolidate their power, Chelsea would have to do the same again next season.

"The main thing is to build on what we've done this year," Terry said. "Every team has to start somewhere and hopefully this is the start of it for Chelsea. We've got a young squad, a great squad. We've won two trophies this year, and three would make it a great first season with the gaffer. He's been brilliant. But we have to improve on that next season and keep doing it season after season if we want to be one of the best.

"I certainly hope we can dominate English football. We've got a young side that wants to win and do things together. If we can keep the squad together and keep the manager here for a few years we've got a very good chance."

True to his word, Jose Mourinho called his wife and children from the pitch and then escaped to the team hotel. In the stand, Abramovich, the chief executive, Peter Kenyon, the chairman, Bruce Buck, and the director Eugene Shvidler shared one of those excruciating executive group hugs that are more commonly associated with team-bonding weekends in the Peak District.

So much of Chelsea's organisation, and the rich men who control it, remains unknowable. What is easiest to understand is the accomplishment of Terry and Lampard whose achievements, like those of the team of 1955, will prove timeless.

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