The patience shown by Roman Abramovich and the rest of the Chelsea hierarchy finally ran out this week, with the club's players ordered to attend a meeting and given a stern warning about their future behaviour in the wake of the flurry of headlines relating to the private lives of skipper John Terry and Ashley Cole.
Carlo Ancelotti revealed yesterday that the players had been brought together at the club's Cobham training ground on Wednesday, the day after the latest round of allegations were published.
The meeting, which lasted around 10 minutes, was ordered by club owner Abramovich and was addressed by chief executive Ron Gourlay, speaking on behalf of the Russian businessman and Ancelotti, the club's manager. The players were left in no doubt that strong disciplinary action would be taken against any individual who further damaged the image of the club which has taken a battering in recent weeks.
Ancelotti has consistently maintained he is not interested in the private lives of his players as long as their professional life remains unaffected. The most recent allegations, claiming that a woman was twice brought into the team hotel on the night before away games in late 2008, suggest that distinction may have been blurred. They are believed to have prompted the decision to call the meeting.
"We had a meeting this week with the players," said Ancelotti. "It was a good meeting, Ron Gourlay was there as well. We spoke to the players and explained to them the behaviour that is required of the players in this club. Now they know very well what they have to do, and what behaviour is expected of them when they're in the Chelsea shirt.
"We are interested to protect the image of this club. Not only the players and the manager, all the staff – the people who work in this club – have to protect that image. That is one of the most important things. We want to carry that forward. And I think the players and all the staff know very well what they have to do."
Ancelotti was reluctant to divulge the specifics of the exchange, insisting the meeting was private, although he confirmed the players had an opportunity to voice their views. Terry was present after returning from leave of absence in Dubai where he was reunited with his wife following allegations about his relationship with Vanessa Perroncel, the former partner of Manchester City and England full-back Wayne Bridge, and the decision of Fabio Capello to strip the defender of the England captaincy. "It was a private meeting and I don't like to speak about this," Ancelotti added. "But, to confirm, the most important thing is that everybody has to pay attention to protect the image of the club.
"This is a prevention because I'm not interested in the past. We have to look, together, at the club in the future. This is a line in the sand. We have to look forward and the players know very well what has to be the behaviour if they play for Chelsea. The consequences, that idea, are a private matter." The club insist the decision to act does not suggest they accept the allegations made against Terry and Cole, but it is clear that there has been growing alarm in the boardroom at the way the club's name has been repeatedly linked with some of the worst excesses of off-field behaviour.
Ancelotti has been less concerned, expressing dismay at the scrutiny given to his players' private lives compared to that given to players in Italy, and he has never wavered in his support for Terry during a difficult few weeks.
The defender will return to captain the side at Wolves today and Ancelotti is anxious to finally see an end to the distractions that have diverted attention away from his side's standing at the head of the Premier League.
"We have to stay focused on the matches because they will arrive as very difficult matches," he added. "We start against Wolves and every game is very important. Until the end of the season, we have 90 days. It depends on us what happens at the end of the season. If we do very well in these 90 days, we can have a good result at the end of the season."
Unruly Blues: Chelsea's charge sheet
Failed with court injunction last month to hide reporting of affair with former partner of a team-mate.
Tabloids reports in 2008 concerned an extra-marital affair and linked with intimate texts.
After Chelsea's Champions League exit against Barcelona last May, the striker unleashed a furious foul-mouthed tirade at television cameras against perceived refereeing injustices.
*John Obi Mikel
Nigerian midfielder was banned from driving for 15 months after admitting to drink-driving last January.
Ran up reported drinks bill of £120,000 at birthday party in August. Club claimed total was exaggerated.Reuse content