Terry to meet fans as Blues launch charm offensive

Chelsea captain will meet major CPO shareholders on Monday as battle of Stamford Bridge hots up

Chelsea yesterday raised the stakes in their bid to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge by inviting significant Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) shareholders to a meeting with captain John Terry on Monday.

The club need a 75 per cent "Yes" vote from CPO shareholders on 27 October in order to buy back the freehold which, they say, will give them the option to build a new stadium if they judge that necessary, and the decision to use Terry as a spokesman shows just how determined they are to win the battle.

There are 15,400 CPO shares, worth £100 each, in existence, owned by 12,000 individuals and the club are targeting those who carry more than just one or two. The maximum any CPO shareholder can own is 100 but invites to Monday's meeting with Terry have gone to individuals with as few as 18 shares.

On Tuesday, Terry became the first player at Chelsea to back the "Yes" campaign by encouraging Chelsea fans who are CPO shareholders to "trust" Roman Abramovich and give up the freehold ownership, which was created in 1993 to protect the club from developers.

There is a strong "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) campaign at grassroots level who are campaigning for a "No" vote on the basis that the club has to be clearer about their plans to potentially leave Stamford Bridge. Representatives of SNCPO, which is not against the club moving under different conditions, had a meeting yesterday with chairman Bruce Buck.

In a statement yesterday, SNCPO, who are planning a leaflet campaign before the home game against Everton tomorrow, said: "Say No CPO are saddened, but not shocked, to learn that Chelsea FC have had to resort to trying to influence the votes of the largest shareholders by offering private meetings with club officials and players."

The Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, told Chelsea fans yesterday: "I feel your pain, but the club is right to want to move from Stamford Bridge."

Villas-Boas was Porto's Under-19 coach when the construction began on the Estadio Dragao, which in 2003 replaced Estadio das Antas, where he had followed Porto as a boy.

"We were invaded by a feeling of sadness," he recalled yesterday, "leaving a site that meant so much to so many. Nobody liked the name, the site, the stadium, or the idea of moving. The historic presence of the old stadium on that site was something important for the fans. But go back to Porto now and no one remembers the old stadium. Everyone is happy.

"The Dragao took us into the future. It brought us more revenues and allowed us to play in a magnificent stadium. That's my experience. I lived it. I'm not saying I understand it because I'm not a Chelsea supporter. I'm a professional of the club. I'm not in that position as a fan, but I can share my experience."

One obvious difference is that Porto had a site identified, and a deadline for their new stadium to be built by the start of Euro 2004. "The most important thing for us is to position ourselves for the future," said Villas-Boas. "We don't know if we are moving or not, but we are positioning ourselves to the possibility of moving. The club has made a good decision on that front."

Villas-Boas, whose career as a manager began, astonishingly, two years ago today at Academia de Coimbra, said his players had all returned from international duty fit. Only long-term injury lay-off Michael Essien is unavailable. However, David Luiz, after playing twice in Central America for Brazil, and only returning to London yesterday, is likely to be rested for tomorrow's match.

Chelsea won their last two league games 4-1 and 5-1 but Villas-Boas said he was unworried by the timing of the international break. "It's the nature of the calendar and you can't avoid it," he said. "The most important thing is to get into a winning mode straight away afterwards."

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