Everyone has an origin story for how they came to support their favourite football team.
Mine actually stemmed from my big brother’s hatred of the beautiful game, or more particularly, his dislike for his schoolmates, who wouldn’t stop talking about it. We grew up in North London, where Tottenham and Arsenal are the two giants of the game, with most of the residents of that part of England’s captial placing their loyalties either with Spurs or the Gunners.
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When it came to selecting my favourite team, however, I was told by my brother that on no account could I support Tottenham or Arsenal because that was literally all he heard about, all day long.
For once, I listened to my sibling, and decided I would simply pick another team in London, landing on Chelsea.
At that stage, it must be said, in the mid-to-late 1980s, to fend off the glory-hunting accusations often thrown at Chelsea fans, the Blues were not very good, floundering, indeed in the second tier of English football, winning promotion in the 1988/89 campaign.
Arsenal were re-emerging as a dominant force under George Graham around that time, so most of my teens and very early 20s were left fending off stick from my Gunners-fan mates, bar the odd victory, like when John Bumstead scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Highbury in 1990, or when Mark Hughes struck in a 1-0 win in the 1995/96 campaign.
All of that changed, of course, when Roman Abramvich took over at Chelsea, turning them into the richest and best club in the country, with Jose Mourinho leading the side to two English Premier League titles in consecutive seasons, between 2004 and 2006.
There have been a torrent of trophies ever since, including the 2012 Uefa Champions League, making Chelsea still the only club in London to have won Europe’s elite prize.
If trophies have remained a constant, however, coaches have not, with the revolving door at Stamford Bridge slapping another coach into the street yesterday in the form of Frank Lampard.
Lampard’s sacking stings extra hard in the heart of any true Chelsea fan, as this was a true playing legend, a goalscoring midfielder par-excellence, who was one of the leaders in this team through most of their success.
His hiring at the start of the 2019/20 season stirred the emotions, despite his lack of coaching experience, and it was hoped he could be the man to help bridge the gap between Chelsea’s academy and the senior team, with the club known to produce an abundance of talent, but not many players who got first team opportunities at Chelsea.
The first season was positive as Lampard, using the likes of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount from the academy, got Chelsea into the Champions League, despite a Fifa transfer ban.
He was backed by the Chelsea board in the off-season too, with exciting new signings like Timo Werner and Kai Havertz joining the ranks.
The start to the new campaign was bright, Chelsea qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League with relative ease, and keeping pace at the top of the Premier League until December. Suddenly, however, it all started to fall apart,
The kind of losing run that Lampard and his side have been on has seen Chelsea coaches sacked before him, and while the emotional pull he had looked certain to keep him in the post a bit longer, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has little room for sentimentality.