On 29th December 2021, Chelsea confirmed officially that the Captain, Leader, Legend himself, John Terry, was returning to the club he where he spent all but one season of his playing career. In doing so he joined other ex-Chelsea players and legends currently working at the club.
Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele, Carlo Cudicini and Paulo Ferreira are all currently employed by Chelsea in various capacities, they’re not joined by ex-teammate John Terry. Frank Lampard was manager between 2019 and 2021, Gianfranco Zola assistant to Maurizio Sarri in the 18/19 season and of course who can forget Roberto Di Matteo’s short but hugely successful period as manager In 2012.
Although we see ex-players returning to clubs post retirement elsewhere, this really brought home to me how much Chelsea Football Club is very much a family.
When Lampard left the club in dramatic circumstances in January 2021, it was akin to a bereavement. Many of us felt the loss at a deep, emotional level. We hadn’t just lost a manager, we’d lost one of our family. Our greatest ever player had gone.
This phrase “one of us” often gets used for legendary players or managers, or anyone we feel is part of the Chelsea family, who “gets” what it means to be Chelsea. In Lampard we’d lost a key part of that family.
The great thing is, Frank Lampard will always be part of the Chelsea family, whether he’s employed by us or not. Once you’re part of the family, you never really leave.
This isn’t a recent thing either. I’ve supported Chelsea for over 30 years, been though many highs and lows. But one of the things which has been consistently about Chelsea Football Club, is that the club and its supporters even more so feel like a family. A sometimes dysfunctional one, for sure, but nevertheless, a family.
The magic of Chelsea is difficult to explain to people outside the Chelsea “bubble” as it were, but this sense of family is one of the things which keeps me interested.
I think this feeling really became real to me when I began supporting the club as a kid in the late 80s and early 90s, when we were fighting to save the Bridge, and were your typical mid-table club who flirted with relegation. We weren’t supporting Chelsea because of the results, because the results weren’t great back then, and certainly no trophies were being won. But the fans stuck together.
Even back then, there was a sense of it being Chelsea against the world, which was only encouraged by the football establishment dislike of Chelsea. Chelsea fans have always felt a sense of injustice and being treated unfairly, even back then. This tends to bring people together and create a real sense of community.
One thing which seems to happen regularly, is players and managers from other big teams or who’ve played for other big teams, often form a deeper connection to Chelsea and end up back here or supporting us on retirement.
This is a long established tradition. Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo had tremendous success in Italy before they joined Chelsea, but both are now most closely connected with Chelsea, and as mentioned earlier, both have been involved on the coaching staff since retiring.
There’s a growing history of Arsenal players joining us and falling in love with Chelsea. Ashley Cole came through the academy at Arsenal and won league titles there, but is now fully Chelsea, working for the club as a coach. Cesc Fabregas and Olivier Giroud are two more who’ve followed a similar path…and who knows where their post-playing career may take them. Most recently of course, there is Thiago Silva. Absolute legend for Milan and PSG, comes to Chelsea aged 36 and both he and his family have completely fallen in love with the club and there’s even rumours of him taking up a coaching role at the club on retirement. People just fall in love with this club, and it’s only when you’ve been here, that you really understand.
There’s just something about Chelsea which goes beyond football. Chelsea is a community, of fans, players and more, all connected by our love of Chelsea, the magic of this club is unique.
Chelsea have never been one of the establishment clubs, one of the ‘traditional’ big clubs who won major trophies regularly all the way back to the 1930s. We took 50 years to win a league title and another 50 years to win another. We’ve “come from behind” in many ways, we’ve always been written off, underestimated, not seen with a “history”, and this mentality kind of suits the club. Jose Mourinho connected with fans so much back in 2004 because not only did he understand it and play on it to the full, but it fitted with his mindset too.
The club has nearly faced extinction more than once in its history too, and for longer time fans there’s a sense of gratitude the club is still here, yet alone us having the success we’ve had in the last 20 years or so.
All of this has contributed to this togetherness and sense of community amongst Chelsea fans.
Peter Kenyon was interviewed back In 2007 and said Roman Abramovich’s dreams on buying Chelsea, was to turn us into a dynasty club, being ‘Europe’s dynasty’, using the model of AC Milan or Bayern Munich, having ex-players involved at every level of the club, having a legacy on and off the pitch. Becoming what’s often called a “legacy club”. A family.
Chelsea has always been family, and now we’re seeing that legacy aspect of family emerging too in off pitch appointments as well as the consistent success on the pitch, as well us the use of academy players.
Chelsea are unique club, a special club, a trophy winning club. Above all though, Chelsea is family.
Written by The Score (@TheScore01)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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