The arrival of Henk Ten Cate last October was greeted with much speculation about his role. With not talking to the media being one of the conditions in his agreement to come to Chelsea, it was widely considered likely, given Grant’s lack of clout, that Ten Cate would manage in all but name, with Grant a mere puppet to face the press. But things don’t seem to have panned out quite as we expected them to and now Henk Ten Cate’s position looks every bit as shaky as Grant’s. But unlike the manager he was brought in to assist, Ten Cate seemingly isn’t all that bothered either way.
With everyone else at Stamford Bridge wetting themselves with excitement having reached the Champions League final, Ten Cate managed an ambivalent shrug of the shoulders whilst telling a Dutch newspaper reaching the final with Barca was more satisfying. Ten Cate suggests “What I did with Barcelona, was special. It always will remain special for me because I did that job together with Frank Rijkaard. We had made that Barcelona team together. Here, at Chelsea, I kind of got on board in the middle of the season. I wanted to win the championship with Ajax this season. That really was my dream. But because of all kind of things, that was not to happen.”
If Ten Cate hasn’t exactly fallen in love with Chelsea over the past six months it’s fair to say the feeling may be entirely mutual in some quarters, with his aggressive manner jarring off senior players. By all accounts though, the seeds were sown on his very first day at Chelsea where all newcomers are subjected to an initiation sing-along style. Obviously his resemblance to a certain Welsh warbler goes no further than appearance and his refusal to participate resulted in a right piss take from the players. His inability to ingratiate himself within the ranks wasn’t exactly helped during his training ground bust-up with the Chelsea skipper either, with expletives angrily exchanged before the pair had to be pulled apart in full view of an open-mouthed Abramovich.
On the subject of their fisticuffs, Ten Cate appeared relieved it wasn’t all over the back pages the following day, appearing surprised the media had chosen to wait until after our Carling Cup defeat to give the public this little gem to drool over at breakfast. The Dutchman complained “Ninety-five per cent of the papers in England thrive on unrest at Chelsea. My mother called me the next day and asked, ‘Dear boy, have you been fighting?’ I had to explain that people don’t really dislike me in London”.
The media seems to be a bone of contention, with Ten Cate earlier this season accusing players of causing him embarrassment by leaking stories to the rags. He has a fair point when he suggests deliberate leaking of stories from the training ground and changing rooms smacks of disloyalty but more amusing is his irritation at how these stories are taken out of context. “I find it all so childish” he says (through gritted teeth no doubt) “When I arrived it was suggested that I had forbidden the players to laugh. Yes I did say in the dressing room that there’s a time for laughing and a time for working. That opinion has started to lead its own life here.” “One week the media say this. Another week they say that. Their stupidity is annoying. Must I still take them seriously?” Course not mate, none of us do.
So, his displeasure appears clearer than his position right now and aside from his ability to spar, he doesn’t seem to have impressed his skills on Chelsea yet. His reputation for getting teams to play attacking football precedes him and its no coincidence his spell at Barca coincided with their return to the top in Europe – so maybe we have seen a little of his influence in our win over Liverpool then? And despite butting heads with one or two players, he’s not without his supporters at the club with both Joe Cole and Michael Ballack offering public support.
However, having quit Ajax because of the political unrest surrounding the club, the fiery Ten Cate must be starting to realise he’s left the proverbial frying pan and walked right into a raging inferno. But with him stating “I came to Chelsea because I was looking for peace. I wanted to work at the top level and I was looking, at the same time, for peace,” you have to ask whether he came to the right club?