I remember the day Roman Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge, in fact, I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard the news. Obviously, my first thought was ‘Thank God’, we’d just been saved from bankruptcy and then came the stories about who we were going to sign with our inheritance – and that was the stuff many a young lad’s wet dreams are made of. Things could only get better eh?
Well, they did in terms of our ‘success’, with us finally able to realistically compete for the title with Arsenal and United instead of living in their shadow but that came at a price – and not just in salaries. Because whilst we might have been full of bravado, shrugging off suggestions we’d ‘bought’ that success, it was hard to argue it. Yes, we’d been there or thereabouts for a while and had certainly played in the Champions League before Roman, but the title had eluded us until that point.
That’s not something I admit lightly, in fact, when it comes from the opposition I’ll still defend it. We weren’t mid-table before Abramovich, we were in the Champions League places and we had won silverware, so any comparison to City on that score will never sit well with me.
The only true comparison for me is around having the financial resources available to buy whoever we chose – which is exactly what we did for the first couple of years – and having to take the stick that came with it. City have pretty much replicated what we did, warts and all, and as such, have become the team everyone else loves to hate.
Of course, we still struggle to get any credit despite our pretty low level of spending these days. In fact, we shipped out some of our higher earners during the summer, ‘luxury items’ if you like and brought younger players through to complete our streamlined squad but the struggle for credibility is still evident.
Little wonder then that Man City, with their spending under the Sheikh currently standing at £326million, are sitting ducks for us all to take pot-shots at.
Still, since they’re intent on doing things the same way we did, they’ll put on that ‘no-one like us, we don’t care’ front. Hope that they’ll enjoy any success irrespective of the bitterness it brings and hope they can cock a deaf ear to the claims of ‘buying’ it.
Joleon Lescott is already trying to claim City players actually ‘thrive’ on it, insisting “We’re all dedicated, and we’re using as fuel the fact that people from outside the club don’t want us to succeed – that’s probably natural unless you’re a City fan. You won’t want us to do well at the expense of your team. Everyone was crying out for so long for someone to break into the top four. We’re doing it, but somehow it’s like ‘you’re doing it the wrong way’. We just have to take it with a pinch of salt and repay the people who showed faith in us.”
The thing is though, they haven’t even won anything yet so they’ve yet to know what it really feels like to believe they’ve finally ‘arrived’ while everyone else in football is willing them to get lost in the departure lounge!