Will money bring long-overdue success to Chelsea?Posted: Tuesday July 22, 2003 12:14 PM
By Brian Glanville, World Soccer
WELL, now we shall see whether Chelsea can buy the second championship in their history. The first and only time, of course, being in 1954-55, and they did the trick then, very narrowly, with a team largely composed of bargain-basement players.
Ted Drake, former rampaging center forward for Arsenal and England, was the manager then. Previously manager of third division South Reading, he shrewdly brought in a couple of inside forwards from that division, Johnny McNichol of Brighton and tall Les Stubbs from Southend.
There were just two real stars in the side: the deep-lying, technically adroit center forward Roy Bentley, an England player in the ill-fated World Cup finals of 1950, and the young left winger Frank Blunstone, who would play for England, too.
It may be of some small significance that in the war period, Chelsea never came close to winning the league title, while their efforts in the FA Cup were such as to prompt a satirical record by a singing comedian called "The Day that Chelsea Went and Won the Cup." Among other small miracles that day, "A pigeon laid an egg upon the cat."
Yet in those years, Chelsea spent lavishly on famous players, including two of the Wembley Wizards, the little Scotsmen who took England apart 5-1 at Wembley in 1958 -- right winger Alex Jackson, who scored three goals that day -- and the brilliant but wayward center forward, Hughie Gallacher.
Just after the war, Chelsea fielded the all-star inside forward trio of Tommy Walker, a legendary Scottish international, Tommy Lawton, the prolific England center forward said to "hang in the air," and the clever ex-England inside left Len Goulden.
Yet they won nothing.
More recently, of course there, have been such as Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli (admitted on a Bosman free transfer), expensive and elusive Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo. Two FA Cups, the League Cup -- but still no championship.
Come right up to date, and till Roman the Russian took over at Stamford Bridge, no club spent more frenetically than Real Madrid. Yet where did it get them last season? They labored till almost the last gasp to win the Primera Liga -- given a hectic run for their money by Real Sociedad of San Sebastian, which could never match them for money -- and didn't retain their European Cup.
Even Damien Duff has called that £17 million fee "stupid." He is a player of high quality, beyond doubt. But as Chelsea pursue their search for another expensive striker, you can only hope it doesn't mean the bench for the powerful, precocious and hugely promising teenager Carlton Cole, who is surely worth a regular place -- even if he cost nothing.
WILL Alain Perrin, manager of Marseille, be any more successful in domesticating 20-year-old Mido than Ronald Koeeman at Ajax, who have just sold him to the French club?
Of the all round talents of the Egyptian international, real name Ahmed Hosdam, there can be no doubt. He has been a star turn since he was playing as a 17-year-old for Zamalek in his native Cairo, a club where his father played before him.
To the dismay of the supporters, he was off at that age to Gent in Belgium, where he did so well in his only season that Ajax brought him to Holland. There he continued to get goals with foot and head, but time and again clashed with manager Koeman, once the pivot of the Dutch defense, till in midseason Ajax packed him off on loan to Celta in Spain.
Mido says cheerfully that his clashes with Koeman have been exaggerated, but Leo Benhakker, general manager of Ajax and 1990 Holland World Cup coach, says grimly that Mido is uncontrollable.
TALKING of transfers, why did it take so long for Spurs to sign Bobby Zamora from Brighton, and at as low a fee as £1.5 million, though there should be more to come? Last weekend Bobby delighted his new manager, Glenn Hoddle, scoring a couple of goals in a preseason friendly against Oxford United.
To me Zamora looks an excellent prospect, still only 22, scorer of 14 goals last season for Brighton in the Nationwide Division I despite a long absence through injury. Had it not been for that, Brighton might well have escaped relegation.
A division lower, Zamora's prolific scoring took Brighton up. At 5-foot-11 and well built, he has plenty of power, complemented by polished technique.
Why were Spurs seemingly the only big club that wanted him? Maybe it has something to do with what his Brighton manager Steve Coppell, who admired him greatly, once said to me -- that the more you see him the more you are aware of his faults. Surely well outnumbered by the virtues of a player who began as a schoolboy with West Ham along with the likes of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick.
ONE of the oddest summer transfers was surely that of the incisive Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson from French champions and Champions League contestants Lyon to Spain's obscure Villarreal. "I've been seduced by what the directors told me," he says.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.
His latest book, a fully updated edition of THE STORY OF THE WORLD CUP is available in all good bookshops. Readers of worldsoccer.com can buy this highly-acclaimed history of the World Cup and enjoy a 10% discount by clicking here.