Chelsea is a huge football club that has been a part of English football for over 100 years. They are an integral part of the history of football as a whole, and throughout their past, they have had an exciting journey full of twists and turns.
Whilst they have had success over the years, there was a time when Chelsea wasn’t doing very well. That all changed when Roman Abramovich decided to buy the club. This saw the club's fortunes change drastically and they became one of the powerhouses of modern football.
To this day, the effect of this purchase is still fully active. Abramovic has completely identified the identity of Chelsea to the team we know of today. But how did this happen, and when did things really come into motion? In this article, we’re going to take a look at the story of Roman Abramovich and Chelsea Football Club.
Chelsea was formed in 1905, but this very nearly didn’t happen. Back in 1904, Gus Mears acquired Stamford Bridge, an athletics stadium. His desire was to turn it into a football ground but to do that he needed a football team.
Initially, Mears offered to lease the stadium to the nearby club Fulham, but they turned him down. If this twist of fate hadn’t happened, we probably wouldn’t be speaking about Chelsea FC today. But it did.
Mears decided to form his own football team, which he named after the Borough of Chelsea. They were officially founded on 10th March 1905. In their second season, Chelsea won promotion to the First Division. Around this time, they were much like any other club. They went up and down between the First and Second Divisions.
Their popularity grew and they ended up with the highest average attendance in English football from 1907 to 1920. Between WW1 and WW2 they found little success, but their followers remained loyal.
In 1952, former Arsenal player Ted Drake became the Chelsea manager and started to introduce more modern methods into the club. One of the main things he did was improve the clubs' youth set-up and training programme. He was also excellent at making clever signings by identifying talented players from lower divisions.
Due to Drake’s management, the club went on to win its first major trophy - The League. They won this in the 1954/55 season. Unfortunately, they didn’t capitalise on this and spent the rest of the 50s as a mid-table club.
Drake departed in 1961 and was replaced by Tommy Docherty, a player-manager. Docherty, like Drake, targeted the team's youth system and built a team around that. They became a very threatening team at this time, always challenging for the major trophies available to them.
They were often runners-up at this time, though they did win the League Cup. Docherty’s successor managed to win the FA Cup in 1970, and a European Cup the following year by beating Real Madrid in Athens (which is no small achievement).
Much of Chelsea’s identity was built around this time. Hardworking, talented teams that challenged everyone around them. Nobody wanted to go to Stamford Bridge and face them.
Unfortunately, Chelsea entered a less fortuitous period at this point, as the late 70s and 80s didn’t quite go to plan. The financial stability of the club came under threat after the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, and the team were relegated after their best players were sold.
By the mid-80s, they were close to being relegated to the Third Division, but manager John Neal managed to build a good team despite their limited resources. The team improved and managed to survive, and by the mid-90s they started to threaten other clubs in the Premier League once again. At this point, Abramovic came into the scene.
In July 2003, Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea for £140 million. This fee might not seem like a lot by modern standards (in fact we may even see a player be sold for that kind of money soon), but at the time it was huge.
Following this, he spent over £100 million on new players. With the arrival of Jose Mourinho, Chelsea did amazing things. From 2004 to 2006 they won back-to-back League Championships, which is an achievement that had not been seen since World War Two. They also won an FA Cup.
Despite his massive success at the club, Mourinho was replaced after a poor start to the 2007/08 season. This was a sign of things to come, as Abramovich has a very hire-and-fire approach to his Chelsea managerial appointments. For some clubs, this doesn’t work; for Chelsea, it has worked wonders.
With a number of other successful campaigns under managers such as Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea was undoubtedly one of the greatest English teams to ever play the game. This was solidified in 2012 when Chelsea won the Champions League trophy by beating Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties.
Abramovich’s influence on Chelsea was massive, but we can’t underestimate his influence on the wider world of football. At the time, buying clubs in the manner in which Abramovich did was not particularly common. Since then, it was started to become more of a trend.
With the success of Manchester City showing what could be done by spending money wisely, many billionaires are looking to have a slice of the pie. Newcastle recently joined the list of teams that have been bought by rich owners, but whether or not they can replicate the success of someone like Abramovich remains to be seen.
One thing is clear, the fans are as important as ever. When Chelsea and several other top English clubs attempted to form a breakaway Super League, huge protests happened outside Stamford Bridge. This led Abramovich to step back, and others followed his decision.
Whilst the growing riches of football are a good thing for many fans, we have to consider if it’s the answer in the long term. Whether Chelsea is top of the league or playing in League Two, their fans will follow them.
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