The summer of 2003 was an important one. Roman Abramovich had decided to plough his
money into our team.
Chelsea has arguably the nicest area around the its ground in Britain, and had a lot of
My first reaction when I heard he was to take over was one of disappointment. I felt like not
renewing my season ticket. I knew nothing about the man and felt he was going to buy the club
for the wrong reasons: to make money out of the fans and merchandise. How wrong I was.
Chelsea shares that I had originally bought for 80p, had gone up to 170p and then collapsed
to 10p were all bought up. At least I recouped about 25% of what I had invested into the club
when they first floated!
It was more of a relief later when we found out that Chelsea had run up enormous debt. The
club's failure to qualify for the Champions League in three successive years had hurt our
finances. We nearly did a Leeds. Roman had saved us, and put his money where his mouth
was. Chelsea signed Wayne Bridge, Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo
at the beginning of the season, and Arjen Robben, Petr Cech and Paulo Ferreira at the end.
We began the season brightly, easily dispatching MSK Zilina to qualify for the group stages of
the Champions League. We were unbeaten for nine games until we lost to Besiktas at home
who were a disgrace both on and off the pitch.
With a lack of funds I could not make any European away games. This included a 4-0
annihilation of Lazio.
In the FA Cup we lost, as usual, to Arsenal. In the League Cup we lost to Villa, with Angel of all
people scoring one of the goals.
In the league we had our best season to date. We seemed to be more solid, conceding fewer
goals. We finally seemed to be building into a world class team. However, losses away to
Charlton and another failure to beat Arsenal in the League showed we still had a fair way to go.
As the season progressed, we improved and got to the Quarter Final stage of the Champions
League. And who did we have to face? Yes. Bloody Arsenal. I held hope for us but was
pessimistic. I watched the home leg in a bar in Tokyo having been sent there for work reasons.
As usual, most of the expats in there were Arsenal fans, so i took great delight in rubbing it in
when we scored. The match ended 1-1. I couldn't get a ticket for the away leg despite having
been to several hundred Chelsea matches to date. Instead I watched it in my local in
Wandsworth, where I had just moved to. Arsenal scored. We equalised. It looked like the game
was heading into extra time. Then Wayne Bridge popped up to score a famous Chelsea goal
and silence the Highbury crowd. Arsenal needed to score two goals in normal time just to stay
in the competition. With four minutes to go it was unlikely to occur. Chelsea won, and the next
day I draped my gooner workmates' chair with flags, scarves and Chelsea memorabilia to rub it
in. In the semis we played Monaco. A combination of poor tactics, and an excellent Morientes
display meant we were 3-1 down from the first leg. In the second leg, Chelsea seemed to lack
direction and drew 2-2, losing 5-3 on aggregate.
Our hearts were broken yet again. We had reached the semis of the European Cup - our
In the final game of the season we beat Leeds and Ranieri did a tour of the pitch. Perhaps he
knew that would be his final game. He was correct. He had built solidity into the squad, and in
his final season as manager had helped us finish in second place, albeit 11 points behind the
rampant winners Arsenal.
In the Summer we were treated to our first glimpse of our new Messiah. Mourinho had won the
UEFA Cup and now the Champions League with Porto on a limited budget. His first interviews
showed the self belief and arrogance he has. This rubbed off onto the team and this was
catalyst we required to get the team onto the next level.
The season started off with an unconvincing 1-0 win against Manchester United with Eidur
scoring the all important goal. With more disposable income I could afford to go to more of the
aways, and only missed five all season in the league. The trip to Manchester City, a new
ground with no atmosphere, saw us lose our first game of the season. 1-0 with a disputed
penalty. This was to be the only game we lost that season. In the league we were sublime.
Impossible to score against and exciting in attack.
We lost unluckily to Newcastle in the FA Cup having used all three substitutions and then
having Wayne Bridge injured with a tackle from Shearer. We were down to ten men, which was
reduced to nine when Carlo Cudicini was sent off in the last minute.
In the league, we still could not beat a good Arsenal side. It seemed they would romp away with
the title again but after an iffy decision against them at Old Trafford their confidence fell. Every
game we seemed to win, Arsenal were drawing against sides they were beating the year
There are too many good performances to mention by the team in the league. We were solid
and winning games before we were perhaps drawing, or even losing.
We went to Bolton away, knowing that a win would secure us the title. I went, but being the
typical Chelsea pessimist thought we would blow it. Chelsea surprised me. Lampard scored
twice and cue jubilation from the travelling faithful. There were tears of joy from many a fan
that finally we had won a competition we had only succeeded in fifty years previously. For me it
took a long time to soak in. I didn't cry, just cheered in joyous celebration. On the way back I
realised I had missed my last train back to London. Sky had put the kick off at 515pm, and for
some reason there were no trains back to London from Manchester after half past eight on a
Saturday. Cue a trip back to London that ended at 11am the next morning, including a kip over
at an ex Chelsea naughty boy's house in Watford who had been in the same predicament as
me. You never had things easy being a Chelsea fan! The trip included £130 between three of
us for a cab between Coventry and Watford!
Chelsea had reached the semi final of the Champions League having dispatched Barcelona
on the way. Liverpool were to meet us in the semis. We drove up to Anfield in confident mood
having already beaten the Scousers three times that season, including a win in the final of the
League Cup. We had drawn 0-0 at home in the first leg having missed two sitters. The
atmosphere at Anfield was like nothing I had experienced before, and I feel that in this case the
adage of having a twelfth man on the pitch is entirely apt. When I say twelfth man, I mean
fourteenth man. Liverpool scored with a goal that the linesman deemed to have crossed the
line. TV replays showed that this decision was incorrect. Having said that, Chelsea had several
chances to equalise. I still dream of the effort Gudjohnsen had in the last minute skewing just
wide. We had lost in the semi final of the Champions League for a second season running. It
was also one of the occasions where Jose was less than gracious in defeat. I cannot criticise
him, as he is excellent at deflecting attention away from the players and giving them
So we were left to celebrate lifting the Premier League trophy at our home game with Charlton.
Aptly, Claude Makelele scored with a rebound from a penalty that he had originally missed. He
has been a superb ball carrier with great vision, skill and strength for such a small man. It is a
shame he is coming toward the twilight of his career, but in my opinion is one of the most
important Chelsea players ever.
It was only at this match that I found the time to shed my emotions. I guess subconsciously I
could not believe we had won the league until I had seen us hold the trophy aloft. I cried
virtually all the way through. Chelsea, to their credit, did the presentation brilliantly and invited
the players from the 1955 league championship winning team to join in the celebrations. The
parade a few weeks later was a great success, and of course there was much drinking
involved in between.
So Jose, backed with millions and a superb football mind, had won two major trophies in his
first season as manager.
We had finished with a record 95 points gained out of a possible 114, scoring two goals per
game on average.
Now it's time to see if we can build on our success! Chelsea are going to be a dominating force
in English football for at least the next five years. It's time we had a trophy cabinet to compete
with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. In fifty years time people will reflect
on the time Chelsea had a great team, and we need to seize the moment!