TheHardTackle’s Review


Chelsea FC – The Official Biography – The Definitive Story Of The First 100 Years

Everyone knows the narrative of Chelsea FC; the ruthless West London side that goes through its managers like a hot knife through butter. And a club where a long-forgotten history has purportedly been dumped in favor of a maddening rush into the future. But Rick Glanvill’s definitive work “Chelsea FC – The Official Biography (The First 100 years)” rubbishes those claims. The biography was originally commissioned prior to the Premier League triumph of 2005-06 under Jose Mourinho, and the manuscript had to be updated to include references to the title-winning season – which in hindsight, might have been a good thing. The bulk of the biography is, therefore, devoted to the years from Gus Mears and Ted Drake, until the Zola-Gullit era. And serve as a reminder to newer younger fans of the club, that Chelsea did in fact have much to write about even before Roman knocked on its doors.

The Miracle Of Sight

One of the most interesting incidents, and certainly something the current crop of Chelsea fans will find easier to relate to, concerns the new Assistant Coach at Chelsea Roberto di Matteo. The Italian was signed for 5 million pounds in 1996, which was at that time quite a high price to pay for a player by a club of Chelsea’s financial standing. Even to this day, and especially with his surprise return to the Blue fold, di Matteo is remembered for that stunning strike from 25 yards out with acres of space, just 43 seconds into the game, that helped Chelsea win the FA Cup in 1997.

What a lot of people don’t necessarily recall is that it was only the second major final that he had played in, and watching from the stands was his father and his completely visually-impaired sister. Roberto’s sister who needed her father to describe every moment of the game to her, wouldn’t have needed someone to walk her through that shot. Di Matteo believes the subsequent roar of the Blue faithful would have been sufficient for her to grasp the proceedings. It was that kind of a shot after all, a miracle that even the blind get to ‘see’.


The Wrath Of Mourinho

Not every incident, recounted by Glanvill, leaves you with a lump in the throat. Some, like this one, leave you with a smile and a chuckle. Far from being a disciplinarian a la Fergie, Jose Mourinho comes across as a reasonable fellow who understands his players need some time to blow off steam, and might even prefer to do so in socially-frowned upon ways. He does, however, insist they leave the ‘boys will be boys’ bandwagon when they turn up for training the next morning. He does, surprisingly, share something in common with Sir Alex Ferguson – a penchant to fling projectiles about, when he’s upset. Chelsea had gone into the half-time break trailing 2-1 to defending champions Arsenal, and Mourinho who believed his Blues were the better team, was understandably livid.

While screaming his lungs out at his chastened players, he picked up a disposable tumbler that he thought was empty, and kicked it in anger behind him. Unfortunately, there were quite a few staff standing in the path of the airborne tumbler. To make matters worse, the tumbler wasn’t empty – it still had a little energy drink in it, all of which landed on Steve Clarke’s face. Mourinho wasn’t done, though. He heaved a tub of Vaseline too, onto the wall. The quick-thinking Carlo Cudicini silently shifted a pile of clothes out of the gel’s way. Glanvill makes an unfair comparison with Fergie kicking a boot in Beckham’s face, but it doesn’t digress from the fact that the players being reprimanded would have certainly found it hard to keep a straight face.


Fenced-In Like Animals

Ken Bates - "You Stay Out!"


Chelsea’s supporters have been known to be a rambunctious lot, in the past, even if the club was supposed to cater to West London’s classiest area. At one point, Chelsea’s hooligans had taken it upon themselves to be the most feared band of supporters in the land, and they may have succeeded. So notorious were Chelsea’s “True Blues”, that on 27th February 1985, Ken Bates installed an electric fence to keep the supporters from invading the pitch. Technically, it was merely a 6-foot-9-inch fence with an electric wire running on top of it, but The Sun decided to run with it in the headlines. And Chelsea’s reputation as a club that needed to cage its supporters like animals was seared into the minds of the public. Bates, did defend Chelsea’s supporters publicly against accusations they were the unruliest, but he also took no chances with them. The rampant hooliganism is why, Glanvill believes, the then Secretary of the Football Association Ted Croker never received his knighthood. The fact that he told Margaret Thatcher to take her government “hooligans” out of football, couldn’t have helped his case either!

Glamor Girl

Chelsea’s been blessed with great celebrity support over the years. Present-day fans will recall the lovely Charlize Theron professing her support for the Blues, and Matt Damon attending a game where comparisons with Michael Ballack were inevitable. But in the days of Osgood, it was a matter of pride for Chelsea that the biggest sex symbol of the era, Racquel Welch of “1,000,000 Years BC” fame wore her support for the club on her sleeve. Interviewed during the shooting of Hannie Caulder, wearing the kit with Osgood’s number 9 branded on it, Raquel Welch spoke of how the plains of America hadn’t forgotten Osgood. She even attended a game, where she naturally caused quite a distraction merely by her presence and the fact she had demanded brandy. The latter was against the rules, but nobody at Chelsea had the nerve or the heart to say no. Racquel was a Chelsea Girl through and through. Osgood who ought to have been concentrating on the game, was gladly distracted when Welch called out his name as she left.


In Osgood's Attire


The biography also features a foreword from the usually reticent Roman Abramovich, who warmly acknowledges the role the supporters have played in shaping the history of the club. The ending offers an insight into a humbler side of Mourinho, a man who believed that Chelsea were so well set on the path to greatness that his achievements would, at the bicentennial, merely be a footnote in Chelsea’s list of silverware.

Rick Glanvill does a fascinating job recounting even more great tales from the past and other long-forgotten anecdotes, which he expertly and seamlessly weaves into the big-picture tapestry at the centennial year of the club. Some of the anecdotes are touching, others hilarious. There are others still that are painful reminders of Chelsea’s sins, and a look at how far the club has come. Wherever your loyalties lie, this book will help change your perspective to the degree you permit it to – for fans of the club, the book will take their feelings for the club up another notch; for fans of others, Rick Glanvill offers an insight into a club, that while not always well-liked, is working hard to correct that perception. A kinder, gentler club, if you will.

You can buy Rick Glanvill’s book here.