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EDITORIAL: 2016 - A Crossroads...

This is the second of a series of editorials by Chelsea Chicago members, talking about Chelsea-related matters near and dear to their heart. Now up, Benjamin Kyi, detailing the difficult year we've faced and the path forward... DISCLAIMER: This article is not necessarily representative of the Chelsea fan community, and is 100% unaffiliated with Chelsea Football Club Ltd., and Chelsea in America. They are views and opinions - and meant to foster dialogue within our community. Please join us on our Facebook page to discuss more in-depth.

I still remember that game versus Palace on May 3, 2015. I was at home watching the game on TV but even then I could just feel the buzz and excitement that pervaded throughout the Bridge and when Hazard headed in his goal to put us up 1-0 the roar of the crowd was deafening. I could feel my heart soaring and tears welling in my eyes. We were the Champions of England and for the first time in 6 years I could watch us lift that beloved trophy again.

Fast forward almost a year to the day, and this 2015-2016 season has been nowhere near the fairy tale run of last season. We sit languishing in mid-table mediocrity with an all too familiar shroud of uncertainty looming over all our minds as we head into the summer break. With no trophies to play for and no results to care about, the performances have been rather dull and lifeless. John Terry is on his way out of the club with nothing more than a whimper and nothing can make the end of this season come any quicker. Well, at least we can take in the pleasure of watching Arsenal choke [….again]. This summer is not just about the new manager and the new players he brings in; this summer is about the huge crossroads the club finds itself in as the second Mourinho era comes to a close.

You could make the argument that the policies of years past have served Chelsea well. With 12 trophies in the past decade alone, the managerial circus of Scolari, Ranieri, Ancelloti, Di Matteo, Villas Boas, and Mourinho have done exactly what the board has asked it to do: deliver silverware. However, at what cost? Managers have splashed the cash on big name stars in hopes of obtaining that short term success knowing full well that the board’s trigger happy finger was always lurking on their necks. However, because of this we have a bunch of players who don’t know what it means to play for Chelsea. Terry knows it; Lamps knew it; Drogba and Cech did too. Watching Terry jump into the Matthew Harding section after equalizing at Everton this year was like watching something straight out of a script. But now with all those figures gone, we lack a presence that rallies the troops under the banner; no one is leading the charge; no one is bleeding blue.

Most recently the comments by Willian and Courtois have really picked a nerve with me; and even the manager Hiddink has acknowledged that the players don’t really have the rest of the season on their priorities list with the upcoming Copa America and the Euros this summer. Willian has publicly urged Chelsea to let him play and to allow him to miss all of pre-season and the start of next season. Which is fine by me if you’re playing your heart out for the squad but to say this on the heel of a mediocre performances stringing themselves all the way back to before the final PSG match…well, for me, I can’t really swallow that seriously. I will get flack for this but to me, Willian has been merely above average at best this season. He’s stood out don’t get me wrong but more because the rest of the squad has been so bad in my opinion but that is a discussion for another day. Now, if there were any time to do so, the Chelsea players should be showing their fans that they care about the club and the supporters like us that invest our souls into this club that we love very, very much. They should be showing the same heart we do when they stop onto the pitch; trophy or no trophy. After such a heartbreaking and disappointing season, we fans deserve to see our players try and fight for their pride and the club’s dignity. But with players like these, you cannot expect anything less than what we’ve gotten. Am I calling for a total overhaul of the squad? No. That is both unrealistic and unwise considering that amount of talent we have.

However, what we do need is to build a spine that will rival the likes of Cech, Terry, Lampard, and Drogba. A spine that will could maybe even rival the impact of Man United’s famous Class of ’92 in terms of establishing a groundwork for what kind of club we want to be in the next 10 years or so. Now, whether we turn to the youth and the likes of Loftus-Cheek, Todd Kane, Charlie Colkett, and co. is up to the Conte but if that is to be the case then for me that is one step in the right direction. Our youth academy has won two straight UEFA youth leagues which means they are not just your average joes; there is some talent in their ranks. Now to say all of them will turn out to be world class beaters is a bit fanciful but striking gold with at least one or two and utilizing depth is something that could do wonders for Chelsea and would be something I could really get behind in the next upcoming season or two. I can live without the Champions League. I can live without a trophy. But I can’t live without watching Chelsea Football Club. And because of that I will support this team week in and week out; top of the table or bottom of the Championship. But if we can take these steps toward rebuilding our storied club, us fans may be able to relish the storied times that are for sure to come in the near future.

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