There’s a word that makes Chelsea fans grimace; a word used as a barb by Liverpool supporters and by the world’s biggest clubs to explain why Roman Abramovich’s revolutionaries are more hoi polloi than ruling class.
Five European Cups and 18 leagues; that’s what you call history — that’s what makes Liverpool a big club and Chelsea simply modern upstarts; or it would be if Roberto Di Matteo’s side were not currently in the process of challenging the whole basis of that argument.
As Chelsea prepare to return to their spiritual home of Wembley today for an FA Cup clash against Liverpool — their eighth FA Cup final in 18 years — it is becoming harder and harder to justify their exclusion from a list of England’s most historically successful clubs.
Who made the rule anyway that football history has to be printed in black and white? Antiques may have to be 100 years old to justify their value but trophies won in 2012 should count for just the same as those won in the good old days of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
Chelsea have won 11 trophies in the last 15 years and today they begin the process of trying to win two more; the FA Cup this afternoon and the elusive Champions League on May 19 in Munich; and the prospect of ‘making history’ is keeping midfielder Frank Lampard awake in his bed.
“I think about it every night, I really do,” he said. “I’ve never been more aware about what a situation like this means, tomorrow and in two weeks. The FA Cup final is a game you are always going to want to win, and it’s a massive game against a big team. And then that Champions League is something we’ve always wanted and I’m actually desperate to win it, I make no bones about that. So I’m very aware on both fronts.
“I also know what Liverpool fans sing about our history; but it doesn’t annoy me. Liverpool should be very happy with their history and proud of it, and Chelsea should be as well because we’ve all got different histories. And I think we are trying to create history this season.
“What they sing in the Liverpool end is fans’ banter and I think they deserve the right to crow about their own; but I think Chelsea fans should walk tall and have pride in what we have done, not just recently but over decades and decades here at the club.”
Lampard has already experienced many highs during a remarkable career at Stamford Bridge, including helping his side to their first Premier League title and subsequently winning the double; but admits ending the current season with two trophies could potentially top it all.
“It possibly could,” he said. ” I’d like to be able to tell you exactly in a couple of weeks. But it will be right up there. The first league we won here was amazing and if anything manages to beat that then it would be truly special because that was amazing. But we are on the brink of something that could rival it if not beat it; and I do think about it in bed at night. We all dream about that.”
The added spice for Chelsea is that the first leg of their history tour is against Liverpool, the most historic team in English football and one with whom they have a very modern and intense rivalry, dating back a controversial Champions League semi-final at Anfield in which a ‘ghost goal’ from Luis Garcia set Liverpool on the way to victory in 2005.
Then there is the prospect that beating Kenny Dalglish’s side — before going on to beat Bayern Munich two weeks later — could not only make a mark in the history books but also earn interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, a hugely popular figure now at Stamford Bridge, the job full-time.
Captain John Terry, who will lead Chelsea against Liverpool but who is suspended for the Bayern game, said: “Winning the cup would do him no harm at all, it would put him in a very good position. He’s very passionate, he’s Chelsea through and through, and that’s certainly rubbed off on us players; so, if we can do it and if the added bonus is that Robbie can get the job at the end, that’d be great.
“But Robbie won’t be sidetracked; he understands he still has a big job to do here. He has got us to two finals, but he can extend that and take it a step further.
“It’s what this club deserves. We’ve got immense talent here, the hunger as well to win trophies and keep winning them year after year.”
When you put it that way, Chelsea certainly don’t sound like a club without heritage; so perhaps Liverpool, who have already lost their title as England’s most successful league club to Manchester United, should be a little nervous at the continued rise of a rival they love to deride.
Liverpool fans may have earned the right to sing their songs over the course of many successful years; but as Sir Winston Churchill once famously said: “History is written by the victors.”
So if the ribbons on the Cup tonight are blue — for the fourth time in six years — who really are the history boys these days?
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