It has been tumultuous Premier League season for all the London clubs but none as much as Chelsea. The arrival of a new manager in Andres Villa-Boas at the start of the season brought new hope. That quickly descended in to farce as the young Portuguese manager failed to have the same positive impact at Stamford Bridge he had enjoyed with Porto just one season earlier. Poor results led to unhappy players, unhappy fans and finally an unhappy owner. Once you lose Roman Abramovich’s favour, your job won’t be long in following it.
Assistant Roberto Di Matteo was handed the reigns after AVB’s sacking. The former West Bromich Albion manager was seen as a mere stop gap, someone to hold the fort until a big name manager could be enticed to the Bridge. This is a role he appeared happy to accept, even now having gotten Chelsea in to a Champions League semi-final, an FA Cup semi-final and within two points of the top four in the Premier League.
“I haven’t spent one second thinking about it,” he replied when questioned on the possibility of being handed the full-time manager’s position. “The next fortnight is not about me. We have five league games left and we’re in three competitions. It’s about the club and the players. I have no concern about the future.”
This is of course a lie. A white lie which harms no one and serves to protect him from embarrassment should he campaign publicly for the job and fail, but a lie all the same.
His contribution is constantly undermined by talk of the players being the ones who have architectured the improvement in form. Even if this were true he would at least deserve credit for facilitating this successful strategy.
Since taking over the reigns on the 4th of March, Di Matteo has managed Chelsea to eight wins, two draws and just the single defeat away to Manchester City. The Blues are in great form right now. Even Fernando Torres has started to score with something close to regularity.
IF Di Matteo leads Chelsea to FA Cup and Champions League glory, as well as snatching fourth place, will Roman really want, or be able, to get rid of him?
And then there’s ‘Arry
For Di Matteo to put himself in a strong position for the Chelsea job he’s going to have to ruin Harry Redknapp’s once seemingly perfect season.
Back in February when Fabio Capello quit as England manager Tottenham were flying high in 3rd place. Just three days after the announcement Spurs beat Newcastle 5-0 and moved ten points clear of 4th placed Arsenal.
Harry Redknapp was immediately installed as the incumbent England boss by the media and the question was not if he would be leaving White Hart Lane but when.
“I never think about it, honestly, I swear,” said Redknapp when asked about the England job this week. “I never think about anything other than Tottenham … just trying to finish this season … get into the top four and to the Cup final. Other than that there is nothing to occupy my mind at all.”
The endless interviews he gave on this topic in the aftermath of Capello’s exit suggest otherwise. The attention he received also elicited a warning from the wise Alex Ferguson, who feared the furore could unsettle the Spurs team.
It turns out he was right. One win in eight Premier League games sees Spurs hanging on in the top four on goal difference and talk of Redknapp being guaranteed the England job has quietened to an uncomfortable silence. What looked like the greatest season of his managerial career has started to crumble down around his ears. And that’s without even mentioning the tax scandal he was mixed up in coming to a head and even keeping him away from the club.
Redknapp may very well get the England job anyway but winning the FA Cup would go a long way to ensuring that he does. He may claim he’s only thinking of Tottenham but when he leads them out on to the Wembley pitch today, how could he not, if only for a flittering second, dream of leading England out there too.
Make no mistake about it, this is a massive game for both managers. Their futures may very well depend on it.
If there is a red card in this game, Paddy Power will refund all losing First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score & Scorecast singles on the game.