An Open Letter of Thanks to Roberto Di Matteo
Dear Mr. Di Matteo,
I stumbled across this photo on a fan’s blog this morning and it so perfectly captures the elation I’m feeling as this football seasons draws to a close. I wanted to use the opportunity to offer you my sincere thanks.
This season has been one of the hardest for me in quite some time. Sure, throughout Chelsea’s history we’ve experienced a lot worse, but it wasn’t just the slump in performance or the low position in the table that were getting to me. While nothing would ever make me stop passionately supporting the blues, there were times during this campaign that I felt very disheartened with the club.
Fernando Torres still wasn’t scoring. Andre Villas-Boas wasn’t living up to the expectations many people had for him. Supporters were frustrated with some club business, including the possibility of moving to another stadium. Rumours were circulating of unhappiness and dissent in the squad. And we weren’t winning as often as we’d had liked. Those matters combined, it felt like some of the optimism we as supporters usually still feel even when the team isn’t doing well was starting to slip away.
I flew to the UK from Canada in late January and was in Swansea for our lacklustre draw and at Stamford Bridge for our crushing draw against Manchester United after being ahead. While I’m always thrilled with my annual trips to watch Chelsea play, the actual matches were frustrating. During that same trip, I watched on Sky Sports as it was announced first that John Terry would once again be stripped of his England captaincy and then that Fabio Capello was stepping down. Shortly after arriving home, I woke up one morning to the news that Andre Villas-Boas was released as Chelsea manager, and you were appointed as interim first-team coach.
I was at an all-time low in my football year, but suddenly I knew that change was coming. I was hopeful. But I never could have imagined how our season would have ended.
Suddenly, it’s like there was life back in the club. The joy seemed to have returned to the first XI. The players were starting to find their roles on the pitch and work more fluidly than I’d witnessed in the first part of the season. We were winning. I felt truly excited about being a Chelsea supporter once again!
To see you on the sidelines, celebrating every goal, every win, with such no-holds-barred happiness has been tremendous. During press conferences, I hear the conviction in your voice. And it’s obvious too all of us as supporters that the boys are happy to have you as their manager. My personal belief is that the reason why Chelsea has had a “revolving door” in management for the past few years is because you were meant for this role. It’s like you’re the leader the team needs, but at the same time we get glimpses of the past, when you were playing. My impression is that in your heart, you’re still one of the first XI, and the current players can identify with you (and thus perform for you.)
Over the past few weeks I felt comfortable that this may be a season free of glory and hardware but filled with promise. I was at peace with the fact that we might not even qualify for the Champions’ League next season. But then we just kept on winning. To knock Barcelona out of the Champions’ League was incredible, and to win the FA Cup yesterday was utterly amazing. You’ve clearly “rallied the troops” and by that I mean both the players and the fans.
Now the most crucial match of the year is ever-closer. I believe we will win on May 19th and finally see Chelsea add the Champions’ League trophy to their collection. To see John Terry and Frank Lampard, in particular, finally lift that cup will be a dream come true, and my wish is that the win secures you the job of Chelsea manager. However, regardless of the outcome, I’m thankful.
Whether or not Chelsea Football Club wins the Champions’ League, and whether you are retained permanently by the club or move on to another role, I’m ever so grateful. You have played a crucial role in turning this season around and getting the best out of the squad, and you have been pivotal in lifting my spirits.
Mr. Di Matteo, I offer you my sincere thanks. You have “kept the blue flag flying high.”