'The club must stick with Mourinho - I hope he stays 10 more years' - Damien Duff
This time 10 years ago, Damien Duff was part of a Chelsea team whose Premier League title defence began with a remarkable nine-game winning streak under Jose Mourinho.
They did not lose a game on English soil within 90 minutes until the defeat by Manchester United on November 6 and after that they were undefeated in all competitions for another three months on their way to a second championship in two years.
At 36 now, Duff - who was in action for Shamrock Rovers against Drogheda last night - has always hesitated to look back on his career but makes an exception for those days under Mourinho and he has no doubts that this time Chelsea must stick with their manager.
He has always been a reluctant public speaker but today, as he watches Chelsea at home to Liverpool, he wants to say something about his former boss whose title-winning side are 15th in the table and under pressure.
"For me, he (Mourinho) will always be the No 1," Duff says. "It's time to stick with him. There is talk of getting rid and replacing him. I know in the past at Chelsea that if a manager has struggled he has been out the door but Mourinho can build a dynasty. I would love to see him there in 10 years' time."
To use Duff's own description, the Chelsea team he played in "steamrollered" opposition in that season of 2005-2006, winning the league with two games to spare when they beat Manchester United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The final points margin over United in second place was eight and that was despite Chelsea losing their last two games once the title was won.
The Dubliner left Chelsea that summer but he last bumped into Mourinho in his final season in the Premier League at Fulham.
"Two years ago at Stamford Bridge I was coming out into the tunnel and he (Mourinho) saw me and gave me a hug and a kiss," Duff says.
"He said a couple of words in my ear and I went out there and had probably the best half of football I had all season. And he's not even my manager.
"At Chelsea, it was his sheer presence. He has an amazing way with words.
"Sometimes it was just a look or a wink and you feel like you're ready. He's the kind of guy who doesn't have to say anything - it's a look or a pat on the back."
"At the same time he is a fiery character. He just says it how it is. But he gets the best out of you."
When Mourinho arrived at Chelsea the first time 11 years ago, he had just won the Champions League at Porto, playing a midfield diamond.
"I thought at the time, 'That's me screwed', but as soon as the likes of me, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole were fit, he played us," recalls Duff.
The high point in terms of performance was the extraordinary 4-2 Champions League win over Barcelona in March 2005 when Duff scored the third of three in an opening 20 minutes that blew the Spanish team away.
"Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, I guess they are the Messi and Ronaldo of the coaching world. There is everyone else and then those two on another level."
Duff left for Newcastle after the second title-winning season, replaced in the squad by Salomon Kalou in the same summer that Andrei Shevchenko arrived and the Mourinho project began to wobble in its third season - although they still won both domestic cups.
"Jose's become Mr Chelsea," Duff says. "I know Roman Abramovich has funded it but without Mourinho he wouldn't have done it in those early years."