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ROMAN'S at odds with his fan base

IF there is one thing that the few weeks have proved beyond any doubt whatsoever, it's that Roman Abramovich has no real feeling for the football club he owns.

If he had, he would not be behaving as if he couldn't care less about the legions of Chelsea fans out there and the depth of passion they have for their club.

Most of them were born into it and like many people around England, grow up to support a club their father and grandfather supported as kids.

I've never quite understood how people can invest so much of their lives in a football club but that's almost certainly because I played and managed professionally.

When you're involved at the sharp end, you tend to have a much more pragmatic view of the game than fans do and all your energy is invested in playing or managing to the best of your ability.

But I recognise that a club is life or death to many thousands of people and that is something you cannot buy.

Abramovich bought Chelsea and has lavished enormous amounts of money on them but he can never be a true Blue and I think the Roberto Di Matteo affair shows why.

I very much doubt whether Abramovich has experienced the pure exhilaration felt by the average season-ticket holder at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea are playing well and winning games.

His love affair with the club, if you can call it that, is only eight or nine years old and that's nothing beside a supporter who has been buying a ticket for home games for 40 years and has a bank of personal and cherished memories as a result.

Di Matteo has history with Chelsea and the fans. They love him for what he did for them and the contribution he made to their store of happy memories.

They are conflicted, like all fans that wake up one morning to find that their club has been taken over by men with ludicrous amounts of money.

They want what the money can buy but it is very obvious now that there is a huge sacrifice which must be made once a billionaire gets involved in the ownership of your club.

In my day and up until maybe 10 years ago, fans really felt that the club belonged to them and that the directors were simply their representatives, wealthy representatives sure, but still their proxies when it came to running the club.

I remember when Martin Edwards sold Manchester United to the Glazer family how odd it was that one man could sell Old Trafford to someone else.

That was a wake-up for all Manchester United fans and from that came the Green and Gold movement.

I have mixed feelings about it because I do think the Glazers are about as good as it gets in the area of football club ownership these days, but I also understand why Manchester United fans were so worried about a bunch of Americans, who knew nothing about the game, taking over their club and, as they saw it, saddling Old Trafford with huge debts.

I know Leeds United fans will be more than a touch wary about the new money coming into Elland Road given the recent history of the club. But I can guarantee you that they are also hoping against hope that cash and plenty of it will soon start to flow.



schoolyard

This brings me back to Abramovich and my efforts to figure out why he is running Chelsea like a child in the schoolyard who owns the ball and walks away with it because he doesn't get to pick the teams.

I've reached the conclusion that this is what we are dealing with. Di Matteo was just another example of Abramovich throwing a petulant fit and walking off with his ball.

I wonder did Abramovich have a team when he was a kid? Did he stick pictures of footballers or oil derricks on his bedroom wall when he was a teenager?

He shows little evidence that he understands that kind of passion and continues to treat Chelsea fans as merely a component of the club he bought.

He seems to think that the fans came as a job lot when he bought the fixtures and fittings and that he doesn't have to answer to them for anything.

Abramovich certainly showed very little sensitivity to the feelings of the fans when he sacked Di Matteo and appointed Rafa Benitez, a man they simply do not like and judging by the response he got at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, they will never warm to.

The bottom line is he doesn't care.

For him Chelsea Football Club is all about Roman Abramovich and nobody else.


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