19 May Back from the Brink
Back from the Brink, Thanks to Hiddink
Okay, I’ll admit it. If you’d have told me in early February that Chelsea would lose only once in the next 15 games, secure a spot in the FA Cup final, and make the last four of the Champion’s League—by defeating Liverpool 7-5 on aggregate, no less!—I’d have said you were crazier than Djibril Cisse’s hair. Now, don’t get me wrong. I never doubted the lads would pull it together and make a respectable run for some silverware. But to do it with such emphatic style! That seemed like a wish as elusive as luring Mourinho back for another go as manager.
We all know what has changed since those heartbreaking drubbings by Man U and the Scousers at the turn of the year. Guus Hiddink, that’s what. He’s turned out to be everything we hoped he’d be (and wanted Scolari to be). But what exactly is it the Golden Guus has done to save a Chelsea team that just ten short weeks ago had us all worried would end up trophyless and possibly in fifth place come that final match at the Stadium of Light? Yes, he’s a brilliant tactician. Sure, he’s stepped up training that was rumored to be lax under Big Phil. But there’s something more Guus has brought with him—belief.
He believes in our boys. They believe in him. And that means they believe in themselves again, too—and it shows. They’re confident, energized, and fearless, ready to take it to anyone, anywhere. And, ladies and gentlemen, they have been.
Lest we forget, we looked unstoppable at the beginning of the season, too. But fresh legs and pure adrenaline only got us so far. When it came time to turn to the manager for all those things a good boss provides, Scolari just couldn’t fill the bill. Perhaps it was the language barrier. (I mean, how’re you going to fire up your team at half-time if no one understands what the hell you’re saying?) Or maybe it was his increasingly erratic and outwardly uncaring behavior. Sometimes it just seemed like he was at Chelsea to pass the time—like in the bigger scheme of things, none of it really mattered to him. Well, you know what? It does matter. A lot. To the players. To the fans. To me.
After six months at the helm, it was clear that Scolari was most certainly not the manager we thought him to be. Though certainly a nice enough guy, he wasn’t the steadfast and wise leader we needed to take us to glory. Enter Guus Hiddink. Clever, cunning, and then some. Even after the initial boost in confidence a new boss often brings, he’s guided our boys to the dizzying heights we’ve come to expect from the Blues. He’s given them a reason to believe again. And, boy, do they believe. Look no further than the seven Champion’s League goals against Liverpool as proof. And because they believe again, so do we. And that’s a feeling I wouldn’t trade for all the Brazilian strikers in the world—especially now that Drogba’s back on form.