June 19 2013 Latest news:
By Paul Lagan, London24’s Chelsea correspondent
Monday, January 7, 2013
Paul Lagan gives his thoughts on what Frank Lampard’s impending departure from Stamford Bridge means for the club.
So what the bleeding hell is going on at Stamford Bridge regarding Frank Lampard’s future?
Since January 1 Lampard has had the option of talking to other clubs, and now his agent Steve Kunter has announced that the 34-year-old will definitely not be offered a new deal at the club.
Chelsea could, if they wanted, keep the Blues’ hero at the club by offering him a one-year extension. But they haven’t, and now it looks certain that they won’t.
So what does that tell us about the current situation?
No one other than Lampard’s people and Roman Abramovich know for certain what is going to happen, but a new deal at Stamford Bridge seems impossible.
Many seasoned Chelsea watchers can see a simple pattern emerging, and they don’t like what they see.
Last year Didier Drogba left Chelsea at the end of his contract.
He was able to talk to other clubs in January. Chelsea could, if they wanted, offer him a new deal.
Common belief was that he was waiting for a new contract from Chelsea. His agent Thierno Seidy said in April: “Talks are going on with executive director Ron Gourlay, and we will take stock with him before the end of the season.
“I believe what Didier is currently showing will lead the club to a new thought.
“Didier loves Chelsea and he wants to stay, but if things have to happen another way, he will leave. This time, we can make the decision by ourselves.”
Didier kept scoring goals for the Blues - he won the FA Cup and the Champions League.
There was no new contract - Didier left SW6 a hero to the Chelsea fans, a legend that they believe should never have left.
But what if Didier had already agreed to join Shanghai Shenhua in January? How would the Chelsea faithful had treated him then?
My guess there would have been a mixed reaction followed by anger towards Roman for forcing him out.
But what if Didier actually wanted to leave because any deal at a Chelsea would have resulted in a reduction in wages?
The Blues wanted to give Fernando Torres the breathing space to play. They would have played him ahead of Drogba.
Drogba was of an age where Chelsea felt his best years were behind him and thus was not worth the vast amount of money he wanted.
In the end a professional compromise was reached, where the balance of blame for not keeping Drogba fell on the club.
Chelsea went down this route because - despite dealing hardball when it comes to some players, other staff, deals with sponsors - the one thing it fears more than anything is damage to its reputation.
Reputation of its “brand” but even more importantly reputational damage of Abramovich, Gourlay, Bruce Buck and club secretary David Barnard.
The club’s talented communications team are very, very aware of the need to protect the hierarchy at all costs.
They can control the information that comes out of the club, which is carefully
vetted not to harm the top brass.
But what cannot be controlled are the feelings of the fans. Fans forums and the occasional scripted Q&A sessions between fans and players give the illusion of listening to the fans.
No doubt exchanges of ideas and views are made and they are to be welcomed, but just how many fans engage in these events and how effective are they?
Occasionally things are said on Chelsea’s TV channel that are critical of the top brass, sometimes from those phoning in, sometimes from the guests in the programmes.
And what we are witnessing currently are two major headaches for them.
Their reputations are in the gutter as far as thousands of Chelsea fans are concerned.
The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo by Abramovich was bad. Fans have got used to the manager lasting no more than months now. The sacking of Ray Wilkins and
Carlo Ancelotti provoked fury and was the first time the fans vented their ire directly at Abramovich. Gourlay took the bullet for him that time, but the precedent was
The appointment and subsequent removal of Andre Villas-Boas showed a grave error of judgement by the board.
The appeasement decision was inspired if a tad fortunate as Di Matteo was already at the club.
But Roman’s hesitancy in giving Di Matteo the job at the end of last season and leaving him hanging on after being snubbed by Pep Guardiola was not lost on the fans - they were not happy.
His sacking in November and the appointment of Rafael Benitez was a PR disaster. It’s one that won’t be won while Benitez remains at Stamford Bridge.
Not even winning games will soften the fans’ anger. On the 16th minute of every game the fans will sing Di Matteo’s name.
Every single time that happens Abramovich loses more respect from the fans. It’s an arrow in the heart of his and the club’s reputation.
Now the beleaguered Blues have to deal with the PR disaster unfolding over club legend Lampard.
Fans feel that Roman is showing disrespect to Lampard by not talking to him about a new deal.
And given his agent’s most recent comments, it looks like that’s the way it’s going to stay.
Whatever happens next, it looks inevitable that even more damage will be done to Abramovich’s fragile reputation.