A mixture of managers

Where Villas-Boas' overambitious tactics had proved increasingly unproductive, while he had lost the support and acceptance of several of the senior Chelsea players, Di Matteo, who when himself a player had scored goals in two winning Cup finals, steadied the ship, deployed a formation which no longer took risks with an excessively advanced back four, and quickly reaped the rewards. Over to Brian Glanville.

Interim Head Coach. That classification was the best Chelsea in their match programmes could do to designate the status of Roberto Di Matteo.

Even when, succeeding the somewhat disastrous regime of the young Portuguese Andre Villas-Boas, he took over a team which had just been soundly beaten in Naples in its first leg European Champions League match, and which dramatically turned the tables with a breathlessly late last goal at Stamford Bridge. Following that with qualification in the quarterfinals against Benfica of Lisbon, who had previously knocked out with a couple of draws the supposedly mighty Manchester United.

Where Villas-Boas' overambitious tactics had proved increasingly unproductive, while he had lost the support and acceptance of several of the senior Chelsea players, Di Matteo, who when himself a player had scored goals in two winning Cup finals, steadied the ship, deployed a formation which no longer took risks with an excessively advanced back four, and quickly reaped the rewards.

Not least because, where Villas-Boas had plainly not seen eye-to-eye with John Terry, Chelsea's hugely experienced and influential centre back and skipper, Terry and Di Matteo got on well, at once. True there were those who believed that it was Terry who was calling the shots, a theory for which there was certainly some evidence.

Thus at the press conference, which preceded the return game versus Napoli, it was Terry who held the stage while Di Matteo appeared to sit almost meekly by. And when in the latter stages of the win against Napoli, Terry was forced off, injured, he it was, who sat prominently on the sidelines, instructing and exhorting his team.

Terry himself vigorously denied that he was in any way usurping the powers of the manager. Nor he insisted did he have any wish to be a manager for a long time to come, referring to keeping on playing. And in subsequent matches it did seem as if Di Matteo, especially in the first leg against Benfica in Lisbon, was profitably and subtly changing the side, bringing back players such as the midfielder Kalou, and even, at last, getting valid performances out of Fernando Torres, the attacker, whose GBP50 million pound transfer from Liverpool, clearly at the instigation of the billionaire Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich, had been a vastly expensive disaster. Torres it was who splendidly set up the winning goal in Lisbon.

Alan Smith, the former Arsenal and England centre forward, now a newspaper columnist, was far from the only one who believed that Di Matteo was altogether too unglamorous a figure to have any real hope of keeping his present job. And then one thought of … Avram Grant.

The Israeli manager and friend, seemingly, of Abramovich, who was suddenly and surprisingly promoted to the managership when Abramovich almost petulantly sacked Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese manager who had won the European Cup with Porto — where Villas-Boas began under his aegis as a very junior figure — a figure of infinite flamboyance and self promotion; but capable of winning the European Cup again, with Inter, beating Chelsea themselves on the way, then taking over another coveted job, at Real Madrid.

To be fair to Grant, Chelsea, under his brief regime, did get all the way to the final of the European Cup in Moscow where they lost only on the penalty shootout, after extra time, to Manchester United, Terry himself missing the vital spot kick.

Grant now talks of his time in charge at The Bridge as being the confirmation of his prowess. Somehow or other, he seems always to be in work. He did his best but, in vain, with an ailing Portsmouth team. Now, he has just been put in charge of Belgrade's Partizan club which, after a sustained run of success, promptly lost two matches. And one remembers a somewhat embarrassing story: that when the Chelsea players held a team conference about the ensuing European Cup final in Moscow they excluded Grant; though the club officially denied it.

Mention of Grant and his arguably exaggerated pretensions makes one remember a clever American political satire, in the shape of a strip cartoon called I GO POGO: It featured a group of small animals, wandering through the swamps of Louisiana. One sequence had them suffering in the pouring rain, and they somewhat reluctantly appoint the alligator as their leader; whereupon, almost at once, the rain stops. “There you are!” says the alligator proudly, to which the other animals reply, “Ain't nothing to do with you!” “It happened during my administration, didn't it?” is the alligator's answer.

Away back in 1955, when I was working and living in Rome I remember that wonderfully wily old manager Bela Guttman, once a famed Hungarian international who'd just been sacked as manager by Milan, when they led the Championship. “I'm going to have a clause in my next contract,” he said bitterly, “not to be dismissed when club is top of the league!” He went on to win two European Cups in a row, with Benfica.

And he wryly told the story of how Lucchese, then a minor Serie A team, were en route to Turin to face mighty Juventus, when their manager died. Desperate, the directors phoned all round Italy, till at last they found a manager who arrived, only just in time to take his place on the bench. The team drew the game; and carried the new manager off on their shoulders! Meanwhile, what major manager would want to enter the revolving door at Chelsea, however big the ultimate pay off?