Monday, November 13, 2006

What History Really Means

Since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and Jose Mourinho came and brought us success we had never dreamed of before, many football fans have tarnished all Chelsea fans as glory hunters, whether they were recent converts or long-term supporters. We have been tarnished with the same brush. Now interestingly, from where I’m looking, the loudest and proudest boasts come from supporters of a red-shirted team from Merseyside. A club and set of supporters whose definition of ‘history’ is totally different from most normal human beings and football clubs. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which club that is.

So, what is the reason Liverpool fans criticise Chelsea and their fans? The number of times I’ve heard that we have no history so therefore we have no real right to the titles we win, they are just bought, is countless. Liverpool fans seem to think that because they’ve won all these titles (18 league titles and 5 European Cups, if you didn't already know) they have some right to win them all the time. They don’t understand what it really means to win a league title or how much effort is required, because they grew up winning every year. They haven’t been without for long enough. Chelsea were without league success for 50 years and so when we finally won the league we knew what was required, we knew it wasn’t just about players, but about team-spirit, tactics, organisation and motivation.

What they mean when they say this we have no ‘history’ that we have no history of long-term big success, no pedigree like the self-called ‘big clubs’, or more specifically, Liverpool. That we don’t have a big trophy haul. That is very different to not having history. Try to think how many times have you heard or read a Liverpool fan shouting or writing or unfurling a banner with their number of league trophies and European Cups. It’s quite a lot isn’t it. Goodness, I know as much about Liverpool’s successes now as I know about Chelsea’s.

Liverpool fans need to learn the meaning of the word history. You see, did you actually know in Liverpool the word history doesn’t mean the same as history does to the rest of us? Liverpool and their fans define history by how many trophies that they’ve won, how many league titles and European Cups to be precise.

Now last time I looked, that isn’t what history means in any context. History is what happened in the past, what has been and gone. So Liverpool fans are right in one sense. The have a history, and the all their league titles amd European Cups are part of it. That is not the present. In the present, in the now, Liverpool have no league titles for 16 years and counting. That’s their recent history.

History, in terms of football is not just about trophies, and if anyone seriously thinks that is the case then they are probably a glory-hunter. Having a history means having a past, having a story to tell. It means going through ups and downs, peaks and troughs. Chelsea certainly have a history in that sense. In the truest sense, we very much have a history. The arrogant ravings of Liverpool fans about their number of trophies (need reminding?) miss the point about what history means.

Not all Liverpool fans are glory hunters, (certainly not many below the age of 16 – they really wouldn’t have much to celebrate really). But I guarantee you a lot of them are a lot are, and they were so used to success they think that it’s part of nature, like the seasons, that Liverpool should win the league and be dominant. They don’t appreciate how much it means. They’re only bothered about the quantity and the only thing they can resort to is pathetic posts and chants about how great their history is, forgetting that that is exactly what it is. History. In the real world, the present, Chelsea are the dominant team in England and potentially in Europe. Money has played a part in our success, but so have a lot of other things. Qualities that Liverpool do not seem to appreciate.

Sometimes I think Liverpool and their fans still hark back to a time when money didn’t rule football through Man Utd and Chelsea, but when Liverpool ruled, which was supposedly not anything to do with money (on a lesser scale). Liverpool must adapt to modern football, or their dominance on the football pitch will never return, and the Liverpool supporters must realize this too. Face facts, you need money to succeed and if Liverpool are to be what they once were again they need to invest in bigger and better players than Jermaine Pennant. If that takes a big investment, so be it. But unless that happens Liverpool will never be dominant again. That was the past. Not the present. Football now is different and they must adapt or never achieve dominance again.

A quick mention of Man Utd. They now have a history to rival Liverpool’s but never boast about it to put us down. Why? I think the reason is that most of them grew up not knowing success. Much like us, they had a track record of being nearly-men, a sleeping giant dining out on success long-gone, with only the occasional cup to show for it, that is until Alex Ferguson showed up. They understood how much hard work and how much of an achievement it was and is to win a league title. They know how much it means. They have a history not all about success, but spectacular failure too. They relate to us.

So what does all this mean as a Chelsea fan? Well we’ll have to endure these constant taunts for a long time. Until we have some sort of trophy-winning history of our own. Hopefully, if we go on to really dominate, as it seems will happen, I’d like to think we would never boast about our ‘history’ or our money if another team took our place at the top. What we should do is savour the moments we enjoy now, remember them when things are more difficult and take pride in what we will have then achieved. Then wait as our time comes again. With Roman at the club, we are always going to be competing at the top level, but we will have a time when we don’t win anything for a few years, and we must be ready for that. Remember what real history means and keep some perspective. Don’t follow the example of the glory-hunting scousers who think history means trophies. Until they realise it doesn’t they’ll never reach those heights again and if they do, they will never ever enjoy them as much as we do and probably Man Utd fans, to a certain extent, do as well. Let’s stay on the higher ground, because boasting about trophies is the type of argument that frankly belongs on a playground.

Oh and by the way here’s one trophy-winning stat for Liverpool fans. In Premiership titles, Chelsea now lead by 2-0. Hear that? 2-0. That’s a fact. I’m also willing to bet that the number on our side increases before Liverpool’s does.

I’m now setting a timer to see how long it takes to hear the numbers 18 and 5, and the words, ‘history’ ‘money’ and ‘arrogant’ and ‘Gerrard’ shouted down in my face in response. Better not tell them we won a European trophy before they ever did as well, or that Mourinho chose Chelsea over Liverpool…