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Chelsea FC The Official Biography by Rick Glanvill

Release date: 01st December, 2005
Publisher: Headline Publishing

List Price: £18.99
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Are Chelsea the new Manchester United?

I ask because now that they're winning, every floating footy fan appears to have a soft spot for Jose Mourinho and his expensively-assembled squad of millionaires. Of course, Stamford Bridge is much easier to reach than Old Trafford if you live in Surrey, but those who may have changed their allegiance from the red of Manchester United to the blue of Chelsea merely serve to highlight that in football, as in life, what goes around comes around÷

As a non-Chelsea supporter (was it that obvious?) I began the club's Official Biography intent on finding overt evidence of subjectivity in order that I could dismiss it as little more than a fanzine in hardback. Why else would Roman Abramovich write the book's foreword?

It was important that readers knew Chelsea have only become a 'big club' in the last few years and while Glanvill frequently refers to the so-called 'glamour' side of the 1970s, in fairness, he doesn't shy away from the facts.

Prior to Chelsea's 2005 Premier League success, their first in half a century, the club's honours board looked decidedly bare. Other than an isolated League Cup win, two FA Cup victories twenty seven years apart, (each followed by Cup Winners Cup successes), Chelsea's only other trophy of note was the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1990.

Mine was the naturally determined approach of a football supporter to a manuscript which may seek credibility but be little more than a sticker book in praise of everyone's new favourite team. However, despite my own prejudices - there, I've said it - Rick Glanvill has constructed a tale which could apply to virtually every other football club. The difference is that having won the lottery, Chelsea began attracting the uncommitted football fan who, for the time being at least, can rub shoulders with the real McCoy.

If one aspect of Glanvill's story emphasises Chelsea's status as just another club, it is the tale of Gary Staker who, having stood on the terraces for years, became a security guard at Chelsea's training ground before working his way up "through the under-rated quality of usefulness" to become an indispensable member of the behind-the-scenes team. It's a comforting, heart-warming chapter which would ring true at any other club in the land.

Of course, an official biography may appear best suited to the Chelsea aficionado or even the football historian, but in truth, Glanvill has produced an honest, wonderfully readable book which tackles the club's less attractive record of boardroom battles and hooliganism head-on. I well recall visiting a decrepit Stamford Bridge in the late 70s with a pal who was a Chelsea supporter to watch them play Shrewsbury in the old Second Division, conscious that should my northern accent be aired, it could result in a rather rapid visit to hospital.

Thankfully, those days have, for the most part, passed. In may respects, Chelsea's progress is indicative of that enjoyed by British football - from crumbling grounds to a new age and brighter prospects for the beautiful game. But did I find evidence of subjectivity? One example stand head and shoulders above anything else - Glanvill would have us believe that Liverpool's goal in last season's Champions League semi-final was "patently cleared off the line by the athletic Gallis." Nonsense. It was in by miles, as any sensible, objective, clear-minded football fan could tell you.




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