Long before Roman Abramovich’s millions bought the subsequent title wins under Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti; a well known Dutchman got the ball rolling at Stamford Bridge by landing Chelsea’s first trophy in 26 years. Ruud Gullit was one of the first foreigners to arrive in the Premier League, when Glenn Hoddle snapped him up from Milan and it didn’t take him long to get immersed by the English game.
Gullit took the reins at Stamford Bridge when the national job came calling for Hoddle and provided the foundations of what has been a successful 15 years in West London.
“It was the beginning of winning things again, so it was great for Chelsea for that reason. I remember also at the beginning it was very difficult to play the way that we wanted. We were trying to keep possession all the time, and the crowd wanted the ball into the box as quickly as possible. We tried to do something different because when you are in possession the opposition can’t do anything. At the start, the fans had difficulty with that but later on they accepted it because we started to win. Therefore it was a great beginning for the club.”
The Dutchman believes that the influx of foreign players has been positive for English football, as both sets of players were able to pick up attributes to benefit their game. A firm balance was struck at Chelsea during his time and was one of the reasons for their success:
“The thing is, we had a good mixture between English and foreign players. The foreign players were learning from the English, who had a different way than they played in Italy or France, so for that reason they had to adapt to the quickness and the physicality of the game, but keeping also the technique and the tactical awareness. So we were learning from the English and the English were learning from us, so it was a good mixture. We also had Mark Hughes, who played a very British style but had experience of playing abroad. Dennis Wise was the best example of a player who grew with the team because he ended up playing for the national team.”
Obviously one topic that has engulfed Chelsea fans in the past week is the proposed decision to move from Stamford Bridge and to a new stadium close by. Gullit believes that it is important that the Blues increase their capacity, but not if it means they move away from the Chelsea area.
“The problem is the capacity at Stamford Bridge – they can’t build more. At the same time, they need to stay in their local area because that is why they are called Chelsea. Where do you have space for a 60,000 capacity stadium in Chelsea? Earls Court is a possibility, but it’s not Chelsea. If you are looking to the future it is a good thing to have a bigger stadium and more income – but if you cannot do it in Chelsea then it’s a problem. It’s a good thing that the fans have a say in the matter (through their ownership of the Stamford Bridge pitch) and I hope ultimately they get to decide what happens.”
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