Byline: Simon Johnson
THE timing of Peter Kenyon's decision to step down as Chelsea's chief executive just five weeks into the new season may have caused some surprise, but also gave a strong indication a new man has already been lined up.
Given the high-profile nature of the post, it is important Kenyon is replaced as soon as possible and Chelsea are expected to make an announcement to that effect almost immediately.
There is a strong likelihood that instead of looking outside the confines of Stamford Bridge, as they did when they lured Kenyon from Manchester United in 2003, they will instead promote from within.
It will certainly negate any concerns over having to pay any compensation or wait for the desired candidate to serve any 'gardening leave'.
The fact the job had already been watered down in the latter stages of Kenyon's tenure to just concentrating more on securing commercial deals and developing the brand means there is not so great a need to secure a highprofile appointment.
It could even just lead to a form of restructuring rather than a direct replacement.
Frank Arnesen has effectively been given control of the football side of the business after being promoted to the post of sporting director in July.
His office is now at the Cobham training ground and the Dane is in regular contact with Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti (below).
So with Chelsea chiefly wanting someone to head the commercial side of their operation, it would make sense for them to look at people who have been working with Kenyon at Stamford Bridge.
Chief operating officer Ron Gourlay is the early favourite to take on Kenyon's role, having worked with him at Umbro and Manchester United.
Gourlay attended last week's Premier League club meeting with chairman Bruce Buck and already appears to be in pole position for the job. He was employed by United as commercial director of merchandising before his move to Chelsea in 2004.
Another candidate is the communications and public affairs director Simon Greenberg, who has enjoyed a rapid rise in influence since he joined the club in 2003.
He has consistently been at Kenyon'side in recent years and, like Gourlay, is now a member of the Executive Board.
Significantly, he took a three-month break from his duties last year to take a business and management course at Harvard University.
Greenberg has been helping fill some of the gap left by business affairs director Paul Smith, who was sacked in 2007.
One more possibility is finance director Chris Alexander, who trained as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse and has 20 years of financial experience in different industries.
Gourlay, Greenberg and Alexander will all, no doubt, be handed greater responsibility in any restructuring of the club's management hierarchy and will have a tough job on their hands for despite his faults, Kenyon still negotiated a lucrative shirt sponsorship with Samsung and a kit deal with Adidas.
Tom Cannon, who is Professor of Strategic Development at the University of Liverpool Management School and a respected voice on business practices in the game, says Kenyon (above) has left Chelsea in a strong position. …