Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for Bates and Wenger to Move On

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for Bates and Wenger to Move On

Article excerpt

Byline: MATTHEW NORMAN

FOR the first time in far too long, I have been accorded one of the most treasured accolades journalism has to offer - a name check in the programme notes of Mr Kenneth Bates.

In the programme published for last Thursday's unhappy UEFA Cup game with Hapoel Tel Aviv Ken considered recent press criticism, concluding that "by far the worst incident" was an article of mine.

"Put simply," he wrote, " Norman's article was vicious and nasty, bordering on the malicious . . .

Naturally his article will be treated with the contempt it deserves."

Naturally. Why address the points made about his players' on and off pitch behaviour when you can attack those who raise them?

Over two decades, Bates has, all in all, been a splendid chairman.

For all his boorishness, vulgarity and relentless egomania, not to mention borderline paranoia (the silly goose has now banned The Mirror for reporting his harmless but misjudged remark about Israeli fans wanting cheap tickets), it was Ken who rescued the club from obscurity and turned a ghastly stadium into a gleaming model of its kind.

Some would prefer it if he were less opaque about the precise ownership of Chelsea Village stock; but since there is no suggestion of illegality, that's his business.

My business is commenting on football and, in this case, on a club I've always liked.

What follows might seem harsh, because success is comparative, and compared with a decade ago team and club are thriving.

Compared to three years ago, it's another story.

With the economic outlook much bleaker now, rumbling concerns about a "black hole" at the centre of the club's finances are more serious, while the promise of future titles and Champions Cups has evaporated since that memorable Cup Winners' Cup triumph of 1998.

At that moment, Chelsea were part of "the big three" with Arsenal and Manchester United. Today, they don't feature in the big four, having been leapfrogged by Leeds and Liverpool.

Instead, they are stuck with Aston Villa and Newcastle in the vanguard of the not quite so big six or seven, with no prospect of winning the Premiership and little of making the Champions League. …

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