With the new Premier League season nearly here, and the Football League season already underway, this is usually the time of year to start getting excited. This year, it feels a little different.
That isn’t to say that I’m not looking forward to the new season. I am. We have one of the best squads in the league, one of the world’s best managers and our opposition are all either going through transfer sagas (Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool), adjusting to a new manager (Man City) or both (Man United). So it isn’t fear of being uncompetitive.
It can’t be because of the change of manager. The return of Jose Mourinho is one of the main reasons to be excited about this year’s Chelsea campaign. It certainly isn’t transfer activity, either by us or other teams – if I had to rank the player movement this summer, Chelsea would be pretty much at the top of the list, although Man City have done really well too.
I also know that I’ll be going to plenty of games. Dad and I have both renewed our season tickets for another year, and having been to both Munich and Amsterdam the last two seasons, we’ve been able to witness a lot of winning. It isn’t a separation problem, or knowing that I won’t be at the Bridge 25+ times this season, because I will. And I’m sure we will win. A lot.
Last season was tough. Knowing that the elation, tears and mindless celebrations of Munich would be tough to top, we went into the year looking to do well, but without much of the purpose and swagger that we seem to have this summer. The new signings were phenomenal, and have given a real base on which to build, both in terms of quality and age.
Then there was November. The Di Matteo sacking was painful, both because his goal against Middlesborough was one of my first great Chelsea memories, and because Munich was the most recent. He was responsible for both, and now was replaced by Rafa Benitez, who while being a top quality manager wasn’t someone who I felt comfortable supporting. I was at the FA Cup game at the Riverside that prompted his (very well timed and intelligent) calls for the fans to back the team. He had a point, because some of the chants directed towards him that night were really unpleasant. While he brought it upon himself by taking a job that he knew would make him a target, there isn’t much of an excuse for some of the stuff that got shouted that night.
With all that went on that year, Amsterdam was a good way to end the season. Winning trophies (even ones we never want to compete for again) is always a positive, but it was a tiring season, for both players and fans. There were so many matches, so many dramas and so much anger that it took an emotional effort to keep getting up for the next game, for the next competition and for the next headline.
I think this might have something to do with the lack of buzz I’m feeling right now towards the 2013/14 season. I don’t want to go through another season like last year, or like 2007/8 at the end of the first Mourinho era. While it didn’t test my fandom, or my desire to go to every single game, it made the matches themselves less of a special occasion. The season went on for so long and with such intensity that it has taken longer than usual to want to go through it all again.
I’m not ready for all the drama, the controversy and the endless terrible punditry. Last season the performance art piece that was the football season became too loud, too self-important and too long. It takes time to want to get back to it. That time isn’t up yet.
All of this being said, the first game of the season, of Mourinho 2.0, I’ll be there, in my seat, East Stand Upper, 21 59 on my feet as we walk out to the Liquidator, bouncing with excitement and glad to get back to what we do best: keeping the blue flag flying high.