Since the arrival of Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge in June of 2003, things have never quite been the same for the Chelsea Football Club.
The Blues were, believe it or not, at one time viewed by vast amounts of football fans (outside of London) as somewhat of a second team. The likes of Gianfranco Zola, Gus Poyet and Tore Andre Flo captivated the nation and earned Chelsea a place in the hearts of even the most die-hard Scouser and Manchurian alike.
However, with the Russian Billionaire's takeover of the club nine years ago, things drastically changed, with the once loveable London Blues image being twisted and contorted into the "Chelski" that we are all so familiar with today.
Whether you love or hate them, Chelsea are a much better side now then they were back at the start of the century, and without doubt they have Abramovich and Jose Mourinho to thank for that.
But at what moral cost has this change come about?
This past year has without doubt been the most humiliating for English football in recent memory, with continuous allegations of racial abuse rearing their ugly heads.
Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, their team has been at the centre of almost all of the issues being raised and now it would appear as if that may come back to bite them.
It all started at the end of 2011 when Chelsea captain John Terry was accused of using racial slurs against Queens Park Rangers defender, Anton Ferdinand. Despite Terry being found innocent in the legal courts, the FA decided to punish the former England star, banning him for four matches and fining him £220,000.
This should have been the end of it, if it weren't for fellow England and Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole butting his nose in over Twitter. In polite terms, Cole made it more than apparent that the FA's choice to fine Terry was not something that he wholeheartedly agreed with. This would later see Cole also being fined by the FA, this time to the tune of £90,000
Cole's tweet only served to re-open the seemingly closed can of worms regarding racism in the game, splitting a lot of opinion about the FA's actions.
Most players took a completely different view to Cole, slating the FA for not being harsh enough on Terry. This new turmoil would lead to the boycotting of the "Kick Racism out of Football" campaign t-shirts that were intended to be worn in warm-ups prior to a match.
Yet somehow, even then the Chelsea racism saga did not just not come to a conclusion as many would have probably expected (and hoped for).
In a match which pretty much epitomized the recent string of absurdities in the English game, Manchester United travelled to Stamford Bride in a fixture that should have had us on the edge of our seats in awe of two masterful sides playing world class football.
In fairness, the game itself didn't disappoint in terms of the level of quality exhibited, but it was the aftermath that would once again strike a blow against the reputation of the not-so-beautiful game in this country.
Things weren't helped when both Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres were sent off within five minutes of each other for the Blues. Whenever players see red against Manchester United, it has sadly become the norm to start ringing out the accusations of "match-fixing" and "referee bribing." In reality, the decisions made by Mark Clattenburg on the day were his own, and no amount of hearsay can prove otherwise.
However, when a team feels cheated like this they understandably lash back at the person that they feel is responsible for costing them. In this case it was referee Clattenburg.
Less then 12 hours after the match finished,we were astonishingly witnessing another race row at the Bridge unfolding before our eyes. Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel came out accusing Clattenburg of calling him a "monkey"—a claim that was backed up by his fellow midfielder and teammate Ramires.
Whether Clattenburg really did abuse Mikel or not is nobody's place to say. Lets face it, none of us were there on that pitch, and as such we have no clue as to whether he did or didn't use this kind of language.
This may finally be the straw that breaks the camels back for Chelsea—a darkly ironic twist as this is the only incident where they are actually the victims and not the ones coming under scrutiny.
It would now appear as though the Chelsea players fear that the banning of Clattenburg from the last two weeks of fixtures could seriously hamper their title hopes.
Undoubtedly the referee's union have never been big fans of the Blues since Mourinho took charge. On more than one occasion in the past, a gaggle of Chelsea players have swarmed an official when a big decision has gone against them (In fact it was this behaviour that would eventually lead to the rule that states only the captain of a side can talk with the referee if the team has a dispute).
Now they have directly led to the temporary banning of one of England's most popular and well respected referees.
There is a code of conduct and honour that British refs are meant to follow when taking charge of a game of football. This has for the most part been adhered to over the 20 seasons of Premier League football that have so far taken place.
It seems ludicrous to even consider it, but could we for the first time be about to see referees making incorrect decisions in spite of Chelsea in a match?
Of course not—at least not on a conscious level.
However, the human mind is a complex thing, and whether or not referee's are aware of their actions, this current subdued anger against the Blues could lead to the tiniest of decisions not going their way.
The odd throw-in here or free-kick there may slowly start to go against Chelsea as the officials unwittingly do their best to try and keep a level head to no avail.
In other words, referees are not going to go out and deliberately give wrong decisions against Roberto Di Matteo's men. What we might be about to witness however, are those "50-50" calls often going against the Blues.
This doesn't sound like much, but there probably isn't one fan amongst you who hasn't seen a 50-50 incident go against their side, only to eventually cost them big time in a match.
Mud sticks, and unfortunately Chelsea have been throwing a lot of it around recently.
Chelsea are a great club with a fantastic history and some truly talented players. On paper they are probably the best all-round side in the Premier League today, and in theory should stroll to the title this season.
But the question is, will these never-ending controversies cost them? I guess only time will tell.
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