THE writing was on the wall for Andre Villas-Boas when he lost the fans.
After months and months of poor performances, reported player bust-ups, and unintelligible press conference ramblings – it was six words from the away end at West Brom that sealed the fate of the latest Chelsea manager to collect his P45.
“You're getting sacked in the morning,” sang a sizeable portion of the club's travelling support. And they were right.
Fans were by no means united in this approach: many castigating the culprits for abandoning the 'win or lose, up the Blues' mantra. But the significant portion who sang it, got their point across.
Post match I found myself in a corridor at The Hawthorns (why do these things always happen in a corridor?) having a quite forceful discussion with the then teetering boss.
Me: “Towards the end of the game there were a large number of fans in the away end who were singing 'you're getting sacked in the morning'.”
AVB: “But I get that every game. The last three from the opposition...”
Me: “But not from the Chelsea fans...”
AVB: “Not from the Chelsea fans, only from the opposition, who likes to sing it. Football is emotional. You get on with it.”
Me: “You've said before that if you are to do this, then you need to carry the Chelsea fans with you. Are you concerned that you might be losing them?”
AVB: “No, it was not the Chelsea fans who were chanting. Not the Chelsea fans.”
Me: “It was – I have spoken to people who were in the away end. There were large numbers.”
AVB: (Dismissively) “Ah - you can say whatever you want...”
Those were among his last public words as Chelsea boss after a dismal 40-game reign that included 20 wins, 10 draws and 10 defeats – the worst win percentage for a Chelsea boss since Ruud Gullit 15 years back (and that will be better remembered for an FA Cup win).
When he came in, Villas-Boas was certain he could make changes. By the time he left he remained certain – but nobody was quite sure what about.
Press conferences, like the one mentioned above, had frequently descended into bickering. Leaks from Cobham suggest training sessions were much the same.
But players must also shoulder the blame for this. Some very senior names should look very hard at their behaviour, both on and off pitch, during the AVB days.
Some of them are rightly cast as legends by fans, but by undermining the manager they may have done untold damage to the fortunes of the club.
And they should be aware as the next man to take up the post full time is likely to have the same brief to dismantle player power.
Villas-Boas, for his part, will walk away richer; and, hopefully, wiser. He will certainly get another big job, and will equally certainly win trophies.
Chelsea are left looking for their 10th boss in eight years.