Across a 20-year playing career, Pat Nevin played for teams such as Chelsea, Everton and Motherwell as a winger, including receiving 28 caps for Scotland. Pat now works as an analyst and commentator for BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Scotland and Channel Five. He is a published author and newspaper columnist and is a regular writer for the Chelsea FC website.
Q: It’s been four years since Chelsea last laid their hands on the Barclays Premier League trophy. The club must be delighted after this weekend’s performance.
A: It’s a very special thing winning the league and winning it at Stamford Bridge. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, when you win a trophy, you win it on the road; and sometimes, you win it in a plane somewhere. If you can actually win it in a game where you are playing in front of your own fans, it’s really fantastic.
Q: It’s been an exciting and closely contested season. What’s made the difference for Chelsea over Manchester United and the other clubs in the league?
A: Chelsea have had lots of strong points. They had a very good period during the Africa Cup of Nations, when everyone thought they would falter. Players like Drogba weren’t available but they had a great run. So that was an important point in the season. But really, I think it comes down to one game, and that was with Manchester United at Old Trafford. I really felt that the team that won that game was the team that played to win the league.
Q: Chelsea this year won six out of six big games against the top teams. Is this a critical factor?
A: It’s important as this means the other teams don’t pick up points against you, but it’s probably not the critical factor because there are other teams this year who are breaking into the top four. Spurs claimed the fourth position this year, Liverpool have had a down season, but teams like Aston Villa are very strong – even though Chelsea took seven goals off them. Teams like Everton – are all incredibly hard teams to beat. So I think it’s been a really, really tough league to win this season.
Q: Tottenham broke into the top four this year. What will it mean for them?
A: In times gone by, this has made a difference to some teams and not to others. Everton finished in the top four a little while ago but it didn’t mean that much to them because they didn’t press home their advantage in the Champions League – and by that, I mean they didn’t benefit from the financial bonuses of having a good run in Europe. If Tottenham can have a good run, get through the group stages, people will re-evaluate who they are. So Tottenham pipping Manchester City is a big thing for them.
Q: You won promotion with Chelsea back in 1984 which brought about scenes of jubilation on the streets. What does winning mean to fans today?
A: Obviously things have moved on over the years and the fan base has changed – it’s more global now. I’m delighted that the club has a massive fan base. I write for the Chelsea website, and I run a quiz every week, and we get entries from everyone – you name it, Uzbekistan, all over South America and North America. Chelsea’s fan base in Africa is huge! I’ve even had entrants from the Poles – and I mean North and South Poles. So Chelsea has grown, so winning now is a different thing.
Q: Which players in the squad have proved their worth to Chelsea this year?
A: I know it’s boring to say it but – Frank Lampard – he’s astonishing. He does it every year – scoring twenty goals from midfield. People take that for granted. Also, I think some of the lesser known players who have being doing surprising jobs - like Ivanonic at right back. A lot of Chelsea fans are saying he’s the player of the year. Of course, I’m not forgetting Anelka, Drogba and Cole who have all had great seasons. Before Ivanovic the right back position was a problem for Chelsea, so I’m applauding him this year.
Across the league, it would be worth picking out Everton’s squad for special mention. Without too many stars, I think this is the team to watch next year.
I’ve got to say Rooney has not surprised me. People are saying Wayne Rooney has done fantastically well and he has become a world-class player this season. I don’t agree. I think he always was. Rooney has been doing it for a while.
Q: Do you think winning the Barclays Premier League this season will bring stability to the management for Chelsea? We’ve seen Grant, Scolari and Hiddink come and go in quick succession before Ancelotti.
A: Unless you are going to change the structure of the club long-term to make it cost effective to change your manager – he should stand by Ancelotti. And if Abramovic does that, then he should then get on up the M6 to Liverpool and sign up David Moyes for the next ten years. Moyes would deliver Chelsea a dynasty, the likes of which Ferguson has delivered for Manchester United and Wenger has done for Arsenal. I don’t think there’s anyone better in the business.
If Chelsea want to carry on like they have done changing managers every year, then I’m not too worried for the results. They’ve chosen well despite how many managers they have had recently. Guus Hiddink is for me in the top two, if not top three, managers on the planet. And he may become available in the future. Chelsea fans shouldn’t complain about needing stability. We’ve had unbelievable manager after unbelievable manager.
Q: How do you rate the standard at the very top of the Barclays Premier League this year?
A: I’m not convinced this is the strongest Chelsea team ever and I would argue that it’s not the strongest Manchester United team there has ever been. But football is not an exponential curve of growth, things ebb and flow, so do teams.
Manchester United have gone through some change since Ronaldo left. A lot of players still have a lot to learn; but Sir Alex will get them back up again, I’m certain of that. For Chelsea, there have been a lot of injuries in the club this season. For example, if you put Essien back in, who has been missing much of the season, I think Chelsea would have won by ten points.
Q: How refreshing is it to see two newly-promoted teams stay up this year? Will the gap between top and bottom close?
A: Yes it’s great. Birmingham City have done really well. Alex McLeish is a very good friend of mine as we’ve played together for Scotland. I think they’re capable of staying up in the league. The problem when you come up is managing your finances. You need to manage your team but you need to manage your finances as well. I hope Newcastle have a decent chance this time around.
Q: Which Barclays Premier League players do you see shining in the World Cup next month?
A: I think Rooney is going to do very, very well.