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'Chelsea were behind Swindon when I arrived' - How Hoddle laid the foundations for Abramovich and Mourinho to build the modern-day Blues

10:12 PM GMT+8 15/11/2021
Glenn Hoddle Roman Abramovich Jose Mourinho Chelsea GFX
The ex-England boss helped lift the Stamford Bridge outfit from mid-table mediocrity into a team set for regular European football in the 1990s

"People say Mourinho and Abramovich moved the goalposts for Chelsea, but it happened before," former Blues star Eddie Newton tells GOAL.

"There’s a guy who doesn’t get the credit he deserves [for Chelsea's rise], and that’s because he did it at the start. That guy is Glenn Hoddle."

Newton, who spent 14 years at Stamford Bridge as a player and coach, was part of Hoddle's Chelsea squad in the 1990s at a time when the team's current riches could barely be imagined.

A bottom-half side at the start of the Premier League era, Hoddle lifted the Blues to a status where they could challenge for trophies and qualify for Europe, laying the foundations for the club's most successful period in its history during the 21st century.

"Chelsea owes a lot to Glenn Hoddle for the success that they are," another of Hoddle's former players at Chelsea, goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock, tells GOAL.

"He was a leader who was involved in everything, changing even the carpets in the dressing room. He was ahead of his time and changed the club."

It is somewhat ironic that a legendary Tottenham player whose coaching style was heavily influenced by Arsenal icon Arsene Wenger would go onto become such a highly-regarded figure at Chelsea, but that is testament to the work Hoddle did in west London.

Hoddle was appointed player-manager by then-Chelsea owner Ken Bates in 1993 having overseen Swindon Town's unlikely promotion to the top-flight just weeks earlier.

Hoddle had taken what he had learned as a player at Monaco during Wenger's time in charge there and tried to bring it to the English game, though he needed to do much more than just subtley alter the culture upon his arrival at Chelsea.

"Arsene was an eye-opener," Hoddle tells GOAL ahead of the launch of a new BT Sport film about his life in football.

"I learned from his approach on nutrition, training, the organisation of his staff and the clarity of what he wanted from his team.

"It was totally different to England and it was more organised and focused. Every session was like an event to Arsene and it rubbed off on me. I didn't know I would go into coaching before making the move, I just wanted to play for Monaco.

"But Arsene was the one who first spoke to me about going into management, he said he thought I had it in me. He saw that in me before I saw it in myself. I came back and then went to Swindon after and it influenced me in a big way."

On his arrival at Chelsea, Hoddle says: "It was ridiculous! I thought I was going up the ladder coming from Swindon to Chelsea. Chelsea were historically bigger, but facilities-wise, Swindon were ahead. Swindon also had better players, technically and tactically.

"There was nothing there at Chelsea. There was no office, no gym, no food, cold showers. The captain, Dennis Wise, used to bring in biscuits and make cups of tea, that's it. The pitches were small and not great.

"We couldn't train one day early because the university had hockey teams using our pitch at our old Harlington training ground that we didn't own. That's how it was and we had to get on with it.

"I had to challenge our owner, Ken Bates. It was about changing the mindset, getting better hotels, getting a gym, getting an office, getting the food sorted. We had baths put in, nutritionists joined us, reflexologists, masseurs, fitness coaches.

"I had to change the mindset of the whole place. That was a priority before getting the chance to change the team with new players and getting that money. It was an overhaul of the whole club really. It lifted everyone we had, and then we added better players."

Hoddle did not win any trophies during his time at Chelsea, but he did lead the club to the FA Cup final in 1994.

Even though the Blues lost 4-0 to Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, they qualified for Europe for the first time in 20 years thanks to that cup run.

From there, Chelsea had a platform that allowed them to attract players such as Ruud Gullit, Mark Hughes and Dan Petrescu, who in turn pushed the club on to the next level.

"I wanted to persuade Gullit to come and I wasn't sure if he would come," Hoddle recalls. "We were embarrassed about the state of our stadium and training ground. We kept him away, signing him over lunch on the King's Road in Chelsea.

"We pretended we had building work going on because if he saw it, there would be no chance in him signing after being at AC Milan.

"He came in, probably with a bit of shock, but then became manager when I got to work with England, so the legacy continued. It was only the England job that could have enticed me away from Chelsea.

"I felt a lot of pride in what we did, putting the foundations in, and it was great to see them succeed, playing beautiful football and getting trophies after that. We put the stepping stones in there for them [Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho] to take Chelsea to where they are today.

"I don't think those guys would have entertained coming to Chelsea if we hadn't overcome those obstacles in the years earlier. Beating those obstacles was very hard work and took years."

Hoddle left Chelsea in 1996 to become England manager, and after Gullit and his successor Gianluca Vialli had led Chelsea to four trophies in four years, Bates sold the club to Abramovich for £140 million ($188m) in 2003.

Soon after, around £100m ($136m) was spent on players, Mourinho was named as manager and the new state-of-the-art Cobham Training Centre was built to house the club's new talent.

It transformed English football forever, allowing the Blues to become the most successful team in the country, winning 16 major honours over the past 17 years.

It is worth sparing a thought to ask, though, whether the stars would have aligned for Abramovich to buy Chelsea had Hoddle not taken on the challenge of becoming the club's great moderniser?

Probably not.

BT Sport will premiere 'Glenn Hoddle: Extra Time', the next documentary in the award-winning BT Sport Films series, on 8 December at 10pm GMT on BT Sport 1.