Former Chelsea assistant coach Ray Wilkins has welcomed the idea of Guus Hiddink returning as full-time manager at Stamford Bridge, with ongoing discussions between the Blues and the Turkish Football Association expected to be concluded within the next two weeks. Hiddink has long been the primary target for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his board members as they seek a replacement for now departed Carlo Ancelotti, after the Italian was disposed of after a trophy-less climax to last season. Ancelotti was ruthlessly told he was to be given no further time at the helm after a year that saw the Premier League crown slip from their grasp, despite having prised it from Manchester United’s hands for the first time in three years just twelve months earlier during the Italian’s first season in English football.
Hiddink stepped into the Stamford Bridge hot-seat as a temporary replacement for Luis Felipe Scolari back in 2009, after the Brazilian was ousted midway through his first season after losing the dressing room following a tricky start to life in London. Then in charge of the Russian national side’s 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, Hiddink was immediately popular with the previously discontented Chelsea players, rejuvenating their ailing morale to lead the west Londoners back into the title race – a fight they took to the last day of the season, and also overseeing the FA Cup triumph with victory over Everton in the final his last game in charge, although he remained in an advisory role.
Last month, club captain John Terry endorsed Hiddink’s claim to return to the club, and now Wilkins has championed for the former South Korea and Australia Coach to step into the vacant manager’s role after working alongside him two years ago. Speaking as the Football Association announced a new sponsorship deal for the FA Cup, Wilkins revealed the Dutchman to be his ideal candidate to replace Ancelotti and lead the Blues’ fight to regain the Premier League title: “He would certainly be top of the tree as far as I’m concerned,” the former England midfielder said. “He would be perfect because he knows the players, he knows their mind-set, he knows Cobham inside out and he would be very well respected and very welcomed back.”
Talks are reportedly progressing regarding a compensation package to release Hiddink from his job with Turkey, as Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay announced proceedings were “going very, very well.” The Chelsea board will hope to finalise the 64-year-old as their new permanent manager soon in order to start pursuing desired transfer targets and therefore enabling him to take charge before the Blues depart on their pre-season tour of the Far East next month.
Meanwhile, the Blues discovered which opponents lie ahead of them on the first day of next season and beyond as the Premier League schedule was announced yesterday, with a trip to Stoke their opening day fixture. Chelsea have enjoyed opening day victories in each of the last nine seasons since a 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle United in 2001. Along the way on this impressive record, memorable wins include those against Liverpool at Anfield (2-1 in 2003), the following seasons’ 1-0 success over Manchester United that marked Jose Mourinho’s first game in charge at Chelsea, and last years’ 6-0 triumph over West Brom which saw the reigning champions start the season in style.