Chelsea should learn to respect their elders
Chelsea must show Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard the respect they deserve
Not a day goes by without the contract situations of Chelsea stalwarts Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard being paraded through the press. Although Cole's agent must be a relieved man to see his client in the papers every day for footballing reasons, there has to be a better way to handle the ongoing contractual issues.
It's no secret that both players are getting older and earning significant sums, so it's understandable that Chelsea are reluctant to offer either long-term deals committing a sizeable chunk of wages for a far from guaranteed return. But the reasoning behind the decisions, or even the decisions themselves, is not the real issue.
These are two players who may divide opinion as people but command respect as footballers - their contributions to the club's successes under the Roman Abramovich regime cannot be underestimated. If nothing else, they deserve the dignity of not having their futures discussed so readily in public by the club. It's natural that media outlets will speculate on their futures and debate the merits of possible outcomes, the club cannot stop that, but they don't have to fuel the flames either.
During his first public appearance as Interim Manager, Rafael Benitez stated that neither player would be offered a new deal to keep them at the club beyond the end of the current season. This from a man who when questioned about the impending arrival of Demba Ba after Chelsea’s defeat to Queens Park Rangers, refused to comment due to the fact that he didn't know enough about the situation. Yet within 48 hours of accepting a position in charge of a football club, he felt he knew enough about two players whose hands he had barely shook to announce to anyone that would listen that they would not be employed beyond June.
This is not a scenario unique to Chelsea. Manchester United have handled the contracts of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand differently since the respective players have passed 30. Speculation is rife at the moment as to whether Giggs, Scholes and Ferdinand will be pulling on the United shirt next season but any questions are answered calmly and with diplomacy because it's a situation that they are used to and they understand with older players it is normal to wait longer to sign new contracts to see how the season goes. This ensures the club is happy with the individual's performances, their fitness and that the player is happy with their number of appearances and role within the squad.
Arsenal have also been faced with the conundrum of managing older players and Arsene Wenger adopts a similar one-year rolling contract approach that they stick to, even up to the point where it cost them the services of William Gallas in 2010, who left to join north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
In fact it isn't even a new position for Chelsea to be in. This time last year it was the same with Didier Drogba, and again that ran on for six months, was trawled through the press day after day while they failed to pin down the man who starred in the Champions League success.
The bottom line is that this is the latest in an ever-growing list of poorly handled situations by the reigning European champions. After standing by a club captain accused of racism and failing to impose any kind of sanctions upon him, after failing to punish Ashley Cole for shooting an air rifle at the club's training ground, and after dismissing a manger who rescued them from a disastrous season, leading them to Champions League and FA Cup glory, Chelsea's reputation off the pitch has taken a hammering in recent times.
Abramovich has always been determined to bring glory to Chelsea, with a view to making them one of the biggest clubs in the world. However, the reality is that you can win as many trophies as you want, but to be considered a big club, a great club even, then you need a few things money simply can’t buy; dignity, respect and class. Sadly, Chelsea seem to be lacking all three.