Last updated : 30 June 2004 By Editor
From the Mirror:

If a man can't learn how to close the curtains when you are trying to persuade the England manager to walk out on the country and join Chelsea, how can you expect him to close a deal properly?

But when he received the telephone call telling him that Steven Gerrard had slipped through Chelsea's clutches at the last moment, Peter Kenyon's frustration would have been complete.

It meant the Chelsea chief executive had to compose a speech that is becoming all too familiar to Roman Abramovich, softening up the Russian billionaire for the news the club's owner had never expected to hear once.

Instead, it has been SIX times in three months, half a dozen occasions in which the coach and players promised by Kenyon have rebuffed the club's advances at the stage where Chelsea believed the contracts had effectively been signed.

And as Gerrard confirmed that he was staying at Liverpool for less than half the salary he would have earned at Stamford Bridge, Kenyon's status, power and reputation was left under threat as never before as Chelsea risked turning into football's new untouchables.

When Abramovich was sold the idea of taking Manchester United's chief executive as the man to run the south west London branch of his empire, it was on the basis that Kenyon was the best club footballing administrator in England.

That was the message whispered in the Russian's ear by super-agent Pini Zahavi, and Kenyon talked himself into the job by promising that he would deliver the men Abramovich wanted.

By the start of July, Abramovich had convinced himself, he would have Sven Goran Eriksson as manager, David Beckham signed, sealed and delivered, and Roma's Argentina defender Walter Samuel also on board as the key building blocks in the next stage of the club's development.

Yet ever since Eriksson was captured on camera through the window dining in Kenyon's London apartment after being driven to the front door in his official Football Association limousine in March, the chief executive, castigated for the negative briefings that made Claudio Ranieri a "dead man walking", has endured a living nightmare which must cast huge doubt over his long-term future.

Eriksson was the shoo-in signing, the one that would prove to Abramovich that Kenyon was the right choice, the man who could bring anybody to the table.

He can do that, can put the plate in front of them. But when the crunch comes, the chief executive is powerless to prevent so many of his targets picking that plate up and hurling it back into his face. What made Gerrard's abrupt about-turn all the more discomforting was that it came as the latest hammer-blow in a series that have already undermined Chelsea's plans for the coming season.

Sources close to Abramovich insist the Chelsea owner has not fallen out of love with his expensively-acquired talent scout. But Russian oil billionaires are not renowned for their patience or stupidity. They require proof their faith was justified.