London – Ray Wilkins has welcomed Roberto di Matteo's appointment as Chelsea's new full-time manager after the Italian's spell as caretaker boss saw him bring the Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge for the first time.
“I'm delighted for him,” said Wilkins. “It'll be nice to see that interim manager title now taken away.”
But Wilkins, like Di Matteo a former Chelsea midfielder and assistant manager, has warned that the expectations generated by such early success, which included an FA Cup final win over Liverpool, could lead to different sorts of pressure from demanding owner Roman Abramovich.
Di Matteo was placed in temporary charge after Chelsea sacked Portugal's Andre Villas-Boas in March after a poor run of results left the Blues struggling in the Premier League and on the verge of elimination from the Champions League.
However, Villas-Boas did bring Di Matteo back to Stamford Bridge at the start of last season and the popular Italian was able to repair relationships with senior players such as John Terry and Frank Lampard that had become strained under the Portuguese manager.
And although Chelsea finished outside the top four places in the Premier League, by winning the Champions League, where they beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out on the German club's home ground, they still qualified for next season's edition.
There had been speculation Abramovich, renowned for hiring and firing managers, would go for a 'big name' in former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
“I think Mr Abramovich was hanging on to see if Pep Guardiola wanted to come out from his year-long retirement,” Wilkins explained. “I think it's no secret he sees him as the man to take Chelsea forward.
“I don't think he has to change too much but I think there will be a few changes – with new players coming in whether it's the summer or in the December/January transfer window,” said Wilkins, who left his Chelsea management position shortly before Di Matteo returned to the club.
“Roberto in his wisdom selected older lads towards the latter stages of the season and it was fruitful. You need the senior players – your club is only as good as the senior players in it.
“They were playing with smiles on their faces and they got away with things (against Barcelona and Bayern Munich) through sheer persistence and endeavour.
“Roberto put a smile back in the dressing room. The confidence was pretty evident towards the end of the season.
“It's very important they bring a bit of stability back into the club and I think it'll go well for him.
“He's a former Chelsea player so the fans can relate to him as player and manager. It's not often you get a manager come in and within six months win the FA Cup and the Champions League.
“But now it's extremely difficult to surpass what you've already done. It's going to be a very tough season for him.” – Sapa-AFP