Former Blues star and coach Jody Morris has revealed the role Matthew Harding played in transforming Chelsea into a global force.
Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the death of lifelong Blues fan Harding in a helicopter crash which shocked football.
The Roman Abramovich era has heralded huge success for the London club.
But without Harding injecting £26million of his own money to rebuild Stamford Bridge and bring in stars such as Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli, then the Russian billionaire may never have invested his fortunes.
Harding had made his fortune in insurance but answered the desperate plea of then-owner Ken Bates for much-needed finances to keep Chelsea going, then to build a club capable of competing.
Morris told The Sun: “Everybody thinks Chelsea started when Roman came in but all the success, and all that kind of blueprint for where the club was going, started with Matthew”.
He bankrolled the rebuild of the North Stand that now bears his name and provided the funds to sign Gullit, Vialli, Roberto Di Matteo and Mark Hughes.
The motivation was nothing more than being a die-hard Chelsea supporter from childhood, who just wanted the best for his club.
Ultimately, he did not live to see his investment rewarded with huge success but his era in the Stamford Bridge boardroom was the eventual springboard for turning a stagnant club into one of the most glamorous around.
Aged 42, he was one of four people killed when the helicopter he was travelling in crashed in fog on the way back from a match at Bolton on October 22, 1996.
And Morris — a passionate fan who came through the ranks to play for the Blues before going on to be Frank Lampard’s No 2 — knows just how big a role charismatic Harding played in Chelsea’s history.
Morris added: “It started with Glenn changing the training ground. And also the environment where you’d eat properly to play football the right way, with nutritionists and all that.
“That went hand in hand with this sort of time when Matthew Harding came on board. Not only was there someone like Glenn helping to change the environment, the mentality and the way that the club was run from a player’s perspective, you also had someone like Matthew doing similar but on a boardroom level.”