Former Blues star reveals how Matthew Harding laid foundation for Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea take-over

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.”

Chelsea chairman responds to reports Roman Abramovich is planning to sell club

Bruce Buck has denied reports that Roman Abramovich has concluded plan to sell the Stamford Bridge club.

There were reports that Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe made efforts to buy the Blues, but his offer fell short of Abramovich’s valuation of the club.

According to Buck, the club’s owner remains fully involved at Stamford Bridge and is not interested in “bargain’ bids” for the club.

Speaking to The Guardian, Buck revealed that owner Abramovich has never ordered him to get ready for a sale of the club despite some interest from bidders hoping to buy Chelsea at a bargain price.

Abramovich has reportedly not attended a home match since the British government delayed renewing his visa with the Chelsea owner then taking out Israeli citizenship in May 2018 and cancelling planned development to Stamford Bridge, report the Sky Sports.

Buck said: “So far as I know, absolutely not; to the contrary. I have never heard a word from Mr Abramovich: ‘Let’s get this ready for a sale,’ or something.

“Because of the political situation, there are people who think they might want to buy Chelsea football club at a bargain.

“We do get inquiries and we really have nothing to say to these people.

“In terms of being involved, in looking at new players, talking about whether to extend players’ contracts, do we buy this player, do we sell this player, [Abramovich] was always intimately involved in that from day one and is just as intimately involved now.”

Responding to talk that Chelsea appear to be on hold because of Abramovich’s absence, Buck said: “I understand what you are saying and it is hard to disprove it, except to say: ‘Let’s see what happens in the next transfer window.’

“The point I am making – it’s a glib one – if we go out in the next window and spend a zillion, it’s pretty hard to argue that things are on hold.”