Thomas Tuchel had not seen the banner unfurled in the Shed End ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Leicester City – he instead focused on the banner honoring Mason Mount, which went over the Matthew Harding Lower. Luckily the German’s assistant, Arno Michels, was on hand.
It was he who drew the Chelsea head coach’s attention to the banner that featured his picture. Tuchel’s reaction was priceless. He instantly went from surprised to genuinely touched. A huge grin spread across the face of the 48-year-old, who then gave Michels a hug before turning to the game.
“I was very happy – I’ve never had a banner before,” said Tuchel on Thursday evening after his team’s 1-1 draw against the foxes. “I was looking for Mason on the banner until someone told me there was another banner on the other side [for me]. So very kind and thank you and I will do my best to deserve it.”
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The majority of Chelsea supporters would agree that Tuchel deserved this moment of recognition. Not only for having won three trophies – including the Champions League – in less than 18 months at Stamford Bridge, but also for behaving at one of the most difficult periods in the club’s recent history.
From Russia’s horrifying invasion of Ukraine to Roman Abramovich’s decision to sell the club after 19 years, it’s been Tuchel who’s had to face the toughest media questions, which should never have happened. But at every opportunity, be it in front of the television cameras or in the print media, he knew how to hit the right note.
And that – perhaps even more so than the trophy wins – has earned Tuchel so much affection from the club’s supporters. His strong feeling for the club also runs deep; The 48-year-old has previously revealed that he has never been happier in his coaching career and that the working environment at Chelsea is the best he has ever experienced.
Tuchel’s jovial and laid-back demeanor during his time at Stamford Bridge is at odds with the manager many expected. During his spells at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, there had been high-profile clashes with senior club officials, while fans, particularly Dortmund’s, did not warm to the German.
Perhaps that’s because the man he replaced at the Westfalenstadion was Jurgen Klopp, a manager who Tuchel himself has admitted can create a unique bond with fans. “I was the guy behind him at Dortmund and it was a different role to do that, not always easy. But I have nothing but the greatest respect for him for what he does,” said Tuchel ahead of last weekend’s FA Cup final against Liverpool.
“When he coached Dortmund, the whole country loved Dortmund. Now he is coaching Liverpool and you have the feeling that the whole country of Liverpool loves him. It’s always like this.”
Tuchel’s time at Paris Saint-Germain, meanwhile, was marked by petty locker room disputes and club politics off the field. He certainly didn’t enjoy his time in the French capital and had a similar environment been found at Chelsea, those close to Tuchel believe he would have avoided top European clubs going forward.
That has not been proven. Tuchel has loved working at Chelsea and the vast majority of the club’s supporters have fallen deeply in love with him. Hence the banner at the Shed End on Thursday night, which gives you a sense of a few more outings to come in the months and maybe even seasons to come.