It was when the third goal went in that we first realised it wasn't right.
The score, announced by the official Chelsea account. 1-3. I shared a nervous shuffle with my beautiful assistant, Ray. They were at home, so it wasn't technically that way around, but perhaps it just didn't feel like home anymore. We want their club back, after all, and if you don't have a club you can hardly have a home venue.
It wasn't just that. I remembered the euphoria of ending that goal drought, the first of the Benitez era that ended that goal drought. The 13th minute, it was scored in. It didn't seem right. And then on wondering why a third substitute was not deployed, the realisation: 13 players had been used.
It wasn't until we were driving home, and we heard the news on the radio, that it really hit home. The first Chelsea manager since 1996 to fail to win his first three games. The thirteenth manager since that time. That was when we knew something was badly wrong. It was only confirmed when we heard the news of the upcoming FA Cup draw - Chelsea would be ball number 13. I instinctively switched off the radio - it was too much. We turned the car around and headed to the library.
I uncovered the scroll from the bookshelf, giving it a hearty blow. The thick dust was thick and dusty. Within, our worst fears were confirmed. Di Matteo's new contract. The ink scrawled on the page, the signature of a doomed man, a virtual death-warrant, the hopes and dreams of the small-print and commercial rights to bobbly-head car ornaments, all hopeless beneath that date at the top that confirmed he was doomed from the moment he put pen to paper: signed on the 13th of June, 2012. A warning from the past that had sadly gone unheeded.
It wasn't just that. I hurried over to the old blackboard in the corner. It was black and boardy. I picked up the chalk and scrawled the letters down. R-A-F-A-E-L B-E-N-I-T-E-Z. We gazed at it with intent for what seemed like hours. It got too much for Ray, who left to get a coffee. It was only when I heard the cold crash of ceramic on slate when he returned to the room that I knew something was up. "That was the last of the milk, you useless clod!", I screamed, but he just stood there pointing, his gaze fixed in horror. "Rafael Benitez! Th-thirteen letters!"
My thoughts immediately turned to the next challenges Benitez faced. The Club World Cup that was coming around the corner. It would be the thirteenth trophy of the Abramovich era. I had the date for the semi-final booked off work especially, right on the... 13th. I racked my brains, but couldn't remember the date of the final.
"The calendar! The official Chelsea 2012 calendar! Bring it to me!" I yelled. We turned to the back, flicking through pages of history that had now turned to ashes, passing the Champions League victory, the new contract, Di Matteo's sacking, Benitez's appointment... we got to December. We exchanged nervous glances, before I turned to find out what was in store in 2013.
There was nothing there.
There was only Frank, pointing towards the gods.
* All facts\statistics are, remarkably, entirely correct.