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Swansea City 0-0 Chelsea (2-0 on aggregate) – Kick Ballboys Out of Football

Danger! Eden Hazard

Introduction

I’m writing this report on the 9:28 First Great Western return trip from Swansea. It was recently announced that a £350m investment in electrification of this line will shave 20 minutes off the three and a half hour journey. Is such a huge spend really worth it for a relatively small incremental improvement? Then again it’s possible to spend £70m on a new midfield to discover it runs 20 minutes slower.

I arrived in Swansea late yesterday afternoon. It felt like I’d been recruited as an extra for Gavin and Stacey. The snow was falling heavily despite my phone app assuring me it was clear and dry so I feared the worst that the game could be postponed. I checked in to the Marriott first and as I stood at reception our favourite physio Eva Carneiro appeared beside me. We exchanged pleasantries and I discovered that the team stayed here the previous night and were currently having their pre-match. Quite what the pre-match entails I’m uncertain but I have to assume it was a large portion of lasagne washed down with several glasses of full-bodied red.

Arriving at the stadium it was a relief to discover the pitch was green despite a thick blanket of snow outside. The Liberty is one of the nicer stadiums I’ve visited. Sure it’s a modern steel structure like all the other pre-fabs but they’ve given it a bit more character, wider row width and a decent gradient for a clearer view. All the staff were exceedingly friendly too.

Despite the weather there was a reasonable turnout at our end. A few spaces in the home stands which questions the validity of adding an extra 10,000 at the end of this season.

Match

I guess I have to talk about the game. This was like playing at home in Swansea. The aptly named two-goal Ivanovic had ensured that his generosity at the Bridge would enable the Swans to park the bus creating a challenge similar to QPR or Southampton.

We huffed and puffed and had lots of meaningless possession but never really looked like scoring. Mata has looked a bit knackered recently and last night seemed particularly lightweight.

Oscar was stuck once again out wide disbelieving that he sacrificed life on the Copacabana for a night in Swansea in the freezing snow.

Hazard made a few good runs but he makes the habit of losing the ball and then standing aghast with hands on hips; is he just a rich man’s Adel Taarabt?

The surprising and disappointing aspect was that there was no siege. Two goals down you’d think at some point we’d cast caution aside and have a ten minute period of heavy threat. But it was not to be. If we could have got one goal with a reasonable amount of time remaining the home team might have started to panic like sheep hearing the truck rumbling up a Welsh farm lane but instead they were never given cause to panic.

The Swans were doing a fair bit of time-wasting, which is their right, but second half one of their ballboys held on to the ball by the corner flag before gently tossing the ball back about 30 yards short of Cech. He received derision from our fans but this was just a precursor to a similar event to follow. A ballboy on the other side of our goal held on to the ball and refused to give it back. Hazard in his frustration tried to kick the ball out of his hands and the ballboy threw himself prostrate. Hazard was wrong. He should have held his hands out to the ballboy gesturing for him to give him the ball. If he refused Hazard should have made a (pointless) appeal to the ref or linesman. However it is also inappropriate for ballboys to engage in time-wasting. This is the job of the players and the professional players union will be lodging a serious complaint that ballboys are encroaching on their jobs. Who could have foreseen that the mild-mannered Hazard would be reviled by Swansea fans in similar fashion to our feelings for Stephen Hunt?

To cap it all the Swansea player most outraged about this incident was Ashley Williams, recently accused of the attempted murder of Robin Van Persie.

Conclusion

Transition. Isn’t this just Management Consultant speak for “you’ll be a bit bollocks for an indeterminate period”.

Press Reports

The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “It has taken more than 100 years but, finally, Swansea City know what it is like to reach a major final. They will play Bradford City at Wembley on 24 February while Chelsea, and Eden Hazard in particular, will reflect on another ignominious chapter in the story of a difficult season.”

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “On a night of highs and lows, Hymns and Arias, Swansea City deservedly reached the first major cup final in their long history. Football itself reached a depressing first: a ballboy being kicked by a professional footballer for time-wasting. In an extraordinary and deeply embarrassing incident, Eden Hazard reacted initially with frustration and then with total folly when ballboy Charlie Morgan, the son of a Swansea director, refused to release the ball with 13 minutes remaining and Swansea protecting their first-leg lead. Morgan was clearly time-wasting, lying on the ball as if this were an Ospreys game at the Liberty.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “In the end, the night was dominated by the red card for Eden Hazard, dismissed by Chris Foy for kicking a ballboy in a desperate attempt to retrieve the ball from underneath the teenager. Just when life at Chelsea feels like it cannot get any more preposterous, another kid got caught in the crossfire and all hell broke loose. The boy in question was evidently time-wasting and – if it the Twitter profile for him that was quickly circulated after the game is correct it was not the first time he has done so – but when it becomes acceptable to kick a ballboy then English football really has lost the plot.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “There will be no early visit to Wembley this season as Chelsea were eliminated from the Capital One Cup after a goalless draw in Wales. The Blues had it all to do after a home defeat two weeks ago, and although we pressured Swansea for periods, only rarely did we look like overturning the deficit, and were dealt a late blow when Eden Hazard was dismissed following an altercation with a ballboy.”

(Image courtesy of CPFC BBS.)

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  • Desmond Bey

    Lovely, Mark. I think you hit the perfect note with that – the prose of a fan wanting to scream Blue murder but restrained by grown up things like logic, fair play and a sense of humour (P.S. despite the continuing greatness of the podcast, you were missed). I can now never watch Oscar without imagining him repeating in his head the mantra of “Oh, for fuck’s sake…..” ad infinitum.

    We went out without even a whimper. I find it hard to muster any anger or frustration at the team or Benitez instead preferring to save most of my emotional reserve for the Second Coming of Jose in the summer. Failing that I shall go out and place a very large bet on the most unbelievably bad managerial hiring possible and available at the time and with the proceeds I shall invite you all for drinks before the next home match immediately following it.

    I still love Chelsea, obviously, although I feel a little break is needed to re-evaluate our relationship – but I just know that I’m going to be front row centre in my living room on Sunday, too close to the spittle-flecked screen of my TV and secretly hoping that Brentford hurt Chelsea a little bit, so the Blues can know how I feel. Then we can move on with me gently holding them around the shoulder and saying it’s going to be OK.

    Still, and in spite of everything, I think we can push for a place above Spurs. That is a reasonable goal to have this season because if AVB finishes above us I will dissolve into a puddle of bitterness and completely lose the plot.

  • peterw

    What to say? All I wanted was us to make a fight of it, but we didn’t even get that. Dismal performance sadly, though I’m astonished that the inspired substitution – Bertrand for Cole was it? – didn’t steal us an improbably victory.
    I think it’s far to say that Rafa is much worse than I expected. Liverpool fan/friends still insist he is doing a good job in difficult circumstances, but they also think it was all Jose’s fault that Rafa was left with a bunch of no-hoper Treble winners at Inter.Can we still at least try and sign a CM and striker next week? Then go for the FA Cup? Isn’t that the last decent trophy Benitez won anyway?As for the Hazard-ballboy, well at least it gave us something to smile about at the end of a drab evening. Silly sods, the pair of em. Never a red card mind (and it’s pretty clear that Foy didn’t even see it).

    • GrocerJack

      Im now converted fully to the Rafa Out brigade, based purely on competency and results, not silly trivial fan comments from previous roles. 

      I just like to make my own mind up about these things. 

      I think last night makes Hazard ‘Proper Chels’ as I beleive the phrase goes.

  • Blue_MikeL

    Good to see Michael Owen doesn’t succumb to overall hysteria and expressed his opinion!  
    The former England forward said the ball boy’s reaction to the incident was “scandalous”.
    “I maintain my opinion from last night. How people can claim Hazard assaulted a kid is embarrassing,” said the 33-year-old, who has scored 40 goals for England. 
    “He shouldn’t have kicked the ball out of his grasp, but he hardly booted the lad as some people were suggesting. The lad’s antics were scandalous and no wonder he isn’t taking any further action.”

  • http://www.chelseafcblog.com Der_Kaiser

    Probably one of the worst overall performances in a 2 legged semi of the Roman era.  Can’t be arsed with talking about Benitez any more – just want May to arrive without disaster and for it all to be over with.

    The Hazard / ballboy incident will of course be analysed (laughed at) at length on this week’s Podding Shed.

  • Blueboydave

    I think you have hit the nail on the proverbial whatsit, Mark.

    This was essentially like playing at home against a massed defence, with a fair degree of pressing to make life more difficult for us.

    Rafa seems to have correctly identified the problem of our home form as being our difficulties in dealing with such an outrageously unfair approach by some opponents, as opposed to the “poisonous atmosphere” crap being peddled by the media.

    As one who has had to doze through my fair share of management-speak bollocks seminars I believe this means Rafa has successfullly completed stage 1 of Management for Beginners [Define the Problem, if you’re struggling to keep up].

    Unfortunately, he seems to have dozed through the rest of the seminar as much as I did and therefore remains a bit vague about that tricky bit about finding solutions that solve the problem and implementing them.

    From the feeble way we capitulated without even a token effort I’m guessing Rafa skipped the supplementary seminar on “Motivating Your Team” too…

  • peterw

    The ballboy was the 17-year-old son of a Swansea director! Blimey, imagine if that was Bruce Buck’s kid who did that to another team, we’d probably get kicked out the league!

    • http://www.chelseafcblog.com Der_Kaiser

      Apparently the guy (kid’s dad) owns a ‘luxury’ hotel in Swansea.

      Having not been to Swansea I have no idea what passes as luxury, but I suspect it’s all relative.

      • mark_25

        Well since it’s his dad it’s definitely relative.

  • Vik Sohonie

    Agreed with Desmond’s review of the report.  

    If I may – http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/why-all-the-fuss-this-camera-angle-shows-eden-hazard-did-nothing-gif/

  • limetreebower

    Possibly one of the most suicide-inducing days ever for any sane person who happened to pick up a Murdoch-owned rag.

    The front pages are all “Brave British PM Tells Dirty Foreigners Where To Get Off” and the back pages are all “Chelsea’s Night Of Unforgivable Shame.”

    Thanks for the read, Mark.

    In a way I’m quite glad as I suspect even in our current form we’d probably have beaten Bradford, and I don’t want Rafa to be able to ride away in the summer boasting about having won trophies at Chelsea.

  • Blue_MikeL

    The rumour has it that after Eden kicked the ball boy Fernando went to kick him as well, but he missed.

  • GrocerJack

    The latest Podding Shed will be up sometime tomorrow and a decent chuckle it was. prepare for some wicked (as opposed to good) humour on all recent events but most noticeably Ballboygate

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  • Bob Harris

    Not a good day for Chelsea. Thought the rolling around was quite funny though. He was almost as good at Hazard, Mata, Oscar and co are at diving. You forget to mention that though.

    • http://www.chelseafcblog.com Der_Kaiser

      You do whisper an awful lot of nonsense.

  • limetreebower

    Was hoping to go to Brentford but I haven’t accumulated enough loyalty points. I blame Rafa.

    I have a large soft spot for Brentford since I’m a Thameside west London lad by upbringing. Plus in my Football Manager game I guided them to the top of the Premiership and a memorable Champions League final victory over Man U. I still find it hard to think of Harry Forrester as a real (and presumably not very good) young footballer rather than the pixellated simulation that I turned into a decent top-division attacking right winger.

  • Austin Solari

    oh dear

  • Austin Solari

    oh fukking hell!!  As I type, Torres  equalises

  • mark_25

    In my 50 years of watching I’m struggling to remember such a poor performance.

    Turnbull is a joke and not fit to be a number 20, nevermind number 2.

    Cahill was a disaster. Marin is a leprechaun.

    As for Torres he may have scored but all he’s fit for is the Tesco hamburger factory.

  • mark_25

    Any remnant of hope I might have had for Rafa has been eroded.

  • mark_25

    JT looked rusty

  • Austin Solari

    It could be worse!!!!  We could support the Spuds or Bindippers LOLOLOLOL

  • GrocerJack

    A match report has been filed. I’ve been quite harsh. JT looked awful and I’m closer to macth fitness than him. But the whole team looked poor and the attitide and desire poorer.

    4 months of Rafa left and then we can look forward to the future.

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