Arrayed like snowy cotton lie, the tents of Chelsea’s horde,
Wherein they rest from bloody toil, split shield and blunted sword.
They wait for news of Champions new, the fate of Champions old,
Will their tri-pillared English spine remain within the fold?
Last night’s game against Sunderland in some ways defies description. Jose Mourinho was obviously so flummoxed that in his post match interviews he had to fall back on the succinct and forensic summary provided by one of the game’s finest analytic minds. This appeared on Twitter in the moments after the game and before TSO stood before the cameras:
“Why Should I Love My Sport So Well?” – Isaac Watts, 1715
Should occasion ever bring you to Abney Cemetery in Stoke Newington, which nestles in North London between the Emirates and White Hart Lane, you would see standing proudly a statue of the great Non Conformist hymn writer and thinker, Isaac Watts. He wrote over 700 hymns during his 74 year sojourn on this earth before departing in 1748. Some of these would be familiar even to non-church goers, particularly “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past” and the carol “Joy to the World”. He is buried in Bunhill Fields in Islington but lived for a time in various parts of Stoke Newington, particularly with the Abney family, hence the memorial in the cemetery that carries their name. He was, however born in Southampton. So in honour of the visitors and as it was a Sunday game, I will pepper this report with the hymns of the great man.
It was approaching the middle of a typical, sixties black and white, social-realist sort of a Saturday afternoon, when the sound of a key scrabbling for the lock, brought the dapper figure of Mike into the neat, compact hallway of the small terraced house. Dressed in flannel shirt, cable stitched, knitted, sleeveless jumper and corduroy trousers, his tartan slippers squeaked uneasily on the worn, linoleum floor as he watched the door open.
As Keegan notes, ‘the effect of a cavalry charge had always depended more on the moral frailty of those receiving it than on the objective power of horse and rider,’ and in withstanding a charge the Switzers were unparalleled.
An Everyday Story of Football Folk and Their Intellectual Property
The Scene is Set
Here was the deal going into last night’s action:
Arsenal with two games left have 67 and can hope for a maximum of 73.
It is perhaps only the TEFL teachers and students of language amongst us who could glean any scintilla of satisfaction from Sunday’s events.
I have little experience of teaching English as a foreign language. One college summer holiday teaching Spanish youths, having unwittingly stumbled into the employ of Opus Dei, (oh strange days indeed), followed by being on the cusp of heading to Turin as a TEFL teacher a few years later.
Last time we caught sight of Manchesterford United in the league, we were unbeaten and four points ahead of them. At the end of an ugly afternoon we still had a point in hand, but since then they’ve disappeared over the horizon with a turn of speed that suggests their collective arse was on fire.
A Sunday Soujourn in Salford, South Louisiana and err, Romford
There is a theme running through so many cinematic genres; the cop thriller, the horror movie, the spy movie, to quote just three examples, where the “baddie” finally has the hero within his grasp and ultimate victory beckons. And yet the evil genius, who in some cases has built whole empires of evil, who has meticulously planned some astonishing, evil feat of criminal activity or worse still a series of evil, horrifying, toe curling, sadistic murders, all of which are typified by an evil attention to the smallest detail and subtleties of timing, somehow feels the need to pause and soliloquise about their motives, their hatred for the hero, the reasons for their maladjusted behaviour, their dysfunctional relationship with their mother, you name it, you’ve all watched ‘em. They just have to ramble on. And in that pause, that hesitation, that unfathomable and uncharacteristic hiatus between opportunity and action, all is lost.
(with suitable apologies and homage to John Le Carre)
(Author’s Note: The main character of George Smallie should be imagined as Colin Hutchinson, Alec Guinness and perhaps a dash of Alan Bennett thrown in the blender and given a quick whizz. Whether you then imagine Delia or Nigella doing the blending is your own private hell for which I have no remedy.)
Somewhere between talking to the trees in Paint Your Wagon (1969) and talking to a chair at the Republican Convention in 2012, Clint Eastwood made a film called Gran Torino, which my Italian translates as the Granny of Torino? And no, it isn’t another name for Juventus, that’s La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady). Not to be confused with the Belgian cycling classic “La Doyenne”, which is French and simply means the oldest in this context, but is feminine and can refer to a lady of advanced age.
The curious headline is prompted by young Junior, scion of the noble House of Bayou, who made his competitive feetballs début a few weeks ago, the very weekend we played our emotionally challenged cousins from up the road.
You will have noted that Nick, blog owner and master of Podding Acres, wherein lies the humble structure from whence emanates that sporadic outpouring of general guff, known to its small band of faithful adherents as The Podding Shed, and to which he extends his not inconsiderable patronage, let slip that it is about to make its hugely un-awaited return.
The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall
It is difficult to credit now, but there was a time when Chelsea winning the FA Cup was deemed so unlikely, it provided the comic material for a popular song written circa 1933. “On the Day That Chelsea Went and Won the Cup” (sung by Norman Long) describes ever more unlikely scenarios coming true purely because the world has been stood on its head by Chelsea winning the FA Cup. The fact that Chelsea were a team who’d spent most of their life in the top division and should have been well capable of winning such an important trophy only made the song more pointed.
I will start by saying that my views are invariably coloured by having grown up in Tottenham and being related to a number of Spurs fans as well as counting some among my closest friends. These days I rarely take the deep joy that is afforded most Chelsea fans when we discomfit them. Like an Aintree vet, destroying Spurs is something I see as necessary but unpalatable, so this report may be too restrained for some tastes. (And it’s interesting to note how the term “destroy”, which was once the standard way of referring to putting down injured race horses seems to be disappearing from the racing lexicon. Not good for the marketing I presume.)
A trip to Manchester City was going to really test the mettle of a team that was showing signs of improvement in their recent four games under Robbie Di Matteo. The realists amongst us were looking for a point, the dreamers were hoping that this would be the great leap forward and the eternally pessimistic were hoping Stoke and Everton might limit the damage.