I hear some grumblings in the Chelsea fandom over the Romelu Lukaku loan to Everton and Victor Moses’s loan to Liverpool. I’ve even read one or two calling for the sacking of Michael Emenalo and some saying Lukaku was shipped out because he missed a penalty and so on. Nothing can be further from the truth. Loaning out players to teams at the same level in the same league is not a deadline day decision. These are deals that have been discussed for weeks now and they are very much in order. Both clubs are top Premier League teams and the experience would be good for the young lads, rather than having them hanging around the Bridge with little or no playing time.
Monday, 20th May 2013
A hotel room somewhere in South West London, the sun is rising through hazy clouds, there is dew on the ground, and the birds reluctantly start their daily chorus of joy. Are they slightly hesitant? It’s as if they’re unsure today will bring much to sing about…
Now, I wonder how many of us watched Jose Mourinho’s last match against Osasuna at the Bernabeu. Forget the media scrum and the circus around him when he came out from the tunnel into the dugout. Note the way the players were relating with him, even as it was clear it was his last game. Note the way Michael Essien dedicated his goal to him and Ricardo Carvalho’s comment about Mourinho’s commitment and work ethic. Note Alvaro Arbeloa’s comment about his regret that he’s going, because they would have achieved more, as they have improved under Mourinho in terms of competiveness – something Florentino Perez, club President was implying when he said Mourinho has restored them to their “rightful place”. Arbeloa who was falsely reported to have fallen out with the coach as well had tweeted earlier to salute Mourinho: “Many thanks for everything. It has been a pleasure”.
… That Glenn Hoddle taught the team to play.
OK, maybe not quite true and probably not the best adaptation of a Beatles lyric ever made, however you get the point. That’s right folks, it’s 20 years this month since Glenn Hoddle left newly promoted Swindon to take over at Chelsea for the 1993-94 season. Replacing interim manager (where have we heard that before?) David Webb, Hoddle came with a reputation as one of the most gifted players of his generation who had got his Swindon team playing attractive, flowing football – something that had been a rarity for a few seasons at Stamford Bridge. Taking over a moderately gifted squad, it was obvious that while the team had potential, an injection of quality was needed to really take the team forwards.
Football has been consumed by the ogre that is the Champions League. Being of a certain age I remember with great fondness the fact that we qualified for, and won the Cup Winners’ Cup against Real Madrid in 1971, as I’m sure other fans remember Fairs Cup wins and UEFA Cup wins. A competition was exactly that, you were there on the merit of having won or achieved something. In the case of the Cup Winners’ Cup it was as exclusive as the old European Cup in that each country had one representative, one there by virtue of being actual Champions, the other by winning the primary cup competition. It may just be a romantic notion through blue tinted glasses, but in general football was far more ‘fun’ back then. And competition wins meant more. They were badges of honour. Things your friends would envy. Or you would envy of them.
It has been a while since my last post and as expected there has been much development in the world of Chelsea during my absence. We’ve knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup, progressed to the semi-final of the Europa League, seen a slight change in mood towards interim manager, Rafa Benitez, but perhaps the best news of all has been Fernando Torres breaking his nose.
I almost subconsciously started this article with the title ‘What does Mrs Thatcher mean to you?’ such is the reaction to her death – then again, that would have brought up images of some questionable football kits, questionable football, a tatty ground, fences and hooliganism. Such was life at Stamford Bridge in the 1980s that I’m sure Mrs T would’ve looked on approvingly at the consumer-led drive of the Chelsea Collection, before distancing herself from a seemingly competent team’s fall from grace – from sixth spot to relegation in three seasons – ouch.
Hard as it might be to believe, although the internet was with us, within the last dozen years, it was still possible to spend upwards of 10 hours at Stamford Bridge, queuing for football tickets. As a phenomenon at Chelsea, this was still a rare event for many of us, with the art of standing in a queue outside a normally wet, cold and dank football ground for hours on end, a bit of a novelty. Until the team reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1994, many of us had not been able to participate in such a process for over 20 years (mind you – I have an excuse – I was only born in the late 1970s). Those of more vintage years will I’m sure, remind younger readers of the thrill of standing in a line that stretched all the way down the Fulham Road and along the North End Road (according to my dad) as they queued up for tickets to the 1970 final. Like most stories, with time this might become slightly embellished with the length of the queue finally ending somewhere near the Hammersmith flyover, the time it took to get to the front, around a week.
Question: what’s one of the most significant Chelsea matches of the last 20 years? Beating Bayern Munich last May? Winning the FA Cup in 1997 to end the trophy draught? Securing Champions League football in 2003 on the final day of the season before a certain Russian billionaire stepped in to take over the club? Yes – sort of. Why? Let me expand. By those of us who have followed Chelsea there have been more highs than lows in the last 20 years than we could’ve imagined but one of the most significant matches we’ve played in that time is against Sheffield Wednesday, on 9 February 1994, in an FA Cup fourth round replay at Hillsborough.
I was one of the few who didn’t hate Rafael Benitez. Maybe because I am, after all, not a real fan in that I do not reside in the UK and as much as I try to follow everything to do with the English Premier League and watch most of the games (all Chelsea games and nearly all of the rest), I probably still can’t claim to understand what you real fans out there feel. I rather liked Rafa (as much as his type of lack of charisma can be liked) maybe because those Chelsea versus Liverpool Champions League ties I will remember for the rest of my life. Maybe because I always saw him as one of the relatively few managers who is a scholar of the game (a quality I really do admire, maybe a little naively). Someone who takes football seriously not only on the pitch (as most other former players turned managers do), but also off the pitch, where it’s so boring for the rest. I even read his book, not because I’m a fan, but because I try to read any book written by a proper manager about the game. I hate biographies, I don’t care about the person, all I want is his wisdom or lack thereof. His book wasn’t very good, frankly, but that’s down to his ghost writer and him being a boring fucker.
(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.)
If you hadn’t worked it out from the title, this is a post about referees, and in case you think that I’ve lost my marbles, please read on.
When my dad came home, many years ago, and announced that he was going to become an amateur referee, it didn’t phase me in the least, being just the sort of crazy thing he would do, and there was a certain logic to it too. As a way of getting fit it appeared to beat actually playing the game for a sedentary office worker past his prime and not in the rudest of health. But the reality was quite a shock for him.
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.
In 1971, the late, great Peter Osgood was handed an eight week ban and a £160 fine by the Football Association for collecting three yellow cards in a season (this apparently incorporated a suspended ban for collecting five bookings in the previous season). Yellow cards were trickier to come by back then, of course; you’d certainly need to do a bit more than craftily waft your elbow at an opponent’s face or stamp on a gravitationally challenged Uruguayan…
Listening to the radio and reading the press it’s clear that many hold the view that racism is racism, it’s either black or it’s white and you’re either a racist or you’re not. Extrapolating this argument John Terry, now found guilty by the FA of racism, should face the ultimate sentence to clearly broadcast the FA’s sincerity and conviction to stamp racism out of football once and for all. I’m not quite sure what this ultimate sentence should be but the noises the journalists and some players are making is that it should be longer than Saurez’s eight weeks and, according to Joey Barton, in excess of twelve weeks because calling Anton Ferdinand a black c*** is far worse than serial GBH.
“Oh yes, that would be so nice” – memorable lyrics from the enigmatic Brazilian chanteuse of the 1960s, Astrud Gilberto. I was reminded of this Bossa Nova classic during the Newcastle match, not only because of the rhythmic Carnaval football unleashed upon the Geordies, but during one incident in particular – the lovely Eva Carneiro attending to the temporarily injured David Luiz. Head wound comforted and bandage wrapped tight, she proceeded to console the defender by sympathetically rubbing his chest, a tender gesture I’m sure Wayne Rooney would’ve liked after having his thigh lacerated by the protruding edge of a cleat. Nice of her, eh?