It’s rare that one can refer to Big Brother to illustrate anything other than the general decline of Western civilisation, but back in the summer of 2001 it – perhaps unwittingly – provided a fairly telling comment on Frank Lampard’s transfer from West Ham to Chelsea.
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?
We are jointly running a survey to gather Chelsea supporters’ attitudes to Safe Standing at football grounds in collaboration with other Chelsea supporter organisations, blogs, fanzines and podcasts including:
BlueTinted, CFCnet, cfcuk, Chelsea Daft, Chelsea Fancast, Chelsea FC Blog, Chelsea Mad, Chelsea Supporters Club, Chelsea Supporters Group, Chelsea Supporters Trust, Famous CFC, Oh Dennis Wise, Plains of Almeria, Rivals, Talk Chelsea, TheChels, The Chelsea Blog, The Chels podcast, The Podding Shed, We Ain’t Got No History, and Vital Football.
It has been well-documented that it is the only flaw in our starting eleven. A goalscorer. Yes, we have Fernando Torres, but he is not the most consistent to say the least. Demba Ba is hardly ever given a chance by Jose to prove his worth. I can even go as far as to say that Ba is being used a scapegoat for the difficulties of his two attacking team-mates. Meanwhile, it is fair to say Samuel Eto’o is not the player he once was.
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?
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.
On this blog there have been detractors of the Champions League competition but personally I’ve never been as affected and distracted by supporting Chelsea as I have since Wednesday 18th April 2012, Barcelona at home, right through to today. I’ve watched re-runs of the final endless times to the point that there must now be a groove cut into the relevant sectors of the hard disk in my Sky+ box. Even today the penalty shoot-out brings out the goose bumps as I panic that Drogba should take a longer run up and he might miss. And on YouTube I’ve seen countless videos from fans in the stadium, bars and, in the case of Omid Djalili, dressing room where for just a few seconds all Chelsea fans shared the same emotions of fear, uncertainty and doubt shortly followed by elation.
2011/12 may go down as the most memorable season in my lifetime and, now that the dust is settling, I’m trying to interpret our season of two halves and what caused the dramatic turnaround. My startling conclusion is that Andre Villas-Boas deserves the credit for us winning the Champions League.
In the latter half of season 2010/11 our old guard quartet were beginning to feel their age as our trophyless season petered out to the ultimate dismissal of Carlo. There were factions and cliques, the French foreign legion, the Brazilians, the kids, Torres and the Mourinho old guard. We weren’t a team.
Clearly it was time for a metamorphosis from the old spine to a new team of young, exciting players in the mould of Barcelona and so the term ‘transition’ entered our everyday vocabulary.
Herald the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas, one of a new breed of educated, articulate and professionally trained managers who developed their skills and strategies by osmosis, working shoulder to shoulder with footballing heavyweights, unlike the old school managers that had earned their stripes by playing the game.
Our gladiators were fed a diet of either sitting on the sidelines or being asked to play in a different style, pressing high up the pitch in the Iberian tiki-taka style of short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.
Sometimes it worked and we played exciting stuff, such as Manchester United away, but our new style left massive openings at the back that resulted in the opposition driving their coach and horses straight through us so we conceded more than we scored.
AVB was not able to get the existing squad to adapt to his new style. Either they weren’t listening or simply not capable. AVB scanned every page of his coaching manuals to find possible solutions for motivating the squad. He implemented a carrot and stick approach; the carrot being the promise of providing an emotional stimulus and the stick the banishing of rebels from the first team car park.
Ronald Reagan once remarked during a discussion with Mikhail Gorbachev, “How easy his task and mine might be in these meetings that we held if suddenly there was a threat to this world from some other species from another planet outside in the universe. We’d forget all the little local differences that we have between our countries …”
There have been many instances when deadly adversaries, at one another’s throats for generations, put their differences aside to confront a still more urgent threat: the Greek city states against the Persians; the Russians and the Polovtsys against the Mongols and the Americans and the Soviets against the Nazis.
And so it was with our factions. Gladiators such as Lampard, Terry and Drogba could see their reputations and legacy being destroyed by the AVB regime as the media and Chelsea fans all wrote them off as has-beens. Time to put personal differences to one side. AVB had tried desperately to unite the team by getting them to believe in a common ideal but it’s generally accepted that group unity is forged stronger by shared negative attitudes. A common enemy!
So our Champions League triumph has nothing to do with the heavens, being written in the stars, destiny nor a blue angel sitting on the crossbar. Our triumph is due to Andre, who so desperately wanted to build team spirit and unwittingly succeeded by causing such anger and frustration that our players united to play with an unprecedented determination and spirit that overcame age, injury, suspension, tika-taka and finally the Germans.
It’s the night before Barcelona.
God, I detest the Champions League. It’s a vile, overblown, self-important and elitist clique that makes the Bullingdon Club look welcoming and all-inclusive. That awful, angelic opening anthem brings the bile racing to the back of my throat like Monday’s school dinner of Spam, cold beetroot and greying lumpy mashed spud used to some thirty (OK, thirty plus plus) years ago.
The picture above is a memorial in Flanders to the legendary (if somewhat disputed) ‘No Man’s Land’ football match that apparently took place between Allied and German troops on Christmas Day, 1914.
Just before I went “in absentia” or if you like “in feriae”, as Julius Caesar might have put it although he, unlike myself was in “Gaul” for business not a holiday, I read under the Stoke report that Nick’s rededication to the cause and intent to purify his football soul was partly inspired by my words. This led me to wonder whether or not is was time to become a full time guru bringing healing and succour to those crushed by the remorseless grind of the twin mill stones of overblown sports punditry and the “will to whinge” exhibited by the average sports fan these days.
A Season Opener (For Sale or Rent)
(with sincere apologies to Roger Miller)
I sat down to write this wondering whether to start with an almost painfully tortuous quip or just go with a plain workaday title and ease into matters with the insightful use of a scene from a major work of modern literature.
Well look above, you have your answer.
That’s football you see. From team selection to bloggage (that’s pronounced with an “arje” sound rather than an “idge” sound, thus attaining a suitable level of pretentiousness from which we won’t be deviating at any point in the ensuing drivel), it’s all about decisions.
By Random Chandlery
The sign on the door says Doc. Bayou. Data Analysis. But that doesn’t tell half the story. What do I do? I scan, I read, spot patterns, watch, observe. People pay for the right sort of information. People in the background, people in the shadows. But sometimes what you see is best forgotten. Like catching your mum naked with Santa on the sofa, Christmas Eve.
So I made a mistake, I saw something and remembered. Moved it on. Now it’s getting hotter than Fishy Fred’s chip fryer on a busy Friday night.
It started when I gave Nick the Blog a steer in the direction of the District Line. Strange goings on. Too many bodies by the tracks. And I could see trouble for the Italian.
So ya, thought ya, thought ya might like to go to the show? To feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow. Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see? If you wanna find out what’s behind these cold eyes, you’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.
I recently had the privilege of seeing Roger Waters perform the Pink Floyd masterpiece The Wall at the O2 Arena. It’s an everyday tale of the devastating impacts of the loss of a father during WWII, of bullying teachers undermining your creativity, of overbearing and overcompensating motherly love and manipulative demanding wives. All of this whilst trying to become a success within a band tearing itself apart with petty differences but being forced by record companies into presenting a sane and unified face to the world.
(Or How Close to Barking Can You Get a Sphinx?)
In keeping with the melancholy and wistful mood engendered by all the speculation over the future of our Double winning manager, I find myself humming the Louvin Brothers classic version of an old American folk standard, “In the Pines”, which features the following lines, in amongst lots of woohooing and general yodelling.
[We’re thinking of this: ‘Sagging’ is the direct opposite of hogging. When a vessel is supported at bow and stern by wave crests, she will tend to sag in the middle. High buoyancy forces occur at the extremities of the ship. High gravitational forces, from the weight of the ship’s structure, act vertically down about the midship’s point, in opposition to the buoyancy forces. Source: General Cargo Ship.
“Now it’s Spring again,
I’ll sing again,
’bout turnips and hamstered jam”
(an excerpt from “Bygrave’s Songs, But Only Dimly Remembered” by Springy Le Marr)
[Editor’s Note: Springy Le Marr (1939-?), poet and small time kangaroo rancher is now wreathed in obscurity, but was once referred to by the great critic F R Leavis as head and shoulders above his fellow poets in the 1950’s Queensland Neo-Realist movement, “… just as a dwarf on a pogo stick can sometimes be seen to bob above the heads of a group of pygmies.” High praise indeed.]
A question worth pondering; if something is indeed rotten behind the scenes at Chelsea as most of us believe to be the case, irrespective of whether one is pro or anti Carlo, then maybe that’s where we should start?
It happened in Ranieri’s last season. And Mourinho’s. Underhand briefings to the press, behind the scenes manouvering by all and sundry, sackings and/or appointments made above the head of the manager (or first team coach as is probably a more appropriate title) and so forth.
Hey, we all know the drill by now. And the rumours about who is being targeted as Carlo’s replacement have already started.
In the past, the finger of blame has been pointed at Kenyon, at Arnesen and obviously Grant or whoever else was the hate figure at the time. But the very simple fact is that there is one constant in all of this.