We’re edging closer to the end of this interminable international break and a return to proper football. The mild concussion I suffered last week (it’s not wise to stick your head in the boot of a car just as somebody else is closing it) seems to have slowed time because it has been the longest 13 days in history. Okay, maybe the Cuban missile crisis felt longer, but I wasn’t around for that.
I digress. Apart from a seemingly never ending stream of news stories about injuries to our players, there has been little to report. Nevertheless, continuing with our tried and tested good/bad format, it has been…
A good thirteen days for:
England and Fabio Capello. Two wins out of two in five days, and four wins out of four in World Cup qualifying group six. Capello became the first England manager to win four World Cup qualifiers in a row. Things are looking up.
I managed to sit through the whole game against Kazakhstan broadcast on ITV last weekend, but I didn’t concentrate on the action for 90 minutes. No, I picked up a book midway through the first half when I’d had quite enough of watching Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard getting under each other’s expensive football boots. I can recommend A.N. Wilson’s biography of John Betjeman, though.
Wednesday evening’s game in Belarus wasn’t shown on any TV channel I subscribe to and, as my enthusiasm for the England national team is still at an all time low, I couldn’t be bothered to seek out an Internet stream, so I made do with ITV’s highlights package, this time without the aid of a good book. While it’s difficult to gauge how well individual players performed from 20 minutes of action, it did appear that Gerrard had a much better game – but only because Lampard was more disciplined in midfield. So, props to Frank for making Gerrard look good. Gerrard in turn was influential in Wayne Rooney winning the Man of the Match award. All down to Lampard. (Should rile a few people.)
Luiz Felipe Scolari. Big Phil was appointed to the board last week, a move that means he will not see a director of football shoe-horned in above him. It puts him in a stronger position after four months at Stamford Bridge than Jose Mourinho ever was, and it will ensure that there isn’t a repeat of the Avram Grant fiasco. Lessons have been learned.
Scolari joins chief executive, Peter Kenyon, chairman, Bruce Buck, and Roman Abramovich’s right-hand man, Eugene Tenenbaum in the football boardroom.
A bad thirteen days for:
John Terry and Joe Cole, both of whom missed the England games because of injury. Terry is still recovering from a back problem, while Cole has a troublesome ankle injury.
The Daily Mail reports that Terry’s ongoing injury problems are causing worry among medical staff at the Bridge as well as the Football Association. They point out that his appearances for Chelsea have dropped over the last five seasons – 51, 53, 49, 44, 37.
Not that this should come as a surprise to Chelsea fans, who have been concerned about Terry’s fitness for a couple of seasons now. His never-say-die attitude is admirable and it is one of the reasons why we’re so hard to beat, but maybe it’s time for a little bit of common sense. It’s not as if we’re short of a good replacement (when all our players are fit, anyway). I’m of the opinion that Alex is as good as Terry, while Branislav Ivanovic is emerging as a quality utility player who can slot in anywhere across the back four.
Ashley Cole. His costly mistake against Kazikhstan and the subsequent booing gave reporters something to write about. I can’t say that I have ever booed a player from my own team, and I don’t recall ever booing an opposition player either. The odd shouted obscenity, yes, booing, no. I wouldn’t even boo pantomime villains when I was a kid, I just remember thinking how stupid it all was. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was probably dragged from playing on my VIC-20 to a dusty old theatre to shout at women dressed as men and men dressed as women. Stupid, I tell you. Booing players is stupid, too.
Injuries. International matches have taken their toll with the injury list now stretching to 11 first-team players, including our preferred back four and Petr Cech. Cech suffered a thigh injury and missed the Czech Republic’s match against Slovenia on Wednesday, while Jose Bosingwa has reported back with a "knock" following Portugal’s draw at home to Albania.
Ricardo Carvalho is out with knee ligament damage, as is Michael Essien, who is likely to miss the rest of the season. Didier Drogba confirmed yesterday that he faces at least three more weeks on the sidelines after suffering ankle and knee problems in the Champions League tie away to CFR Cluj two weeks ago.
Add to the list John Terry and Joe Cole, Ashley Cole (hamstring strain), Alex (buttock strain), Michael Ballack (played for Germany but is having problems with his ankle again), and Deco (thigh strain). To top it off, new signing Mineiro is still struggling for fitness.
An early kick-off away to Middlesbrough is not what we need right now, and Boro have been tough opponents at the Riverside in recent games, winning two of the last three. But we’ve been in this situation before and survived – a lot of fans forget just how resilient we are.
Lyn Oslo. Chelsea issued a high court claim for £16m against the Norwegian club and their disgraced former chief executive, Morgan Andersen, over the purchase of John Mikel Obi. People in the know think there’s little prospect of recouping all the money, it’s more a point of principal.
I think we can all agree that Mikel is now worth a great deal more than £16m. He has become one of our most important players.
Man of the fortnight:
It has to be Fabio Capello. He has turned what Rio Ferdinand this week described as a "circus" into a professional, winning team. I remain unconvinced that Capello can take England all the way to a World Cup final, let alone win one, but things are definitely on the up. The flame of passion I used to have for the England team that was so thoroughly doused by Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren is close to being re-ignited.
No more internationals until February. Thank fuck for that. A busy schedule ahead, starting at Boro tomorrow. Roma visit the Bridge for a Champions League group game on Wednesday, then it’s the big one, a top of the table clash with Liverpool next weekend. Another Super Sunday, no doubt. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait.