Chelsea v. Liverpool – beware the skies (and Neil Kinnock)…

Stevie Wonder, despite being eminently qualified to become a Premiership referee, was probably more of a fan at heart.

“Very superstitious, writing’s on the wall…”

When Drogba slotted away the fourth on Saturday, even those of us with the strangest of pre-match rituals designed to placate the gods of football might have been happy to walk under the proverbial ladder. The Lancashire side have had their moments (and points) down in SW6 during recent years, but surely not today?

Whilst it’s one thing to tentatively cast off one’s eternally pessimistic shackles for a moment of optimism at four-nil up, actively seeking to provoke the fickle hand of fate into giving you a dry slap round the ear is another matter entirely.

“Fuck your history, we’re going to Roooooome…” gradually grew louder around the ground.


As woefully ill-judged and misplaced displays of premature triumphalism go, it was up there with Neil Kinnock’s belief that he was actually a stadium-filling rock star (or more specifically, the Prime Minister) at the infamous pre-1992 election Sheffield rally.

We’re alriiiiiiiight! We’re alriiiiiiiight! We’re alriiiiiiiiight! Comrades… Oh bollocks.

A cursory check of the fixture list reminded me that another ninety minutes against Liverpool and the small matter of Barcelona (barring a strange cosmic shift, or a few plates of very dodgy schnitzel in a Bavarian hotel) await before Roma’s ever-friendly ultras start sharpening their knives in anticipation.

As I ruminated on the possible consequences of irritating the all-powerful unseen being that can truly balls up a football match when you’ve been a bit too cocky, Kevin Windass and his rather large team mates conspired to get Bolton what was apparently a ‘consolation’ goal.

“Fuck your history, we’re going to Rooooome…”

Will you please stop doing that? As songs go, this is about as ill-advised as Gary Glitter picking “Thank Heavens For Little Girls” as his comeback single.

Momentarily my thoughts turned to Tippi Hedren, as they do so often on occasions like this.

As blonde femme fatale Melanie Daniels in Hitchcock’s masterpiece ‘The Birds’, Tippi tried to warn a diner full of doubting locals that ignoring the attacks from the air was foolish in the extreme. An elderly ornithologist, Mrs. Bundy – sort of Bill Oddie in tweed knickers and a twinset – suggested smugly that as a species, birds wouldn’t be intelligent enough to pool their resources and mount a more sustained assault.

The team and large sections of the crowd seemed to think much the same about Bolton.

A look at the screen was like watching the telegraph wires as the birds ominously gathered in numbers. We were reminded that Liverpool had stuck four past Bolton’s neighbours earlier in the day, just as they had done to Madrid and Manchester United – at Old Trafford.

And so the attack came; Cech and the defence ran around panicking as the airborne scavengers swarmed, pecked and pestered; the consolation goal became a worrying second and then a sphincter-tightening third in a matter of minutes. Somehow, after a period of suspense and tension that Hitchcock himself would have been proud of, the final whistle rescued us from a potentially humiliating result.

Yes, the rest of the non-Scouse speaking world believes that we’re going to cruise through the second leg on Tuesday to set up a globe shaking, stone cold box office thriller against Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering football machine. Bookies would have you stake a pound to win a penny on Chelsea making the semis. Similar sort of odds would probably have been available at four-nil up on Saturday.

But frankly, this is Chelsea and we just don’t think like that – or at least we shouldn’t.

In between kick-off and around ten o’clock on Tuesday evening, Xavi Alonso will fall over more regularly than a drunk on a wet pavement, Steven Gerrard will presumably make an effort to extricate himself from Michael Essien’s back pocket and Clive Tyldesley will use the words “spirit of Istanbul” around five times per minute during the game whilst David Pleat pronounces Drogba’s name in an annoying fashion.

I have no idea whether Guus has any knowledge of late twentieth century British politics or the works of Alfred Hitchcock, but hopefully he will have seen the signs on Saturday and taken note. The early substitutions of Lampard and Drogba will (hopefully) not happen; Cech and his defence will have received a stern word in their collective ear. And we do have three away goals.

But if thoughts of an over-confident nature should enter our collective headspace, we might just remember that we are now acutely aware, just as Tippi was, that a deadly aerial bombardment could come at any time and really bugger up our day.

And let’s face it, who wants to wake up feeling Neil Kinnock on Wednesday morning?