Trailer Trash? Or Will We Smoke Ol’ Stokey On the Road to Being Kings Again?

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.

At the fag end of last season, with internecine warfare once more sweeping the ranks of the Chelsea faithful, I resembled the distraught Mr Casey in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man”, who sits with his head in his hands at the end of a Christmas Dinner riven by bitter argument over Irish politics and the Church (some things never change), mourning the passing of Parnell, former leader of the movement for Irish Home Rule, who has died at the age of 45, broken by scandal (his citing in the divorce of his long time mistress Kitty O’Shea) and ill health.

In my mind, so many of my fellow fans resembled the governess Dante, the ex-nun who is outraged by what some of those around the table have to say about her beloved Church and its role in the ousting of Parnell and who storms out crying, “Devil out of hell! We won! We crushed him to death! Fiend!”

There I sat, head in hands sobbing, “loudly and bitterly” like Mr Casey, “Poor Ancellotti! My dead king!”

Perhaps that’s over dramatizing the situation just a little and poor old James Joyce is now spinning like a turbine at into what service his art has been pressed, but in all honesty I was more than a tad fed up.

And so I retired to the darkened room of the summer break and applied the cooling towel of indifference to my fevered brow. I doubted whether I could summon up any enthusiasm for the coming season, which was then but a distant and unsavoury prospect, to be endured rather than celebrated. Like a prostate examination, really.

It wasn’t the lack of silverware that distressed me but rather the feeling that in a single season we had gone from the joy of Double Winning to gorging ourselves on the empty carbohydrates of instability and endless change. We seemed only happy when contemplating countless permutations and speculations in the feeding frenzy that accompanies the, by now almost biennial, hirings and firings.

We only relish the volatile. Our team’s fortunes balanced in the hazard that is 90 minutes of football is not excitement enough, or so it seems.

Well I for one had had enough and was thankful to turn away from the world of the beautiful game.

Not that other sports gave much succour to my careworn soul.

Watching the Canadiens lose in seventh game overtime to the Bruins, the living embodiment of everything that has gone wrong and ever will go wrong with humanity since Eve bit the apple, the very Bruins who somehow managed to both win the Stanley Cup and devalue the great prize while impersonating the deformed spawn of a secret coupling between the jolly Green Giant and Minnie the Midget that was then fed pure bile and testosterone in a darkened pit until the hour of its skating lessons, made me remove my eyes and place them in a large jar in the kitchen labelled “Break glass only in the event of needing to take a jaundiced view”.

By the time the yawn that is Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, which at least this year resembled a proper race, I was looking to abandon forever the age old pursuit of sporting endeavour.

So deep was I in the slough of despond that the muse entirely deserted me and to cries of relief from the mass of Chelserati, I didn’t even take up my pen to scrawl a few ill-rhyming verses on the passing of Carlo or the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas.

And yet, like those little, lovable, furry creatures on Springwatch (no, not Bill Oddie), who awaken from hibernation at the first scent of warming, I have poked my head out of my burrow and sniffed the air.

It still smells a bit stale and has the tang of a decaying wrestler’s armpit, but somewhere in there is just a little note of redemption on the finish, as Jilly Goulden might put it.

I can’t say that I’m brimming with excitement but I have started to feel a little curious about the coming months. So curious in fact that I signed up for the two year membership deal, which the wags amongst you will almost certainly say should see me through the entire reign of the new incumbent. For shame! Away with you and your cynicism. And Junior Bayou has been baptized into membership to boot.

For it’s a new dawn, surely? A time to look ahead and be positive.

And I’m going to be positive. Like a contestant on the Generation Game I shall watch each item come down the conveyor belt and commit it to memory, knowing that each is to be savoured. Perhaps Brucie has always known the fundamental truth that every game is a “Good game”. Because every “game” is a singular event. Be it a foot spa or a cuddly toy, it has meaning and some class of merit. But perhaps he also teaches us that in the grand scheme of things we have to approach it all with a sense of lightness, if not a moustache and a toothsome grin.

You see, lately I had grown into the habit of only looking at games as a stepping stone to some greater glory and according them true significance only in hindsight. And indeed the media-soaked atmosphere in which we now follow the game lends itself to encouraging this approach.

But I have seen the error of my ways. If beating United at the Bridge last year felt superb at the moment of the final whistle then that is the moment to savour, irrespective of the events that followed. But there is always a temptation to view a game relative to where it stands on progress to a higher prize, even if this will hollow out the enjoyment of the game itself.

The tendency to feel the team’s fortunes and status reflecting back on you and your feelings of personal worth seems to increase the more successful they become. It appears integral to being a fan.

But last season was the first time for some years that I managed to decouple this link. Perhaps it was the recent Double, perhaps a feeling that we were on a plateau and could thus approach success and failure with some equanimity? Maybe it was just getting damn old. Whatever, I was able to absorb the disappointments on the field with greater composure, only to be waylaid by my devotion to Carlo and undone by his untimely demise.

Am I somehow falling out of love with the club, with the game?

No. I’ve decided to remain more unmoved by the shrill nonsense and at times rather nasty and brutish exchanges that pass for football related conversation these days. There’s too much of it and like some insane addict I’ve allowed myself to wallow in something that thrives completely on negativity.

I’m going to concentrate on the game and its innate fascination. I’m purifying my football soul.

So what of the team and its chances?

The rather tired and battered outfit of last season has not undergone any radical change. I was sad to see Yuri go and it was disappointing to watch a boatload of youngsters head for Hamburg. But I have no control over these matters and therefore must bind myself to the current wearers of our ever-changing shirts.

The pre-season of which I’ve seen very limited highlights has passed without too much drama and perhaps there’s a new vigour brought by Villas-Boas, along with his ideas and methods. Whether by design or poor management, whether at Carlo’s behest or because it was thrust upon him, it seemed as though there were just too many disparate parts not pulling together. The medical situation being a good case in point. Perhaps this will change as the new man appears to be seen as a manager and not just first team coach.

The problem with looking forward to this season is that last year taught us a lesson about the unpredictability and cruelty of fate. If we’re honest, some of those early wins had patches within them where we looked very shaky and sensible fans were perhaps not surprised when the cracks appeared, aided and abetted by a poor run of injuries. That’s not to say all those games were as easy as the pundits tried to paint them. Some of our opponents went on to give our peers some tough games. But the seeds of our later destruction were there. Yet as despair set in we suddenly put a run together and finished second. So at what point in the coming season can we hope to have any real sense of where we are?

There seems little point in counselling caution. We’ll all get carried away with unrealistic hope or complete despair as soon as the whistle blows. That’s just they way we are. But I’m going to try and maintain some equilibrium, though not in the middle of a game itself of course. Hell no. I’ll be cursing the fates, the refs, the world, the universe, as per usual.

And Stoke is not any easy start. They’re tough and experienced enough in the Premier League now, with the added factor of being a little more game hardened due to an early start in Europe.

We just have to bear in mind that the League isn’t won in August. I mean for heaven’s sake I haven’t been away on holiday yet. How can you contemplate football when you’ve yet to gaze upon the Dordogne? The start of the season should be a signal that summer is drawing to a close, but when you’ve yet to engage in the annual pursuit of tailgating Belgians round the Peripherique on the basis that he/she seems to know where they’re going, it’s hard to take football seriously. It still seems like pre-season.

In the end though it’s all about the team. Our lovely boys. So many of them so familiar, several who we thought might be gone. Perhaps one or two who may still be leaving. And as for new arrivals?

Reading through their names is like reciting a tone poem; here’s my version to welcome in the coming season. Feel free to compose your own. There’s no prize for the best. I mean, look where a hankering for consumer goods has got us. Just live for the art man.

Bertrand, Bosingwa, Anelka
Malouda, Kakuta, Lakuka,

Lampard Essien Ferreira
Cech Alex Cole Drogba McEachran,

Terry Van Arnholt Ivanovic,
Kalou Romeu Luiz
Torres Benayoun Mikel

So away we go, eh! Let’s hope it’s a road to joy and not despair and that ol’ Johnny Cash was not being too prophetic when he penned “Home of the Blues”:

“Just around the corner there’s heartaches
Down the street that losers use
If you can wade in through the tear drops my friend
You’ll find me at the home of the blues”.

But then again if it does all go wrong we’ve still got each other because as the song says:

“Come along with me, misery loves company
You’re welcome at the home of the blues”.

Here’s good ol’ Dwight with a version just to cheer you on the way.

There are 21 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Just back from a mooch on the mean streets of Putney where all was quiet apart from a slightly hysterical Tannoy announcer in the the local Sainsbury’s, and here I spot the delight of a new missive from BB.

    Have to admit on my first scan, until I noticed that “tone poem” reference, I thought you were advocating some pretty radical new team formations that even Jonathan Wilson couldn’t have imagined in his worst nightmares.

    I guess I’m still in cautious optimism mode toward the new season. Would have been good to see a bit more action towards the refreshing of the squad with younger players, though it’s at least a start with the addition of Romeu and Lukaku plus the Brazilian schoolboy, Piazon, who’s due to arrive when his mummy let’s him leave home in December, I believe.

    I’m sure we can all rest easy in our beds knowing the Dirty Digger will have a word with his good friends in the Plods and get the native unrest all sorted and order fully restored before Sky’s grand first Super Sunday weekend of the new EPL season is due.

  2. Anonymous

    I know Arsene Wenger was desperate to get his boys out of international duty but, inciting all these riots to get the game called off, he’s crossed the line in my opinion.

  3. Anonymous

    “Just around the corner there’s heartaches
    Down the street that losers use”
    Hey BB is it about rioters on the streets?

  4. DayTripper

    “We’ll be fighting in the streets

    With our children at our feet

    And the morals that they worship will be gone”

    My little contribution to this debate so ably initiated by our resident bard. I’m getting bullish about this campaign. We have our seasoned campaigners – Terry, Cech, Ivanovic and Cole at the back. Luiz will be a little less naive than he was last season, Ramires will continue to improve and I can see young McEachran stepping up to the plate and threading those passes through to a Torres, who has re-found his form, and a young Drogba lookalike, bullying defences in the manner of the old pro.

    And, to boot, Arsenal are in disarray. They don’t look likely to have anyone left to play in midfield, City, no matter how much they spend, are neither potent in attack nor watertight in defence. There is the slightly more problematic matter of MU, especially if they get Sneider, but I think our young Turk is capable of outwitting Lord Red Nose.

    All’s right with the world (having just sampled my first beer of the evening under a setting sun

  5. Anonymous

    Don’t kill yourself trying to see AVB’s first pre-EPL press conference if you missed it.

    Spoke a lot faster than Carlo, but said even less, with few hints about Sunday’s line-up.

    If anyone can make sense of what he said about Lukaku when asked what was holding up the deal [ there’s a direct quote on the official website now] please let us all know on here 😉

  6. Ososdeoro

    There are so many injuries that the lineup has almost written itself. It will likely resemble Bosingwa/Alex/Terry/Cole, Ramires/Lampard/Benayoun, Malouda/Drogba/Kalou.

  7. Cunningplan

    I see on the BBC website that the footballing pundits have predicted the City of Manchester teams will dominate the league finishing first and second. The excuses used for us probably finishing third is that… AVB is a new manager and needs to settle into the league, and is unlikely to win the Prem in his first season, plus the usual old chestnut that our boys are too old.
    Looks like they haven’t paid much attention to who we’ve bought or the miriad of other youngsters we have in the squad.

    Now I’m not saying that he will win the league, but have they forgotten JM and CA did exactly that in their first season, lazy and shoddy predictions imo

  8. Anonymous

    FindIng it laughable that Mancini is quoted as being angry with his board for the delay in signing players. They’re all just holding out for more ££££ Roberto. We know that. You should do.

    Nice to see the Canaries off the mark. Going to be a long season for them. Our opener at Stoke is no given.

    Addition : Wengers disciplinary record. Another red today. What’s the excuse this time?

  9. Anonymous

    New season, same old ponderous shit from midfield.

    And 34 minutes too many of Kalou. No apologies from me, he’s been utter tripe so far. Another summer passes without him learning how to control a ball or make a telling contribution.

  10. Anonymous

    I give up with AVB already. 65 minutes into his tenure. How the hell can Kalou stay on and Malouda get withdrawn?

  11. Benjami

    I am happy we got this game out the way this season. Stoke are big and have a strong midfield and defence so a draw isn’t the worse result.

    It’s a shame that when our peers play them they will have injuries and be tired from the Europa league.

    Torres was excellent.

    For me again and again this game showed our biggest weakness, we had more possession and chances yet only had one I think we really should have been scored (Kalou :P). We need that player on the wings or in attacking midfield to open a team up.

    Modric is overvalued. For us I would value him at £20 million max, whilst for Tottenham they value him in the region of £40m. A £20m difference is ridiculous, he also isn’t the solution as he doesn’t contribute enough assists and goals.

  12. BlueJohn

    I thought Torres played well, linked play and made some good runs. Bosingwa is great going forward, but just can’t cross. Our poorest player on the pitch. 

    Kalou cannot start games, but would have been a great impact player in this match. I also do not see what value Anelka gives us. No pace, loses the ball and no vision. I think I would have brought him on if we went a goal up, as he is good at receiving the ball to his feet then turning around to face our goal and pass it backwards or sideways. 

    And who is the woman sitting on the chelsea bench? Is she part of our coaching staff? she is cute mind you …  

  13. Anonymous

    Show me someone who says we don’t need a creative midfielder, and I’ll show you a liar.

    Screaming out for Benayoun to play more. New manager, same story as last season. Others have strengthened and we haven’t and it’ll cost us. Simple.

    Torres was immense. Played really well. Others not so much.

    Granted, a shit place to go, coupled with shit decisions, but we had the better of the second half and should have done better. Come Tuesday, we’ll be play catch up already.

  14. Benjami

    Imagine if Man Utd had played at Stoke today, De Gea would have got hammered 😛 He is going to have to play on stilts for that game!

    We have strengthened, £70m spent at Christmas, Ramires was a great purchase for midfield, we just need to buy a winger, aka Gotse. But he won’t come so no matter ;x

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